5 EASY TIPS FOR USING YOUR TEST SCRATCH PAPER

You are allowed to have up to three pieces of paper at any time to write notes and ideas during the TOEFL exam. Other high stakes tests often allow for use of paper as well. If you are not using this paper, you are hurting yourself. This paper is often called “scratch paper.” If you use up all your paper during the TOEFL test, raise your hand and the test administrator will bring you more. Needing more paper is a GOOD sign that you are taking advantage of this resource.

Taking notes of the TOEFL listening sections and using the scratch paper to prepare your writing and speaking is very important. If it is difficult for you to do it, don’t give up! Deciding that you’re just not going to take notes or use the paper is not a good solution for most test-takers. Practice, practice, practice, at home! Use listening material — especially the listening CDs or listening material that comes with TOEFL books — to practice taking notes. For the speaking sections, write down key words on your scratch paper in the 15 seconds you have. Brainstorm and/or write an outline on the scratch paper as a way to start the written sections.

These Five Points Should Cover Most Ways You Can Use the Scratch Paper:

1.) Write KEY WORDS, not full sentences. You don’t have time to be writing sentences.

2.) Write fast & messy. Only you need to be able to read your words.

3.) Use symbols and abbreviations to reduce writing time. For example, don’t write “money” — instead, you should use the $symbol.

4.) Use numbers to indicate transition words or phrases you will use in your speaking or writing. For example, in your notes, the number “1” means “first of all.” #2 means “in addition,” or “furthermore,” etc. #3 can mean “finally,” or “last but most importantly,” etc. Doing this saves you time from writing all those words.

5.) In the listening section, often the main idea is the first thing you will hear. This means you should be ready to take notes RIGHT AWAY… so be prepared and practice practice practice starting weeks or months before your test date!

Have questions or want specific advice? Just ask us!

What does “the lion’s share” mean?

“The lion’s share” is an expression that means most of or the majority (but not all).

It is a somewhat formal expression suitable for workplace and academic writings and presentations.

Examples:

“The eldest son received the lion’s share of the inheritance.”

“Without a doubt, Kathleen, who has served as my advisor over these past five years, deserves the lion’s share of my gratitude.”

lion

What does “Hear it through the grapevine” mean?

If you hear something “through the grapevine” it means that you have heard a rumor about someone or something. If you use this expression, it also helps you protect the name/identity of the person who told you the rumor.

Have you heard something through the grapevine recently?

grapevine

Example:
-David: I heard it through the grapevine that you are looking for another job. Is it true?
-Bob: Wow, how did you know that? I only told a few people. But yes, it’s true. Please don’t tell anyone else.

You can also say “I heard it on the grapevine.”
A similar idiom: “A little bird told me.”

TOEFL: 10 INDEPENDENT WRITING TOPICS (FOR PRACTICE)

The TOEFL exam allows 30 minutes to complete the “Independent Writing” section. This should usually be 4-5 paragraphs in which you defend a position (viewpoint) you choose on an assigned topic. We will post something soon which breaks down how much time to spend on different activities during this time to complete your essay (e.g. brainstorming, writing, editing & proofreading).

toefl write

To begin practicing writing essays, here are 10 writing prompts which have appeared on ACTUAL (real) past TOEFL tests.

(These are also good for practicing independent speaking questions, too — just give yourself 45 seconds to talk on these subjects.)

1. People attend college or university for many different reasons (for example, new experiences, career preparation, increased knowledge). Why do you think people attend college or university? Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.

2. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Parents are the best teachers. Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.

3. Nowadays, food has become easier to prepare. Has this change improved the way people live? Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.

4. It has been said, “Not everything that is learned is contained in books.” Compare and contrast knowledge gained from experience with knowledge gained from books. In your opinion, which source is more important? Why?

5. A company has announced that it wishes to build a large factory near your community. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this new influence on your community. Do you support or oppose the factory? Explain your position.

6. If you could change one important thing about your hometown, what would you change? Use reasons and specific examples to support your answer.

