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Thursday, October 21, 2010

100 ways to improve your TOEIC score

1. Start today. Languages take a long time to become a natural part of someone\'s brain, so the sooner you start studying the better. If the two options are to do a lot now and then just revise a little before the exam or start slowly now and then study a lot just before the exam, you will learn three or four times as much using the first method, and also remember the language longer after the exam is finished.

2. Study for exactly the test you are doing. Not only do you need to study slightly differently if you are doing the computer based test, but there is a chance that you could have to take the test as it was before the 2007 changes or the new style test- depending on whether you are taking the test in your company or in a test centre. Please double check before you buy an exam practice book and start doing practice tests. However, the differences between the versions of the exams are small enough that if you already have some materials for another version that you want to use before spending more money, that is no problem.

3. Have a plan of attack. Set yourself realistic targets for your TOEIC score in 3 months, 6 months, a year etc. and decide which things are best to do first in preparation for it and which things can wait until nearer the time of the exam.

4. Concentrate on the important parts. What you need to pass the exam is mainly vocabulary (both General English vocabulary and Business English vocabulary) and practice is listening and reading. Grammar practice can help, but most students find this is the least important part of the exam.

5. Concentrate on what you need. It is generally easier to gain points in the exam by practicing parts you find difficult rather than gaining even more points in the parts you find easy, especially if you learn techniques on how to pick out the important and manageable parts of those sections of the exam. The easier parts can then be saved to be used when you need a break from difficult stuff.

6. Revise first. In the TOEIC test you need to be able to not only answer the questions, but answer them quickly. This means that language that you learnt once but can\'t remember without thinking for 5 minutes first won\'t be much use in the rushed, high pressure exam. It is therefore almost always better to properly learn something you half know already than it is to add something new to your list of things to learn, especially if you have made sure that it is useful language by finding it in material for the exam or material for people of your English level. Make sure you spend at least 30% of your study time revising things you have studied before but don\'t know very well yet.

7. Have a weekly study plan. Work out how many hours you can spare for studying TOEIC, make time for a realistic number of breaks, decide which parts of studying you can do on the train to work, decide on your priorities for the rest of your time, think about when you are likely to be most tired and should therefore study easier stuff, and then write your weekly study plan down.

8. Have a yearly study plan. Try a TOEIC test and analyse carefully what you got wrong and why. Write down all the things you will need to know and be able to do by the end of the year in order to get the score you need. Group those things together into categories (e.g. "reading skills" or "grammar"). Find out as many ways as you can of learning and practising each of those things and put them into your yearly plan so that the whole schedule has a lot of variety in it, e.g. by having different newspapers to read each month, or starting with local newspapers in English and working your way up to The Economist.

9. Have a daily study plan. With your own knowledge of when you are most likely to be able to concentrate, plan to do the new language and the most difficult parts at those times and the easier parts and doing old practice papers again as revision for generally less productive times like after lunch.

10. Get a job where you can use English. As TOEIC is a test of practical, everyday English, using English everyday in a work setting is the best possible practice for things like reading faxes, emails and invoices in the test.

11. Volunteer. If you can\'t use English in your job, try volunteering as a guide to foreign tourists, for an English language telephone helpline, charity fundraising in an area where many foreigners hang out etc.

12. Read. The thing you need most to pass the TOEIC test is vocabulary, and the best way of learning vocabulary is through reading. Although looking words up in a dictionary and learning them later is a good idea for this, you need to make sure that this doesn\'t slow down your reading speed (very important for the TOEIC reading paper). You can practice both reading fast and vocabulary by reading through a whole article, paragraph or page quickly while only circling or underlining the words you are not sure about, then stop reading and look up the words in a dictionary. At this time or later, you will also need to transfer the most useful of those words to a list of vocabulary to learn.

13. Read graded readers. Although the texts you will have to read in the TOEIC exam are not made easier for you in any way, when it comes to learning vocabulary it is best to read something at your level where which words are important for students to learn has already been decided for you, i.e. a graded reader, or "easy reader". Well known examples of these are Penguin Readers, Macmillan Readers, Oxford Readers and Black Cat Readers. To make sure you learn good language for the exam, it is best to choose a non-fiction title if you can. If you find there is one or two words a page which you are not sure about, you have found the right level book.

14. Read the news. Although the language in newspapers is quite different to what you will read and hear in the TOEIC exam, the fact that English language news comes out everyday and so is always new is quite motivating- if you don\'t read it now, it will soon be gone! The easiest news to understand is usually that on websites like Yahoo or through Google news alerts. You can make it even easier to understand by reading a story that you already know about. Choosing business news might give you some useful vocabulary if your Business English is weak. However, unless you have a very high level, don\'t worry if you have problems understanding the news on CNN and BBC News, as this is nothing like the language in the Listening part of the exam.

15. Surf the web. As information has become available in every language on the internet, many students have started to use English less than they did a few years ago. You can push yourself to use English by always using English search items on the English language Google site. You can also make it easier to understand whatever you read in English by using an online or CD ROM dictionary that translates a word on the website if you click on it. However, avoid services that translate whole pages of text as the translations are not too good and it will mean you are no longer practising your English.

16. Watch with English subtitles. Although watching videos can be a good way of getting used to fast, natural speech, the disadvantage is that it is very difficult to look words up that you don\'t understand in the dictionary. Watching a DVD with English sound and English subtitles makes it easier to understand and easier to look words up. As you can easily lose concentration before the end of a movie, short episodes of series are better practice.

17. Read quickly. Reading speed is one of the most important parts of the TOEIC exam. Before you start reading anything in English, remind yourself to read as quickly as you can, not stopping for parts you don\'t understand. If you want to read it more slowly to check your understanding or look up words in the dictionary, only do this the second time you read something.

18. Buy a speaking dictionary. Students often find the questions in the listening difficult even though it only uses words they already know. This is usually because they don\'t recognize the word because they have only read it before and never heard it. Listening to the pronunciation of each new word you learn and repeating it a couple of times means you are more likely to remember it and more likely to understand it when you hear it. Many electronic dictionaries now have this function. If you are embarrassed about doing this in public, you will need to buy some headphones to go with your electronic dictionary.

19. Buy a pronunciation practice CD ROM. Although you don\'t need to speak in the exam, any work you do on making yourself sound a little bit more like a native speaker will help you understand the native speaker voices in the test.

20. Change everything to English. Some of the reading texts and listening texts in the exam are instructions on how to use machines and office equipment. Changing the language of your mobile phone, MP3 player (iPod etc.), internet search engine etc. to English can be good practice for this.

21. Read your instruction manuals in English. Many electronics items are now sold with the instructions in many languages. Try reading them in English first, as this is quite similar to some of the language you will see in the TOEIC Reading paper.

22. Write. Although there is no writing in the exam, learning to write the kinds of documents you will have to read in the exam is a good way of finding out where the important information usually is and so reading things quicker. It is also good for learning vocabulary.

23. Read every part of your dictionary. As well as being a place you look up words you don\'t know, many modern dictionaries also tell you how to write common business documents you will see in the exam like emails, which words are most common in English and therefore worth learning first, the differences between commonly confused words (often used in trick questions in the exam) etc. etc.

24. Write an English diary. People who don\'t need to write English in their work or studies often get stuck on what they can write if they don\'t have a teacher helping them. Writing about what you did everyday means you will never run out of material. If you can also write out whole conversations you had during the day, that is exactly the kind of language that you will hear in the Listening part of the exam.

25. Online chat. If you don\'t have the chance to speak English, the closest thing you can find is text chatting online. This is fairly similar to speaking as you have to write in real time and there is quite a lot of functional language like greeting people, apologizing etc. that is like the language you will hear in the Listening part of the test.

26. Join discussion forums. Reading an online forum about something you are interested in or knowledgeable about can be very motivating, as you will really want to know what people are saying and can write your own comments if you have some information that other people need, or want to say that you agree or disagree with someone. Like chat pages, there is also quite a lot of useful functional language like agreeing and disagreeing. You might also be able to find a discussion forum about other people\'s experiences with the TOEIC exam.

27. Join a TOEIC class. Although there is no speaking in the test, using English and talking through your problems with it can really fix the language in your head. It can also help your motivation, and you will get some good tips on how to take the exam.

28. Join a Business English class. Although specialized business vocabulary is not supposed to be necessary to pass the test, the functional language (dealing with complaints etc.) and some everyday vocabulary that comes up more in Business English classes ("colleague", names of jobs etc.) means that this kind of class can really help, especially if you don\'t have any business experience.

29. Join a general English Conversation class. Although there are many tricks in this list and on to boost your TOEIC score in a short time, if you really want to gain more than 100 points in the long term there is no replacement for just improving your general level of English by finishing a class and going up to the next level. A General English conversation class can also be a good way of keeping you interested in English if you are getting bored with TOEIC exam practice.

30. Do a conversation exchange. If you don\'t have the money for an English class, don\'t like sitting in a classroom or would also like the make foreign friends, try looking in local magazines for a conversation exchange partner- someone who wants to learn your language who will teach you English in exchange. As social chit chat only really comes into the exam in Part Two of the listening, if you want to push yourself for the exam you will need to make sure you write down and remember any new words you or your partner use, and try to speak about more serious topics like the business news. You could also try taking a business magazine article to discuss.

31. Buy a TOEIC practice book. The two most important points to remember when shopping for a TOEIC book are to buy something that is really like the test and to be realistic about what someone at your level with your amount of free time can do. Be careful when buying a book- just because a book has TOEIC on the front does not mean it has been tested and approved by ETS. It is usually best to stick to books produced by the big international publishers like Longman, Barrons, and Cambridge- which usually means buying a book all in English rather than one with explanations in your language. It is probably also best to start off with a thin, low level book that you can get through quickly and easily and so be motivated for the challenge of the next one. Also make sure that a practice tests book has the answer key, preferably a detailed one that explains why each answer is correct or not.

32. Buy a TOEIC practice CD ROM. Even if you are not going to take the computer version of the test, sitting at a computer and doing some practice can make a nice change from sitting at a desk with bits of paper and therefore can boost your motivation.

33. Try some online TOEIC practice. Many sites now offer free or paid online TOEIC practice which you can easily find with a Google search. Like using a CD ROM, it is also a nice break from using a book and pen.

34. Try doing a test backwards. Many TOEIC candidates never get good at the last part of the Reading section of the test because they spend most of their time and use up most of their energy on the earlier parts of the paper. Try working your way backwards through the test instead a few times.

35. Time yourself. It is difficult to get yourself motivated to do many practice tests when your scores seem to go up and down each time and you can\'t see clear progress in the short term. One solution is to concentrate on the timing rather than the marks. Time how long it takes you to complete the whole Reading part of the test and try to make that shorter every time- even if you have already finished quicker than the official time limit of the test. You can also do the same thing with each section of the test.

36. Read and listen. After you have finished the listening paper, read through the tapescript carefully and check any words you don\'t know in your dictionary. Next, listen and read the tapescript at the same time, listening for how the written script and the sounds that are pronounced in natural speech are different (e.g. the fast pronunciation of "Do you"). You might also want to write the pronunciation changes on the tapescript, e.g. crossing out sounds that are not pronounced, drawing a loop between sounds that are pronounced together etc. You can then read and listen one more time, and try to say the sentences in the tapescript with the same rhythm as the speaker on the CD.

37. Do exactly the same test again. Once you have finished a whole practice test or one section of it, check your answers and check you understand why you made any mistakes you did. Write the vocabulary and grammar from the test you didn\'t know in your notebook, and test yourself on it at least 3 more times over the next week or two. You can then try the same test again to check your memory, make the language really stick in your mind, and boost your confidence.

38. Set yourself a vocabulary goal. For example, if you learn 5 words a day for a year that will mean more than 1500 new words you can understand in English and being a whole level higher in reading comprehension. Once you have set that target, try to learn double that everyday, so that you are always ahead of your target and therefore motivated.

39. Learn whole English phrases. Speed of understanding is very important in both the Listening and Reading sections of the TOEIC test, and one thing that can really slow you down is trying to understand an English sentence word by word. You can make your comprehension much faster by learning whole common sentences of English such as "I look forward to hearing from you soon" and "That\'s a pity" rather than the expressions "look forward" and "pity". One good way of doing this is to buy a travel phrase book with CD, which will have common phrases like "Do you want fries with that?" which you can practice responding quickly to. Some of them are produced especially for Business travellers, so might be especially useful. You could also try learning any English language notices and announcements in your town, for example on the subway or buses.

40. Listen to an English language audio guide. Many museums have little MP3 players and headphones that tell you about some of the things you can see as you walk around. Looking at the exhibits and listening to the descriptions in English is quite similar to TOEIC Listening Part One. If you have problems understanding it, buy an English language guidebook and try the audio guide again when you have read the guidebook and looked up any difficult words in your dictionary.

41. Stop translating. The thing that slows down listening and reading comprehension most is translating things into your own language in your head. You can start to think only in English by using an English-English dictionary, not using translations in your lists of vocabulary to learn, and learning whole phrases of English.

42. Brainstorm vocabulary. There are several common situations in TOEIC that you need lots of vocabulary about, e.g. in the office, in restaurants, on the telephone, in a workshop or lab, in the street, in shops and on public transport. Taking one of those situations and brainstorming, for example, all the office furniture and equipment you can think of, using your dictionary to help you once you get stuck, can be really useful and motivating. Doing this as a spider diagram, linking together similar or connected words, can also help you think of more words and remember it better. Make sure you revise any new vocabulary in the week after brainstorming, then brainstorm again and see if you have missed any out or have thought of any new ones. Also make sure you learn the pronunciation of the words.

43. Brainstorm functional language. Choose one of the typical situations for a TOEIC listening, e.g. in the airport, and brainstorm as many typical sentences people say in this situation as you can, e.g. "Did you pack this luggage yourself?" You can find this kind of language in a phrasebook for travellers or a Business English self-study book.

44. Write dialogues. For the typical TOEIC settings like those shown in the pictures of Part One, try writing whole dialogues of what people might say when they get on the bus, arrive at reception etc. This can help you predict the language you will hear in both Listening Part One and Listening Part Two.

45. Write descriptions. Either before or after you listen to a Listening Part One task, try writing as many true sentences about the picture as you can.

46. Draw. As an alternative way of practising Listening Part One, try listening to all four sentences without looking at the picture first, and make a sketch of each of the four situations described. When you then look at the picture you should be able to find which of your sketches it is most similar to and therefore which the right answer is.

47. Join a study group. Just sitting next to someone studying the same thing as you can help you to discipline yourself you not take too many breaks etc. You can also test each other on what you have been trying to learn, try and explain why certain answers are wrong etc.

48. Train your short term memory. Many people have memory problems when taking the TOEIC test like remembering what you heard in the text until you hear the questions. Even brain training for this that is not connected to language can be useful, e.g. special games on the Nintendo DS.

49. Get longer and shorter. The first time you try a test, try checking every answer after you do it before you try the next one. The second time, try a whole section and then check the answers to that section. Continue making the parts of the test you do without stopping longer and longer until you can do a whole test without stopping. If you get bored after a few timed complete tests or you find that you are not remembering the language you have learnt from it because it is too much, alternate doing whole tests and doing shorter sections. You can also alternate doing the whole test and doing lots of examples of just one section, preferably one you are finding difficult.

50. Be realistic. If you are ever disappointed by how many questions you have got wrong in a TOEIC exam or how many questions you couldn\'t finish before the time limit, always remember that the only people who will finish every question and get them all right are near native speakers who have lived, and probably studied, abroad when they were still young. Your aim is always to find the easiest questions that you couldn\'t get right and work on them to improve your score step by step.

51. Eat healthily. Although the vitamins and oils for brain development are only proven to work for growing children, eating healthy food and avoiding additives can help you study longer each day and remember better what you have studied. Also remember that alcohol can affect your short term memory powers.

52. Cut down on the coffee. If you are too used to drinking coffee while studying, you might be in for a shock when you have to take the TOEIC test for 3 hours with no drinks or food allowed.

53. Stop snacking while studying. As well as getting used to not being able to do this during the exam, it could also improve your general health and mean that time preparing and eating food is a proper rest from study that leaves you refreshed and ready to do some more serious work.

54. Understand your biorhythms. By knowing whether you are a morning person or an evening person, you can plan which easy, mechanical things like learning vocabulary lists or doing pronunciation practice you can leave to times you are sleepy like after lunch, and which more challenging things you should do while you are most awake (for most people this is first thing in the morning, even for most people who think they are evening people). The same things are true over a week with Monday mornings, times just before the weekend etc.

55. Do some exercise. Doing physical exercise can help you improve your ability to concentrate and sit still while studying without getting restless. It can also help your endurance during the exam. If you can exercise whilst also doing something in English, e.g. doing an English language exercise video or listening to your MP3 player while jogging, that\'s even better!

