One of the difficult tasks students face in both the writing and speaking sections of the TOEFL exam is to display a rich variety of vocabulary. In fact, the scoring rubrics from both the writing and speaking sections specifically mention terms like “effective use of vocabulary” and “appropriate word choice” as criteria in evaluating a student’s work. However, far too often, when under pressure, the only adjectives that a student can find are “good” and “bad”. So what I’d like to offer in this blog entry are some possible alternatives for some of the most typical adjectives, as well as alternative possibilities for the useful verbs “increase” and “decrease”. Please note that many of these are not perfect synonyms and there are important differences both in use and intensity between the typical word and the alternatives. Still, by taking risks with these words while practicing and receiving appropriate feedback, you can develop a nice repertoire of vocabulary that can impress on the day of the TOEFL exam. Many thanks to the people from American English at State which is where I took much of this material from before adapting it. Check out their very helpful Facebook page here:
Of course you’re nervous. If you weren’t, you’d have a problem. The question is: what are you going to do with your nervous energy? Will you be able to use it to increase your focus? Or will it overwhelm you and disperse your concentration? As the day of the exam approaches, you need to be able to take that nervous energy and focus it on large, fundamental ideas, not the thousands of mini-details that are running around your head. So what I’d like to do in this blog entry is review the key ideas that you need to focus on in each section of the test so you will be able to use your energy productively. Let’s start with the Reading section.
Although the TOEFL scoring rubrics for both writing tasks allow for the presence of “minor lexical or grammatical errors” at the highest level, common sense suggests that, as the errors accumulate, the chances that these errors “result in inaccurate or imprecise presentation of content or connections” also rise. With that in mind, I’d like to make some general comments on avoiding errors before offering a list of my students’ most common and costly errors. Let’s start with some general suggestions: