5 pro tips to ace ANY English tests (including MUET!)

Published by Afterschool.my on Apr 21, 2017, 02:20 pm

English tests are often required by international universities in western countries. Malaysian students have to face MUET in order to enroll in local universities.

Unless you are undertaking a course that incorporates an English component that meets the requirements of your target university, you may be required to take an English test and achieve a certain score before being accepted into a particular institution.

Two of the most common international English tests to take are the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). English tests are used to evaluate how well you utilise and combine your listening, reading, speaking and writing skills in performing either academic tasks or daily tasks.

However, taking IELTS or TOEFL is not as simple as walking into an exam hall armed with just pen and paper. They should be treated like academic English papers, which students are expected to study and prepare for.

Here are some tips for acing your English exams:

1. Understand your test

It is important to know the structure of your English test and its assessments. You can get more information about tests on websites or through the exam centre. For example, information on IELTS can be found on www.ielts.org and information on TOEFL can be found on www.ets.org/toefl. Or you can also check the detailed comparison between MUET, IELTS and TOEFL here.

The test is usually segregated into different sections – listening, reading, writing and speaking. Each section contains own set of assessment criteria, which you should be familiar with to ensure that you meet the requirements that examiners are looking for.

Knowing the structure and criteria of each section will also allow you to prepare for your test better, which is important if you want to maximise your chances in scoring well and work within the allocated time comfortably.

2. Prepare for your test

There are a number of ways to prepare for an English exam. You can purchase relevant exercise books for the English test or download sample test questions from the official websites. Some books are catered towards achieving a certain score, so ensure that you are purchasing the ones that suit your requirements.

Get started on sample questions and refer to the answers provided to ensure that you are right on track. A tip is to practise doing your sample questions within the time limit so that you can gauge how fast you need to pace yourself in the actual exam.

Knowing what to expect will take away any unnecessary pressure felt during the actual exam that may cloud your judgement, or worse, cause you to not finish your tasks on time.

Alternatively, you can join a centre that specialises in preparing students for English tests, either through tuitions or workshops. Working with a teacher may help improve your prospects of scoring a higher grade in the exam, so it may be worthwhile to consider the option if it suits your needs.

3. Seek help from people

Often times we do not see our own mistakes. If you have a mentor, teacher or parent with a good command of English, it would be wise to seek out advice from them for your test. For example, they can spot any grammar mistakes that you have missed or offer suggestions on how to improve your sentences.

It is particularly useful to practice your speaking component with someone else, as a simulated performance may change completely with the presence of an individual. This comes in handy in instances where you are required to answer oral exams that involves an examiner asking certain prompt questions, which are usually listed in any practice speaking exam that you can pass to someone else to help you practise.

In subjective papers such as writing, having someone else mark your paper may be useful as they can provide feedback on your mistakes as you yourself may not recognise the mistake you have done, particularly if you are trying to achieve a level of English higher than your current level.

4. Be systemised and stay calm

Although the topics of each section may differ from test to test, its structure will not. Therefore, it would be wise to strategize your approach to answering each section.

For example, the IELTS’ writing task is split into two sections. Be strategic and know which task you wish to complete first as well as your approach to the task. Some may choose to start writing immediately, while others may take a few minutes to plan their essay.

The strategy will depend on the individual’s skills and aim in the test. Being prepared and systematic also means that you can control any anxiety or pressure you may feel during your English test.

5. Get enough rest before your test

Instead of burning the midnight oil, aim to get at least seven hours of sleep before your English test. This will keep you from feeling anxious or nervous on the day of your exam as well as allow your brain to register all that you have prepared for.

Try to arrive early before the test to settle down and sort out any administration that needs to be done. Keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water and maintain a calm mind to avoid making mistakes.

Ultimately, it is your performance on the day that counts. But, with good preparation and a healthy mind, you will stand a higher chance of scoring your target grade in your English test.

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