In this E2Language article we’ve not only shared some of our favourite free TOEFL resources, but we also outline some of Jamal’s top tips for preparing for your exam.
With any English proficiency exam it’s hard to know where to start. Sure, having your hands on the right free TOEFL material is critical but students also need to know what to focus on.
Every section (and even specific tasks) test different skills so it’s important to prepare yourself for each one. Throughout this article I will link helpful webinars, lesson videos, and articles that will provide you with some of the methods and strategies needed for effectively tackling the different parts of the TOEFL.
TOEFL Speaking: Task 1 INDEPENDENT DESCRIPTION
For this task it’s important you practice narrating or ‘describing’ different stories and events. You should try thinking about something personal, possibly the plot of the book you just read or a funny memory, retell these stories to yourself or family members.
For more help on this task and a sample response from E2 TOEFL.
Task 1 INDEPENDENT OPINION:
We suggest you begin researching a wide range of topics; choosing one daily. Focus on articles which inspire different opinions. Then decide where you ‘stand’ on the topic. Practice explaining your opinion in 1 minute spoken responses, giving detailed reasons to support your viewpoint.
Want to see what that looks like?
TOEFL Integrated Speaking & Writing
A major skill you’ll need to develop for both these tasks is synthesising information from two separate sources to give both a written or spoken summary.
You should try finding an article and lecture on the same topic. Some examples might include: culture, the environment or history. Then you can discuss (through voice or word) the main points of the two pieces.
Similar to preparation for other sections of the test:
Chose a Topic
Speaking: 1 Minute (summarize)
Writing: Write a summary focusing on the points that were similar or different.
Some more on Integrated Speaking:
TOEFL Reading (Inference) Preparation
TOEFL Reading tests for many skills. One of which is INFERENCE. Students must be able to make inferences about what an author means by something.
As you read through articles highlight or note any words or phrases that are new to you. Try to guess from context what the author means by their choice of words. Then look it up! This will help you improve both your vocabulary and get you comfortable with making inferences.
Why is this so exciting? Well, many of our students hoping to move to the UK happen to be nurses, and Cambridge specifically built OET for nurses (and other medical professionals).
This means that our UK-bound nurses now have a more accessible test to practice for, and one that takes into account their nursing skills and experience in addition to their English skills.
Let’s break down the three top reasons why OET is often the right choice for nurses:
1. OET for Nurses: It’s tailored to your profession
If you’re a nurse, you are probably comfortable working in a fast-paced environment, dealing with difficult patients, making decisions under pressure, and understanding complex information quickly. These skills make you perfectly suited to the various OET sections, as each one mirrors real-life scenarios that nurses face in the workplace.
For example, the OET speaking section is a role-play exercise in which you must interact with a “patient” who has come in with a medical complaint. In the OET writing section, you must write a discharge letter using relevant information about a patient under your (hypothetical!) care.
The benefit of preparing for tasks like these is that nurses get a chance to practice important professional skills that they will need to showcase in a Western context (e.g. UK hospitals). It’s crucial to remember that moving to another country usually comes with massive cultural shifts on top of the language differences.
Preparing for the OET allows nurses the chance to practice highly valuable professional skills that may look slightly different in a Western context, like bedside manner expectations and appropriate follow-up questioning procedure.
I’ll give you an example. Many of our students have worked as nurses for many years, but still find it odd when they begin working in a hospital in the UK or Australia and find that they are given much more decision-making responsibility than they are used to. Furthermore, North-American hospitals in particular are very “patient-centric”, which means that patients often ask more questions or require more in-depth explanations than a foreign-trained nurse may be used to.
Bottom Line: OET for nurses hoping to immediately find work in countries like the UK is a great way to “kill two birds with one stone”. In addition to learning the appropriate English concepts to pass the test, nurses get to improve skills that will serve them well in their next workplace, and hopefully will come out of the OET experience with professional growth on top of their language success!
2. OET for Nurses: The Vocabulary Will Be Familiar to You
Along the same lines as the point above, the OET is extra applicable to medical professionals because it employs common medical vocabulary that you’ll be very comfortable with if you are a nurse. While the PTE, IELTS and TOEFL require that you learn complex English vocabulary that you will probably never use in real life (how many nurses need to write about why they think “education is a critical element to prosperity” in their workplace?)
In general, the nurses we prepare for OET feel a lot more comfortable and confident when they open up a practice exercise and see words like “aetiology” and “rheumatic fever” and “sterilization” (for the record, these words would absolutely terrify me!).
Bottom line: If you’re a pro with medical vocabulary, the OET will probably intimidate you a lot less than some of the other English tests out there!
Fill out the form below to receive a list of simplified medical vocabulary you can use on the OET!
3. OET for Nurses: It’s Suited to “Pencil and Paper” and “Face-to Face” People
We live in exciting times when it comes to technology, and it is pretty cool that lots of exams have become computer-based and offer all kinds of fancy automated grading and voice recognition! However, some people will just always feel more comfortable picking up a pencil and writing something out by hand.
In many hospital environments, medical professionals still use paper-based charts and other materials every day, and nurses talk to real patients in their workplace environments, not computers. Many nurses have come to us and complained about how strange and uncomfortable it felt to talk at a computer in exams like the PTE, and how they felt they would have done much better interacting with a human being.
Because the OET is paper-based and uses human examiners to test speaking, E2Language students coming from nursing backgrounds often consider it the ideal test. The “traditional” format sets them at ease, and this (combined with the familiar vocabulary and content) boosts their confidence quite a bit. One thing we definitely know from experience is that a little confidence goes a long way.
By the way, I should probably mention here that although E2Language is an online OET preparation school, our practice materials can easily be done on paper and we encourage students watching our live classes to take real notes! Cambridge OET even named us as an official Cambridge OET preparation provider last year!
One last thing to note is that although IELTS also offers paper-based, face-face testing, it’s not tailored to nurses in the same way that OET is. If you want the best of both worlds in terms of professional relevance and more traditional test methods, OET wins out.
Bottom Line: If you’re a nurse and you’re intimidated by English proficiency tests like TOEFL, or undecided over PTE or OET, the OET is probably a great option for you.
For OET online preparation be sure to watch E2 OET YouTube channel like this one below!
There you have it. Those are the reasons why we always recommend OET for nurses who want to work in Western countries, now including the UK! So, if you’re a nurse moving overseas to an English-dominated country, open up your old textbooks, brush up on your impressive medical vocabulary, and book your OET test date with confidence!
Follow our social media for more tips on how to pass OET!
Imagine if you had practiced answering the exact PTE essay topic before sitting your PTE exam?
Well, it’s not entirely out of the question if you happen to brainstorm a few common PTE essay topics.
The Basics to a Good Essay
The more you write essays, the easier it gets but there are a few key elements to writing a good essay that you need to know at the outset. First and foremost, you need a clear structure, which E2language has the perfect formula for. Also, ensure that you accurately answer the whole question and stay on the PTE essay topic.
Finally, it’s vitally important that you follow the ‘rubric,’ or instructions, on what you need to do with the topic: agree or disagree, discuss, find a solution, outline the advantages and disadvantages or give your opinion.
A question that I frequently ask students who have just sat the PTE test is: Which PTE essay topic did you get? This way I can get an update on the latest essay topics that are coming up. Knowing a majority of the common PTE essay topics in advance allows you to prepare for them, and thus saves time and stress during the test.
When you go through the list of the most common PTE essay topics, even if you don’t have time to write an essay for every single one, you can certainly at least read through them so you know what to expect. You can then write a short plan with 2 main ideas/ key points that you would make in the body paragraphs of your essay if you got that PTE essay topic in the test.
I’ll show you what I mean by a short plan to illustrate how simply and quickly brainstorming some ideas for your essay can be done, using some of the most common PTE essay topics, which I have categorised below according to theme or broad academic topic.
I have used the minus and plus symbols to indicate whether the point is for or against: − / + .
Other Common Academic Subjects and PTE Essay Topics
What are some of the most common PTE essay topics that we see time and time again on the PTE exam?
A quick explainer for each topic …
Shopping: over-packaging; large shopping malls
Work: who should do decision-making in companies; the modern work/ life balance- difficulties with
Travel: effects of tourism on a country; travel to study- good or bad
Media: are newspapers are necessary,
Sport: extreme adventure sports
Inventions: the best invention in the past 10/100 years
Environment: combatting climate change, birth place affecting one’s success
Education: the ability to learn versus being able to read and write well; is assessment through exams in education out-dated
No ideas for your PTE Essay Topic?!
Don’t feel bad if you have trouble coming up with ideas for different PTE essay topics as it’s quite a common problem.
While it’s true that some people are naturally creative and seem to be ‘ideas people,’ and others have strong critical thinking skills for solving problems or finding solutions, it doesn’t mean that you can’t improve in this area to be able to create a strong argument for and against in your essays and increase the speed of generating some main ideas and examples for your essay.
Some suggestions to develop this skill are:
Practice brainstorming! Take a topic and just start writing what comes to mind and let your thoughts and inspirations flow. Also, this can be fun and inspiring to do with others in a group- 2,3 or more minds can be more powerful than 1! Even asking friends and family about their opinion on a topic- engage in a lively intellectual discussion to gather their ideas for your essay!
Just Google it! If you don’t know much about a topic or subject area –no excuses, just research it: you could read articles, watch programs, listen to talks and analyse others’ essays and opinions on the matter.
Practice makes perfect they say, and no less is true for the TOEFL exam! However, if you don’t even know where to start, we’ve got you covered with this step-by-step guide to TOEFL independent writing practice.
TOEFL Independent Writing Practice Step #1: Get yourself organized.
Before you have a crack at writing an essay, there are some important things you need to know:
The Independent Writing task will be timed. You will have 30 minutes to complete it, so you should practice with the same restriction. At first, this may be difficult, but that’s what practice is for, right?
The TOEFL iBT is given on a computer, so make sure you practice typing and not handwriting!
Although there is no strict word limit for your essay, you should aim to write more than 300 words. Don’t plan to write too much, or else you might not save yourself enough time to edit your work.
Let’s aim high, and look at the requirements to get a ‘5’ (the maximum score):
Effectively addresses the topic and task
Is well organised and developed with clear explanations, examples and details
Displays logical progression and coherence
Consistently correct use of language, sentence structure, word choice and grammar though may have minor errors
By the way, you can fill out the form below to download a free TOEFL ‘independent writing’ essay sample!
TOEFL Independent Writing Practice Step #2: Analyze the question
Ok, so you have your timer setup, you’ve picked out a question, and you have your word processor open. Now, it’s time to analyze the question. This step is crucial; if you start writing off-topic then you could lose major points!
Once the timer starts, take a minute to figure out: What is the topic and what is the task?
First of all, you’ll need to identify keywords from the question. You might want to take down a few words on your scratch pad, just to remember.
Let’s look at some example questions:
1. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? There is nothing that young people can teach older people. Use specific reasons and examples to support your position
2. Some high schools require all students to wear school uniforms. Other high schools permit students to decide what to wear to school. Which of these two school policies do you think is better? Use specific reasons and examples to support your opinion.
3. What discovery in the last 100 years has been most beneficial for people in your country? Use specific reasons and examples to support your choice.
4. You have the opportunity to visit a foreign country for two weeks. Which country would you like to visit? Use specific reasons and details to explain your choice.
5. Some people believe that the best way of learning about life is by listening to the advice of family and friends. Other people believe that the best way of learning about life is through personal experience. Compare the advantages of these two different ways of learning about life. Which do you think is preferable? Use specific examples to support your preference.
In (1), you are asked to choose a side (agree or disagree) and support your opinion.
In (2), you are asked to explain a preference between two options.
In (3), you are asked to think about one example and explain why it is the best/ most important.
In (4), you are asked to illustrate a hypothetical situation and explain your choice.
In (5), you are asked to compare two different situations and explain your preference
TOEFL Independent Writing Practice Step # 3 Structure your essay
Once you know what you are being asked to do, you should take another 1-2 minutes to plan the structure of your essay, and brainstorm some examples that you will use to support your ideas.
Some important things to remember about the structure of your essay:
Always, always, always have an introduction and conclusion! Your introduction should include some general statement about the topic, a sentence addressing the question, and finally, your thesis statement. This is where you will provide the main point of the essay so that the reader knows what will come next.
Your conclusion should include a restatement of your thesis statement from the intro and a summary sentence. Do not introduce any new information in your conclusion!
Decide how many body paragraphs you will have, and what you will put in each. As mentioned above, there’s no strict guideline here, but two body paragraphs is usually a safe bet. If you are explaining a preference or explaining why you agree/disagree, you want to think of two major reasons to support your opinion. Explain and provide support for each reason in its own body paragraph. You could also partially agree, and write one paragraph about each side.
For a comparison essay (example 5) you’ll want to choose your preference first, then provide a couple reasons why. In each body paragraph, you will explain a reason for your preference while comparing evidence from both situations.