56. Take up yoga. As well as having the benefits of exercise, doing something like yoga can also help you cope with the stress of studying for the exam and actually being in the exam. Again, if you can find an English language yoga video or instructor, that can help you in one more way!

57. Be positive. Believing that you can succeed can have a large effect in actually making you succeed. There are books, audio tapes and videos that can show you how to boost your confidence in yourself and think positively everyday, available from the self-help and business sections of bookshops. These books are often also fairly easy English language reading material.

58. Take time out. Although it can be difficult to know when it is just being lazy, sometimes when you are learning a language you just need to give your brain time to really understand and learn the language subconsciously while you are doing something unconnected, for example by sleeping after studying and then trying it again the next day.

59. Take up another hobby. Just like recovering after a big football match, time spent getting away from English study so that you come back to it refreshed and ready to learn should be something you are completely absorbed in and is fun.

60. Tell someone what you are doing and get them to motivate you. In things like sports we are often motivated by things like competition between people, being told by your coach you have improved etc. It is therefore not surprising that many people get demotivated when studying on their own. By communicating with someone how you are doing, e.g. on the internet or telling someone in your family if you have having a good or a bad day, you will find that the progress you are making becomes clearer to you.

61. Even if you\'ve done it, try again. If you manage to get the TOEIC score you need on a practice test, you should certainly feel very happy and reward yourself with a beer or a bar of chocolate. However, you should then get quickly back to studying to make sure you can get the same score under real exam conditions. First of all, getting lucky in, for example, getting exactly the grammar questions that you know the answers to is possible and can change your score by up to 35 points- so try another test from the same book to make sure you can get that score another time. Another thing is that as most practice tests are not produced by ETS and so there is a chance that one or more (or even all) of the tests in the book you have are easier or more difficult than the real test. You might therefore want to try a test from a book published by a different company. Generally, the books by the big international publishers are the most reliable. Finally, if you really can get the score you want every time you try a test, set your target score 30 or 40 points higher so you have a cushion in case you have a bad day on the day of the test.

62. Set your body clock. If your test times will be when you are usually sleeping or eating, you will have to get used to not doing those things at those times for a few weeks before the test.

63. See if you understand why it is wrong now. If you are studying on your own, a few weeks or months are trying an exam task look at your answers again and see if you have learnt something that now makes the answers you got wrong more obvious. If you still don\'t understand after looking at something three or more times, it is probably worth getting a teacher for at least 2 or 3 classes so you can ask them questions and stop making the same mistakes, or at least joining a study group so you can get the ideas of other students.

64. Learn to cope with stress. For some people, stress is as much of a problem in the exam as the language they are being tested on. Preparation for this can include getting used to other stressful situations like public speaking and/ or learning relaxation techniques like meditation or deep breathing.

65. Try real test conditions. Do a practice test in a library or quiet café so that you have exactly the same conditions of not being able to move and having people around you and less than perfect silence.

66. Look at your progress. If you are getting disappointed with your progress in English, you are sure to be able to find something, e.g. a test score from the beginning of your course, that shows you how much you have actually learnt. This will give you the motivation to keep trying and step up to the next level.

67. Keep all your scores. Especially if you are studying on your own, it can be very easy to give up after your score goes down in a couple of practice tests. Keeping all your scores can reminding you of how well you have progressed over the long term.

68. Set short term, medium term and long term goals. For example, 20 points by the end of the month, 40 points by the end of 3 months and 100 points by the end of the year. When setting these goals, remember that you will probably progress most quickly at the beginning of your studies.

69. Choose the easiest bits first. Just like doing exercise, most people need a warm up to get into studying or doing a test. Every time you sit down, decide which part is easiest and start with that for 5 to 15 minutes. Thinking about which part is easy is also a good way of looking at the test material in a different way.

70. Time each question. As well as helping you to use your time well in the exam, the adrenaline boost of doing something against the clock can make you more interested in it and therefore help you remember it better.

71. Time each section. As well as giving you the same motivating effects as timing each question, this can help you see which part of the reading paper you are doing slowest and so need most practice on.

72. Reward yourself. If you think of the studying part of your brain as an animal that needs to be trained, by giving yourself a bar of chocolate when you have studied hard or got a good score you can train your subconscious to work hard to get those rewards again.