7. How do movies or television influence people’s behavior? Use reasons and specific examples to support your answer.

8. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Television has destroyed communication among friends and family. Use specific reasons and examples to support your opinion.

9. Some people prefer to live in a small town. Others prefer to live in a big city. Which place would you prefer to live in? Use specific reasons and details to support your answer.

10. “When people succeed, it is because of hard work. Luck has nothing to do with success.” Do you agree or disagree with the quotation above? Use specific reasons and examples to explain your position.

5 EASY TIPS FOR USING YOUR TEST “SCRATCH PAPER”

You are allowed to have up to three pieces of paper at any time to write notes and ideas during the TOEFL exam. Other high stakes tests often allow for use of paper as well. If you are not using this paper, you are hurting yourself. This paper is often called “scratch paper.” If you use up all your paper during the TOEFL test, raise your hand and the test administrator will bring you more. This should happen every time you take the test!!

Taking notes of the TOEFL listening sections and using the scratch paper to prepare your writing and speaking is very important. If it is difficult for you to do it, don’t give up. Deciding that you’re just not going to take notes or use the paper is not a good solution for the average test-taker. Practice, practice, practice, at home! Use listening material — especially the listening CDs or listening material that comes with TOEFL books and practice resources — to take notes.

Write down key words on your scratch paper in the 15 seconds you have to prepare your independent speaking responses.

Brainstorm and/or write an outline on the scratch paper as a way to start the written sections.

While you use this scratch paper, remember these 5 important points:

1.) Write KEY WORDS, not full sentences. You don’t have time to be writing sentences.

2.) Write fast & messy. Only you need to be able to read your words.

3.) Use symbols and abbreviations to reduce writing time. For example, don’t write “money” — instead, you should use the $ symbol.

4.) Use numbers to indicate transition words or phrases you will use in your speaking or writing. For example, in your notes, the number “1” means “first of all.” #2 means “in addition,” or “furthermore,” etc. #3 can mean “finally,” or “last but most importantly,” etc. Doing this saves you time from writing all those words.

5.) In the listening section, often the main idea is the first thing you will hear. This means you should be ready to take notes RIGHT AWAY… so be prepared and practice practice practice starting weeks or months before your test date!

Have questions or want specific advice? Just ask us!

FIVE PARAGRAPH ESSAY IS LIKE A HAMBURGER!

Writing a five-paragraph essay is one of the most important skills you need to succeed on the independent writing section of the TOEFL (and many other tests including the GRE and GMAT) and in order to write papers for American college classes.

Americans love hamburgers more than you thought!

One easy way to remember how to do this is to think of your essay like it’s a hamburger. You can find a million examples like this online (just type “essay hamburger” into Google Images). College papers usually must be at least several pages long (and often can be 10-20 pages long) but they can still follow the “hamburger model.”

The basic idea:

TOP BUN = Paragraph 1 = Introduce the topic and present the argument you are trying to make (thesis)

TOMATO = Paragraph 2 = First type of support for your argument, with at least one specific example

LETTUCE = Paragraph 3 = Second type of support for your argument, with at least one specific example

MEAT PATTY = Paragraph 4 = Third type of support for your argument, with at least one specific example

BOTTOM BUN = Paragraph 5 = Conclusion; repeat your main argument and find a good way to end. For example, make a prediction about the future.

Some essay hamburger examples:

This model can also be use for writing a single paragraph:

HAVING TROUBLE FALLING ASLEEP BEFORE A TEST (LIKE TOEFL)?

There is a well-known breathing technique called the 4-7-8 method.

Using this breathing method can help you fall asleep the night before a big test (like TOEFL) or other stressful things.

This method can also help you relax before giving a presentation or speaking English (if speaking English makes you nervous).

It’s easy:

1.) Breathe in for four (4) seconds through your nose.

2.) Hold it for seven (7) seconds.

3.) Exhale strongly for eight (8) seconds.

Here is a demonstration and more about it by the famous healthy living doctor from the U.S., Dr. Andrew Weil:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRPh_GaiL8s