TOEFL Independent Writing Practice Step #4 Write and edit your essay
Now it’s time for the main task: actually writing your essay!
Some things to consider while writing:
Do I provide sufficient explanations and examples?
Do you use a variety of vocabulary?
Do you use a variety of sentence structures?
Do you have correct spelling/grammar?
TOEFL Independent Writing Practice Step #5 Assess your skills
If you are on your own for practice, start by having a look at the TOEFL Independent Writing Rubric and try to assess yourself. Also, have a look at some sample answers and compare to your own writing. Are you using similar vocabulary? Is your essay structured similarly?
Self-assessment is hard though, and you might find you’re not even aware of your own errors. You may want to try typing your answer into a word processor with English enabled to check for basic spelling/grammar errors. Another great tool is the Grammarly app (you can attach it to your browser). It won’t catch all errors, but it’s a start!
You should also consider seeking professional help. Having a native English speaker read and edit your writing may help you to recognize errors you weren’t even aware of. By signing up for E2Language.com, we can assess your writing and give you detailed, personal feedback.
There you have it, TOEFL takers! Five important steps to get started with your own TOEFL Independent Writing practice:
Get yourself organized
Analyze the question
Structure your essay
Write and edit your essay
Assess your skills
Remember to practice lots and practice often, and soon that ‘5’ score won’t seem so far away!
So, how hard is the IELTS? Many test takers struggle with similar issues when it comes to the IELTS exam. ‘IELTS difficulty’ is no rare occurrence. Today we’ll examine the areas of IELTS difficulties our students face.
We’re going to address the most challenging IELTS test parts. We’ll discuss the common IELTS challenges and key E2Language tips and strategies to avoid these problems.
Speaking Part 2
IELTS Difficulty: Don’t repeat yourself!
In this section you’re given a task card. You will then have to speak for 2 minutes. Unknowingly repeating the same story is a common speaking mistake in the test.
The real problem is most people finish their actual “story” in about 40 seconds and then just repeat it again and again.
The key is to use the PPF (Past, Present, Future) Method to tackle IELTS Speaking. This way you will be able to tell three different stories based on the task card.
Learn everything you need to know about the PPF Method with Jay:
You see! Not only will it get you to 2 minutes but it’ll also make you use a range of verbs.
Around 20% of candidates don’t write 250 words or more. You will lose a whole band score or more for the criterion called task response. Don’t underestimate this, in fact, listen to what Jay has to say in this recent video on IELTS Writing Task 2.
TIP: Jay says that your word count ‘may possibly be the single most important tip for IELTS Writing.’
IELTS Difficulty: Misunderstanding the question types!
Like reading, you must know what the question types are because you do not have time to understand them as you go.
The best advice when it comes to both IELTS Reading and Listening is: set enough time aside to PRACTICE.
IELTS difficulty can be diluted with the right amount of preparation and understanding. Your desired score is very much possible. Be willing to learn the right methods, and put those strategies to practice.
Kick-start your PTE Describe Image practice by using the 4-sentence formula to answer these tricky example questions!
So, these questions are designed to test your speaking skills.
Remember that you only have 25 seconds to prepare for the PTE Describe Image. You need to understand an image, think quickly and deliver fluent, grammatical and relevant sentences within a 40 second timeframe. What a challenge!
Use the 4-sentence formula (explained in the previous article above) and attempt the following PTE Describe Image practice charts by speaking to the following types:
Practice recording your answers!
PTE Describe Image Practice: Example of a Process or Cycle
The image shows the design process for a new house. The process begins when the client completes a questionnaire and ends when a light-filled comfortable house is created. After a free initial consultation the design phase begins. Next is the pre-construction phase which is followed by construction. During the final phase the keys are handed over and there is a maintenance check. After this the clients can enjoy their new home.
Language for PTE Describe Image
Make sure you are confident with the language for images and that you can pronounce key words correctly. Your correct use of grammar and vocabulary will drastically improve your overall score.
PTE Describe Image Practice
You’ve got the language. You’ve got the techniques. Now to truly feel comfortable with this task, you need to practice.
Here are some images. You have 25 seconds to prepare and 40 seconds to speak.
The image shows the Enquiry Process and Terms of Reference for Australia in 2015. The process begins with the Terms of Reference and ends with the Government response. At the beginning there is initial research and consultation followed by an Issues Paper and a call for submissions. Then there is a Review of Submissions. Later a Discussion paper is produced. This is reviewed and after further consultation a final report is produced. This then goes to the government and a response is given which may involve a change in the law.