73. Try answering the question without hearing or reading the text. As well as being something you can occasionally do in the exam, this can help you read the questions more carefully to make sure you aren\'t being tricked by a few words.

74. Practice at the same time as the test. Try a few practice tests at exactly the same time of day, and even the same day of the week, as your TOEIC test will be. This will help you get a realistic idea of your energy and concentration levels at that time, and help you improve them.

75. Stop cramming. The amount of language that could be in the TOEIC exam is so huge that the chances that whatever you study the day before coming up and helping you get a better score are the same as reading one random page in an encyclopaedia and expecting it to help you with your university entrance test. On the day or two before the exam, just concentrate on doing some relaxing in English and making sure you are healthy and happy on the day of the test.

76. Buy an MP3 player. There are so many things in English you can listen to for free on the Internet that you should easily be able to find something that interests you and is the right level that you can download and listen to while you are travelling to work or doing exercise. If you can\'t get an MP3 player, it is also possible to copy downloads onto a CD on your computer and then listen to them on a CD Walkman.

77. Try something easier. Doing something easier like a TOEIC Bridge practice test can give a boost to your confidence and so motivate you to try harder. It can also help you realize which parts of the language you are studying for the TOEIC are more basic and so need studying first.

78. Time everything you do during the day. As you can\'t be checking your watch every minute of the exam, learning how long things take and how long 75 minutes really is can help you keep your speed up in the exam while stopping you rushing too much and panicking. Predicting how long the washing up, walking to the shops etc. will take and checking your predictions can help develop your accurate idea of time.

79. Try something more difficult. Like practicing sprints to develop long distance running strength, trying something even more difficult than the TOEIC exam like an instruction manual for a new machine in English can help you develop skills like skimming over words you don\'t know, and make the TOEIC test seem easier when you go back to it.

80. Write down your tactics. As well as writing down new language, writing down the things you learn about how to do the test can help you remember the best tactics and can also be good practice of English.

81. Read on the toilet. Many people find the best way of revising new vocabulary is by sticking the words they need to learn to the toilet door.

82. Copy and change a TOEIC sentence or text. To make sure you understand and really learn a typical TOEIC sentence like the functional language in Listening Part Two, copy it down and then practise changing one word at a time until it is as different as possible while still being correct English.

83. Copy and delete a TOEIC sentence or text. Another way of making sure you remember the language is to cover or erase the sentence one word at a time until the whole sentence has gone or you can\'t remember it anymore.

84. Do a TOEIC exam listening as a dictation. Although in the exam you have to be careful not to try and understand every word, using on exam practice text to listen over and over and try to write down everything you hear can be a good way of learning how the pronunciation of words are changed in fast, natural speech.

85. Learn the word stress. Practising the sounds of English on your own and recognizing when you are making the correct one is very difficult. One thing you can easily write down and learn that often makes understanding when you listen difficult is the rhythm of words. You can mark this with a big circle over the stressed (louder and longer) syllable of each word.

86. Learn the number of syllables. This is another easy way of making sure you understand words when you hear them in the exam.

87. Learn the phonemic script. The next stage is to learn to write down the whole pronunciation of words you learn in English. The only way to do this accurately is to write them down with the special symbols known as the "phonemic script". To make learning it easier, start by just copying the symbol for the one difficult sound for each word from your dictionary, then slowly work your way up until you can write whole words without help.

88. Learn other parts of speech. Another thing that can catch you out in the exam is hearing a word that is basically the same as one you know, but is a noun when you only know the verbs, e.g. "communication" and "communicate". Learning each form of a word can also help you remember the original word better.

89. Learn the sentence stress. In the same way that you need to be able to skim quickly through a reading text to look for the important information to answer a question, in the listening you need to be able to pick out the important information. In English the important words in a sentence are pronounced longer and louder than the grammar words like "am" and "at" between them. Learning which these words are, marking them on sentences while or before you listen, and practicing speaking with the correct rhythm can all help with this.

90. Watch soap operas in English. Although it may seem that television dramas about family problems etc. are a long way from the Business English that TOEIC is supposed to be a test of, in fact a lot of the language, especially in Listening Part Two, is everyday functional English that people use when they say hello, ask people to do things etc. If you don\'t use English everyday, soap operas are probably the most common and easiest to understand way to regularly hear such language.

