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9 Ways To Prepare For An English Proficiency Exam

Updated on May 27, 2019
Sybil Nighs profile image

My three years of teaching English has made me observe some effective practices that promote good performance in English proficiency exams.

1. Be honest with yourself and assess your current command of the English language.

Be real. Get to know your level of English. This will determine how much work you need to do in preparing to ace the proficiency exam. I highly recommend asking a good friend to give you an objective opinion on your level. For a more objective assessment, take an English proficiency exam online. You will find a number of them online when you enter Free English Level Test in the Search bar.

2. Join an English review class, specific to the proficiency exam you are taking.

Once you have determined your level, search for a review class that you can join. If you are taking TOEFL, get a TOEFL review class. If you are taking IELTS, search for an IELTS review course. English proficiency tests are different from each other. I do not recommend taking general ESL or English classes to prepare for a specific exam. You need to know the test format of a specific exam in order to perform well. PTE has a different set of test questions from IELTS and from TOEFL.

3. Determine if your English grammar and skills need beefing up prior to attending your target proficiency exam review classes.

There will be some people who will need to go through ESL classes or take more English grammar and skills before joining review classes for TOEFL or IELTS or PTE or their target proficiency exam review classes. The different proficiency exam review courses will help you get acquainted with the different test formats. These exams will assume that you already have the needed English skills. If you feel that your English needs more polishing, better get some classes first on English Grammar and Skills. In this way, you will not waste your time and money by going straight to proficiency exam courses. The review courses are not ESL classes nor are they English grammar and skill building classes.

4. Expose yourself to English in all forms, written and spoken.

One thing all the proficiency exams have, they will test all the language skills, reading, speaking, listening and writing. Have as much exposure as you can to all forms of English whether it is spoken or written.

5. For spoken English, expose yourself to music, films, shows and social gatherings in English.

With the accessibility and availability of cell phones, tune in to different radio stations or music apps. Choose to listen to English songs. Watch English shows and expose yourself to different English accents. This will prepare you for the listening and speaking tests. Watch news shows in You Tube or subscribe to podcasts on your topics of interest.

Attending social gatherings with native speakers of English will help you a lot in the speaking test. Do not be shy to start conversing with native speakers.

Watch movies in English and talk about them with your friends in English!!

6. For written English, read a lot!

Getting into the habit of reading improves a number of important skills like vocabulary and comprehension. There is no other way to improve reading skills but through reading. To get you motivated to read, start with materials that interest you. If you love sports, read magazines and books that talk about sports. The idea is to get you to actually read. Forcing yourself to read sci-fi books when you are a romantic at heart, will just frustrate you. Just go and get yourself a book on romance and get down to reading.

7. Write something everyday.

Start by writing about your day to day life. You may get yourself a journal or start a blog online. Again, the idea is for you to get into the act of writing. You don't have to write long novels. They may be short but make sure that they are written with correct grammar and straight from the heart. Go for authenticity. This will make your composition sincere and much more interesting for you to write (and be read by others!)

8. Set your cellphone or computer in the English language setting.

Setting your cellphone and computer in English (language mode), will help you think more in English. This will give you more opportunity to practice reading and writing in English. Forget your native language while you are reviewing for your proficiency exam.

9. Choose to travel to English speaking countries.

If traveling is part of your schedule, choose to go to English speaking countries. Immersion is the best way to accelerate learning a language. It makes you think in your target language. It keeps you away from translating from your native tongue to English which is a slow way to learn a language.

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