The line graph shows the crude death rate for infectious diseases in the US from 1900 to 1996. The highest rate of deaths was in 1920 whereas the lowest was in 1980. The number of deaths fell consistently over the period apart from the peak in 1920 and a rise after 1980. Possible reasons for the overall fall in deaths from infectious diseases may be related to the introduction of penicillin and vaccines.
The table shows the demographic composition of white-tailed deer pre-hunting populations in North Carolina on a 30,000 acre area from 1965 to 2000. The largest total number of deer occurred in 1965 while the smallest number occurred in 1985. Numbers of males declined throughout the period while female numbers fluctuated, but were always higher than males. A possible reason for fluctuations in numbers may be related to climate conditions.
The bar graph shows the distribution of vehicles by origin and type. The most common vehicles were sedans whereas the least common where hybrids. The majority of sports cars and wagons came from Europe, but overall the largest numbers of cars came from Asia and the USA. A possible reason for the popularity of the sedan may be that it is a family car and is suitable for a vast range of consumers. The hybrid may be the least popular because it is expensive.
The map shows the Republic of Cyprus. The largest region on the map is the Republic of Northern Cyprus while the smallest is Episkopi in the south. The island is in the Mediterranean Sea and the north and south are separated by a UN buffer zone. The Troodos Mountains run through the regions of Paphos and Limassol in the south. A possible reason for the UN buffer zone may be political differences.
Note: Be flexible with maps. An extra sentence was added before the conclusion in order to make 30 seconds.
There you have it! Some great PTE describe image practice questions that are similar to what you will get on test-day! Avoid these common PTE mistakes for PTE Speaking!
For more specific PTE task practice, try these PTE Repeat sentence practice activities from our blog!
Follow our social media for more information on the PTE!
This article for PTE describe image will feature methods and practice examples to prepare you for the trickiest PTE task on test-day!
Unpacking PTE Describe Image
PTE describe image task seems to strike terror into even the most competent speaker. And, it’s not surprising!
You only have a few seconds to prepare for the PTE Describe Image and you need to understand an image, think quickly and deliver fluent, grammatical and relevant sentences within a 40 second timeframe. That’s clearly challenging.
So the big question is … are there any tricks or methods that will help? And the answer is ‘yes’ you can certainly reduce the difficulty; and you do this by reducing the decision making.
Each image is different, but you can use a 4-sentence formula which will work for most images.
Compare highest – lowest, most – least, maximum – minimum, and so on.
Create a sentence about either similarities or about something unusual.
Conclusion – summary, reason or prediction
This structure enables you to talk about three main features and if you keep your sentences simple, you’ll be able to do that in around 35 seconds.
Let’s break the four sentences down.
Sentence 1 – Introduction
Tell the listener what is at the top and bottom of the screen.
Look at the graph below. In 25 seconds, please speak into the microphone and describe in detail what the graph is showing. You will have 40 seconds to give your response.
Sentence 1: This line graph shows projected births in Australia from 2011 to 2101.
Sentence 2 – Body 1
Compare two things. This creates a complex sentence which is good for your fluency mark.
Sentence 2: The highest projected births are in 2101 whereas the lowest are in 2011.
Don’t get too ambitious. Just stick to the formula. Don’t add information from the y axis because as soon as you start looking at numbers and trying to work out exactly what they mean, your fluency goes down.
[eg. “The lowest was in 2011 at 300 … no, maybe um, ah, 3 … 80. Yes 380. 380 what? Million? No. The lowest was in 2011 at 380 thousand. Yes.”] The Y axis is your enemy. Avoid it.
Sentence 3 – Body 2
Look for either similarities or something unusual. It doesn’t matter which. Go for whichever one you see first.
Sentence 3: Projections for Series C remain relatively steady throughout the period while Series B shows double the number of births by 2101 and series A has the highest increase.
Sentence 3 is the most challenging sentence. Sentences 1 and 2 are fairly formulaic. However, in sentence 3 you need to make some decisions.
You have an idea of what to look for (similarities or something unusual), but you need to decide what to talk about and how much to say. Be flexible here.
Sentence 4 – Conclusion
Keep this simple. For the conclusion, you can do one of three things:
In conclusion the image shows that all predictions for birth rates in Australia show increases.
A possible reason for the varied predictions may be that immigration figures will affect the growth.
It could be predicted that birth rates will continue to climb after 2101.