91. Listen to radio drama. If you can understand the everyday functional language used in a TV drama, then the next stage is to try and understand the same kind of language without the pictures by listening to a radio soap opera like "The Archers", downloadable from BBC Radio 4.

92. Watch wildlife documentaries. In Listening Part One you will look at something and hear a description of it at the same time. This kind of situation is very rare in everyday life, but in scientific documentaries like "Planet Earth" quite a lot of that kind of language is used.

93. Watch or listen to sports commentary in English. This is another common situation in which you will actually hear people describing what you can see.

94. Watch a video about the business world. When you are choosing a DVD to watch, try picking one that is in a business setting and therefore will have lots of Business English vocabulary you can practice your listening comprehension of. Possibilities include comedy series like "The Office", documentaries like "Enron: the smartest guys in the room" or movies like "American Psycho", "Rogue Trader" or "Bonfire of the Vanities".

95. Listen to the business news. Although all the listening texts in the TOEIC exam are dialogues and therefore the business news in English is much more difficult, this can be a good way of making sure you understand typical Business English vocabulary used in context. To make it easier for you to understand, try reading the same business news in English or even your own language first.

96. Listen to radio with an English DJ. Although listening is like any other part of language learning and the more effort you put in the more you will improve, unlike other skills just having something in English on in the background without paying attention to it at all can help a little with getting used to natural English rhythm and so help you to pick out the important words when you are listening in the exam.

97. Read your own language quicker. Most of the skills of reading quickly are the same for every language. When you read something in your own language, practice missing out the bits like the beginning and ends of emails that you know don\'t have any information in them, stopping reading each newspaper article when it is no longer interesting etc.

98. Cross it out and throw it away. When you have completely finished a TOEIC paper, worksheet or book and copied down the important language to learn, putting a big cross across the page or even ripping it up and throwing it away can be a very motivating reward for your hard work, and also reduce the pile of things on your desk waiting to be done.

99. Clear up your desk and your life. Before you start studying, make sure that nothing can interrupt you like your mobile ringing, the washing waiting to be hung up etc. If you take one or two days a week off from studying (generally a very good idea), try to use them to tidy up your study space, clear away other paperwork like bills that needs doing etc.

100. Just do it. For some people, drawing up a study timetable and sharpening all your pencils is just a way of delaying the start of your studies. If you are such a person, it is best to start studying right now and only do most of the hints above when you find your enthusiasm fading in a few days, weeks or months. Always remember that the most important thing is how long you study and how much effort you put into that study- thinking about how and when you do so are mainly just ways of keeping that level of effort up week after week.

TOEIC Exam Problems and Solutions

I can get the score I need when I do TOEIC practice tests at home, but in the real test I am so nervous that I do really badly

First of all, make sure that your practice test conditions at home are really like the test: completed in the set time with no breaks, no background music, no snacking etc. Doing a practice test in a class or a public library, rather than at home can help in making it more realistic. You can also try to reflect the extra difficulty of a real exam by setting the time limit for the practice tests at slightly less than the exam time. Any techniques you can use to cope with stress more generally can also help, e.g. getting used to stressful situations like public speaking in a debating club, competitive chess or acting. Learning relaxation techniques like deep breathing could also help, as could making sure you eat the right foods and get the right amount of exercise and sleep in the days before the exam.

I\'m so tired by the time I reach the final reading section of the TOEIC that I can\'t concentrate and get almost no marks in this section

Apart from making sure you leave no blanks and therefore guess whatever questions you haven\'t had time to do in the last couple of minutes of the test, the solution to this problem can be different for different people. One solution is simply to do the reading paper in reverse, doing the long reading sections at the end of the TOEIC Reading paper when you have the power and leaving the shorter language based questions at the beginning of the paper until the end. The problem then could be that you run out of time before you get to do all of the sections near the beginning, and so miss out on some easy marks. If you are a lower level student, it might be best just to concentrate on the questions near the beginning and just take any extra marks you get from the later sections as a bonus, always remembering that some of the questions are designed to be impossible for all but the very best students and so are best just to guess and move on.

