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:
Because important parts of the TOEFL exam involve an understanding of social and academic life at university, it can be an advantage to cover some of these questions so you can better and more quickly grasp the context of the situations and thus focus more completely on the content, especially in the listening and speaking sections.
There is a tendency to be fatalistic about the vocabulary questions in the TOEFL Reading section: you either know the word or not, and if you don’t, play the TOEFL lottery and guess. While I can symapthize with the frustration, there are a number of things students can do to maximize the possibiltiy of answering correctly when they don’t perfectly know the vocabulary words in the text or answers. Let’s go over some of the key strategies.