Visit the article on PTE speaking preparation for expert speaking tips which will help boost your pronunciation and oral fluency skills.
Frequently Asked Questions for PTE Describe Image
Q1. What should I do if I get stuck on content?
If you get stuck, go for fluency. It is better to say something relevant than to umm and err and say nothing much at all. If you are going for PTE 79, you will need to have strong content, but your fluency must also be high.
Q2. How can I get 5 out of 5 for content?
The criteria tell us that if you talk about all elements of an image you can get 4 or 5, if you talk about most elements, you can get 3 and if you talk about fewer, you can only score 1 – 2 for content.
What are the elements? They are not the things you see on the X or Y axis. They are the things in the legend.
In the image above, they are series A, B and C. Note that in the example PTE Describe Image response above, the speaker mentioned all three elements.
So to get high content marks you need to aim to talk about all elements. Again you need to balance fluency and content, so if you can’t see how to group elements to cover all of them, go for fluency.
Don’t be intimidated by the TOEFL reading tasks! They’re straight forward if you know what you’re doing.
This article will prepare you for the most common TOEFL reading question types, including Summarizing Information and Make Inferences.
Introduction to TOEFL reading
In the TOEFL reading section, you’ll get three to four reading passages, each with 12-14 questions.
They’re extracts from university textbooks or academic articles on a wide range of topics. These will be similar to the types of texts you’d find in college.
Although you don’t need to be familiar with the topics, the more you read during your preparation, the more you will understand.
You’ll have 20 minutes to read each passage, and answer its associated questions. Depending on how many passages you get, the reading section will last between 60-80 minutes.
TOEFL reading question types
There are 10 different question types you might encounter, each requiring a different skill. These are:
Summarize Information in a passage
Guess vocabulary from context
Make Inferences about what the author means
Identify a reference
Identify a fact
Understand rhetorical Purpose – why the writer included particular information
Identify a negative fact (a fact that was NOT included in the passage)
Insert a word or sentence into the appropriate place in a paragraph
Simplify information by identifying the correct paraphrase
Complete a table by dragging and dropping sentences
Common TOEFL reading question types
Below are some tips for how you can build specific skills for some of the most common question types. It’s very important to build up these skills.
To do so, you’ll need to read daily, especially university level books and articles covering a wide range of topics related to the arts, humanities, nature or social science.
This type of question requires you to complete a summary of a reading passage by choosing three out of six sentences provided.
You’ll need to drag and drop the correct three sentences into boxes provided on the screen and identify main ideas (which belong in a summary) from details (which don’t).
To build this skill, read an article a day and write a short summary by paraphrasing important ideas from the article.
Take notice of main ideas – these are general, and details – which are specific. A summary should only include main ideas.
Guess Vocabulary from Context
For this question, a word in the passage will be highlighted. The question asks you which word from a list of four best matches the meaning of the highlighted word. Here, context will help you, and so will a wide vocabulary.
To develop your vocabulary, you need to read. Reading is the best way to see how words are used in context. You don’t have to read complicated books.
The best way is to make reading fun by reading things that interest you: Food, gardening, fashion, celebrity news, economics, science, politics, etc.
As you read, you will discover new words in context. Try to get the meaning of an unknown word by understanding the whole sentence.
Then, look up the word on dictionary.com or on thesaurus.com to see if your guess was correct. This skill will help you with the guess vocabulary from context question.
Also, try to learn a word a day.
Check the English Learner’s Dictionary word of the day for a new word each day with the definition, pronunciation, word form and example sentences.
Inference is about understanding what the author is trying to say, without actually saying it.
You’ll be asked something like “what does the author mean by…”.
With this kind of question, you won’t find the answer directly in the text. It will be implied, so you’ll need to infer the meaning.
To do that, you need to go beyond the text which means using higher-level thinking skills.
A good way to develop this is to do riddles. There are plenty of inference riddles that you can find online that will help you practice making inferences.
Making inferences relies on what it says in the text plus your background knowledge and ability to connect information to draw conclusions.
Another way to build this skill is, as you read, ask yourself questions about the meaning behind what is written and make guesses.
Find connecting points and bring them together to draw a conclusion. Make predictions about the information provided.
Identify a Reference
This question type is all about understanding what a word or words in a sentence refers to.
For example, “I watched Star Wars yesterday. It was a great movie”. Here the word “it” refers to “Star Wars”.
Of course, this type of question will be a bit more challenging in the actual TOEFL reading. So, you need to build up your knowledge of grammar and sentence structure.
As you read different articles, highlight any reference words like it, they, they, which, whose, who, etc. Then ask yourself, what does that word refer to?
To answer that question, you’ll need to identify the subject of the previous sentence. This is an exercise you should keep in mind when doing your daily reading practice.
It will help prepare you for this very common TOEFL reading question.
Identify a Fact
In the TOEFL reading, you might be asked to find a fact from the passage.
Facts are the supporting information that tell more about the main idea. Facts often tell about the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the main idea.
The fact question is based upon information which is actually stated in the passage. You must find the part of the passage which deals with what is being asked.
The best way to build this skill is to practice reading and answering comprehension questions.
This kind of question asks you why the author mentioned something. Authors say things for different purposes.
To persuade the reader of something
To describe something
To make a suggestion
To illustrate a point
To prove a theory
Like the inference question, the answer will not be stated in the passage. You will need to infer.
A good way to build this skill in preparation for this type of question, is to read critically. That means, as you read, ask yourself:
Why did the author mention that?
What was the purpose of including that information?
This question type asks you to pick the best paraphrase of a sentence from a passage. You’ll be given four options to choose from.
Paraphrasing is all about expressing the same idea in a simpler way. To build this skill, read an article and pick a paragraph to paraphrase.
Write a couple of sentences using your own words to capture the same idea that the paragraph expresses. Then read your paraphrase and compare it to the original paragraph.
Keep refining your paraphrasing skills by doing this each time you read an article.
Jump onto Youtube to watch free E2Language TOEFL videos and start learning TOEFL reading methods today!
Start planning your TOEFL preparation time by following the link to this blog post here!
Follow a list of of link to quality TOEFL learning material right here!
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It’s time to study for the PTE but where should you start? Without good PTE review materials you’d be lost.
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Make sure you fill out the form below to receive a list of simplified medical vocabulary you can use on the OET!
In the IELTS and the PTE you have to write an ‘essay’. You are given a prompt and you write according to your thoughts. In the OET, you do not write according to your thoughts. In fact, there is very little room for creativity at all.
In the OET writing you have case notes and a task. You need to select from the case notes according to the task, create a logical structure for your letter and then make sure that the letter is written in your own words.
Whether you’re a nurse, doctor, dentist or physiotherapist, this blog post will show you how to write the OET sub-test to get an A (or a B)!
The task is the most important past of the case notes. It should be the first thing that you look at in the 5 minutes reading time. The Task tells you WHO you are writing to and WHY. By understanding the Task (who and why) you will then be able to select case notes that are relevant to the reader.
Does the reader already know the patient or are you introducing the patient to the reader?
Compare these two tasks:
Using the information in the notes, write a letter back to the referring GP, Dr Jones, detailing your findings and suggested treatment plan.
Using the information in the notes, write a letter to Dr Jones detailing your findings and suggested treatment plan.
In task 1 the doctor already knows the patient. In task 2 the doctor does not know the patient.
How do you think your selection of case notes will change if the doctor knows or does not know the patient?
The answer to this is significantly. For instance, if the doctor already knows the patient, do you need to include much information from the medical history? No. But if the doctor has never met the patient before? Yes!
Whether read knows or does not know the patient will influence which case notes you choose and why.
Who are you writing to?
Consider these two tasks:
Using the information in the notes, write a letter of referral to Dr Jane Smith at Cicil Dermatology Clinic.
Using the information in the notes, write a letter of referral to Dr Jane Smith at Cicil Neurology Clinic.
The person you are writing to – or what their job is – will almost completely change the way you write your letter. For example, which person would want to know about acne – the dermatologist or the neurologist? Who would want to know about visual perception issues – the dermatologist or the neurologist?
The OET examiners purposefully put in case notes to distract you from the Task. Make sure that you understand the task – who you are writing to and why. If you understand the Task your chances of completing the task successfully will increase dramatically.
Read the sample writing sub-test letters to see how they are constructed according to the Task.
We’ve already talked about the importance of understanding the Task in order to select relevant case notes. That is a big part of it.
After you have understood the Task you then need to be able to look at the case notes and understand WHICH ONES ARE IMPORTANT, and WHICH ONES ARE UNIMPORTANT.
The OET examiners purposefully put in UNIMPORTANT case notes to distract you. Be sure not to include these case notes. For example, if you are writing to a doctor about a patient’s diabetes don’t include that they broke their wrist twelve years ago. It’s completely irrelevant.
OET Writing Tips 2 – Organising case notes
You need to organise your case notes into neat paragraphs. This is a very common mistake made by OET candidates. They just mix all of their case notes into what looks like a paragraph, put a space under it and start another mixed paragraphs. I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to have a CLEAR STRUCTURE.
The way you structure your OET writing should be according to:
The main issue
The secondary issue
Any other details
The issue will most likely be medical but it might be social. The secondary issue might be medical or social. Any other details may include medication of something else of relevance that did not fit into 1. and 2. Finally, your letter should end with the request to the medical professional or whomever you’re writing to, and this often takes into account the discharge plan or management plan.
Let’s look at this structure in more detail:
The introductory sentence
In the case notes there will be one particular medical issue that will stick out. It is usually found in the ‘admission diagnosis’ section of the case notes. For example it may be “recurring headaches”. And in the Task, Discharge Plan or Management Plan you may be asked to refer the patient to a neurologist for assessment.
Therefore you need to include two pieces of information in your introductory sentence. (Let’s say that the neurologist knows this patient.)
I am referring Tim back into your care for full assessment of his recurring headaches.
You can see here that there are two pieces of information:
The main medical issue – the headaches
In a single sentence we have summarised what is happening is what we want the reader to do. This is a great way to start your letters.
The main medical issue
Following on from the introductory sentence we then need to specify in more detail the main medical issue – in this case the recurring headaches. So we should scan the case notes for ANY information relating to Tim’s headaches. We can then write this up into a single paragraph that encapsulates all the relevant information that the neurologist needs.
The secondary issue
You will notice when you are scanning the case notes that there will be a secondary issue emerging. This will be less important than the main medical issue but it will warrant its own paragraph. For example, following on from our example of headaches, let’s say that Tim is also getting dizzy. There will be several (3-4 case notes) explaining something about Tim’s dizziness. We then outline this secondary issue in the second paragraph.
It’s important to understand that we want to keep our paragraphs single-themed. That is, paragraph one should be about headaches and headaches ONLY. It should not include any other information. The second paragraph – though related to headaches – should only include information related to dizziness.
MIXING IDEAS IN YOUR PARAGRAPHS WILL RESULT IN A LOW GRADE
Any other details
There may be a few odds and ends in the case notes that are worth mentioning to the neurologist. For example, let’s say that Tim has been on a new diet, been drinking more and doing less exercise. Are these directly related to headaches or dizziness? No! Therefore, we do not include them in Paragraph 1 or 2. Instead, we can create a third paragraph for related information that the neurologist may want to know.
We have mentioned the Request in the introductory sentence but we should make it more explicit in the final paragraph. Here we should loudly say to the neurologist (or whomever) what it is that we want them to do. Remember, this information will be in the Task, Discharge plan or Management plan.
I am referring Tim back to your for assessment of his recurring headaches.
It may sound repetitive but it’s okay. You need to say the request twice: once at the beginning of the letter and once at the end of the letter.
OET Writing Tips 3 – Transforming case notes
The final step after you have selected and organised the case notes is to TRANSFORM the case notes for you MUST NOT copy the case notes directly into your letter. Of course, some allowance is given for transferring and some case notes you simply cannot change but most of the case notes are short and ungrammatical. Your job is to tell a story to the reader. You are taking the case notes and re-working them so that they make sense and fulfill the task.
Here’s a summary of some important OET Writing Tips to remember:
Tip #1 Make sure that you understand the task – who you are writing to and why. If you understand the task your chances of completing the task successfully will increase dramatically.
Tip #2 Read the sample writing sub-test letters to see how they are constructed according to the Task.
Tip #3 Look at the case notes and understand which ones are important, and which ones are unimportant.
Tip #4 Organise your case notes into neat paragraphs with a clear structure: introductory, main and secondary issues, any other details and the request.
Tip #5 Select and organise your case notes by transforming the case notes. You MUST NOT copy the case notes directly into your letter, rather tell a story to the reader to fulfil the task.
You need a good approach to writing these types of letters. Without a good approach the case notes can be overwhelming. There is often a lot of information and for physiotherapists, dentists and doctors, there is often more than there is for nurses…
Remember, you need to be able to:
Transform the case notes into a letter of between 180-200 words.
It’s no easy task, but it is possible with practice, feedback and guidance.
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