I always run out of time during the test

Don\'t worry- most people have this problem! There are, however, some techniques that can help you do more of the test before you have to just guess the last few. One thing is to know how much time you should spend on each section, and to discipline yourself to move on after that time and come back later. A more difficult skill is to learn to spot the questions that are far too difficult for you and should be skipped, and which ones you will be able to do if you spend a little time on them. One way to practice this at home is to take a quick look at all the questions in one section of a TOEIC practice test and try to guess which one is easiest. Try that question and check your answers. Continue in the same way with all the other questions, and check whether the ones you chose first because you thought they were easy were actually the ones you got right.

I always run out of time during the last section of the TOEIC Reading paper

This is a common problem! The most vital skill for this section, and something that can really help you read English in your working life, is to be able to quickly find the part of the text with the information you need to answer that question, and then read only that part. You can practice this by underlining the important parts in the text when you check your answers after doing a practice test.

I miss half the listening questions because I am still thinking about the previous question

This is easy to do but very important to avoid. Although you might be able to find the time to think about the answers to previous questions at some points like when the tape is explaining instructions you already know, there are no second chances on actually hearing the listening text. When the next listening text starts, mark clearly that you are leaving the last question 100% until later by, for example, turning the page or putting your pencil on the question you are about to listen to. To make sure you still remember any questions you were unsure about when go back and think about them again, make sure you have made some notes such as question marks next to the two questions you need to choose between (strictly, writing on your question paper is not allowed in the exam, but in practice students never get told off for doing it- just write as little and as lightly as you can).

I find the TOEIC Listening section is much more difficult than the Reading section

If you want to develop your listening skills and bring them up to the level of your reaching skills, the first thing you need to do is work out what part of listening is the most difficult for you. Do you understand, but too slowly to answer the questions before the next listening text starts? In that case, you need to revise the language you already know and speak English as much as possible. When you read the tapescript after doing the listening, do you find that you can understand it perfectly when you read it? If so, you need to learn the pronunciation of the words you know and study how words are linked together in fast speech. When you read the tapescript, do you find there are one or more words that you don\'t understand at all that stop you answering the question? If so, you need to expand your vocabulary by reading something written for someone of your level like a graded reader, and checking words with a dictionary after you finish- making sure you also learn the pronunciation by writing it in phonemic script or listening to the CD of a graded reader.

I find the beginning of each TOEIC paper okay, but by the end I am getting almost no answers right

Don\'t worry- the test in designed to become more difficult as you go through it, and so most of the questions that are written especially to be impossible for someone of a lower or intermediate level will be near the end. All you can do on the day is try to pick out the questions you do have a chance of answering, and guess the rest. For some people, however, it is more a case of lack of energy and concentration at the end of the test than language knowledge. If that is the case, make sure you have plenty of practice sitting through a whole timed test and that you eat and drink things with lots of complex carbohydrates (e.g. starchy things like potatoes and pasta) before the test, rather than sugars that will give you a boost at the beginning but whose energy will be used up long before the end.

In the multiple choice questions, I can narrow the options down to two but then I just have to guess

First of all, for many people getting 50% of the multiple choice questions right is enough, so it might not be a big problem depending on the score you need and you are certainly using the right technique in eliminating the answers you know are wrong. As one of the answers is usually obviously wrong (you can even sometimes guess it is incorrect without reading the text), getting it down to two or three is fairly common. Sometimes the final choice of a right answer depends on vocabulary that you don\'t know, and there is nothing to do but guess. However, there are some things worth looking out for that could help:

1. Does one of the options refer to something in the wrong part of the text, e.g. in a different part of the text to the other 3 options? In that case it is probably not the right option.

2. Is the meaning of a word in one of the options different to the meaning of the word in the text, e.g. "have" in the text means "have got" and "have" in the question means "take" as in "have/ take a break"? In that case it is wrong.

3. Can you guess the meaning of the word you don\'t understand from its use elsewhere in the text? Even if you can\'t understand it completely, you might be able to see if it is positive or negative; if it is a noun, adjective, verb etc; if it is a kind of document, machine or workplace etc. This could help you when you guess the answer.

I can find the right information in the reading texts, but I still can\'t understand it and answer the questions

Although this can occasionally be due to not fully understanding a grammatical form (e.g. the difference in meaning between the Present Simple and the Present Continuous), for most people their understanding of grammar is much better than their ability to produce it and the main thing holding them back in the reading is vocabulary. You will need to spend at least a few months improving your General English and Business English by reading, studying a textbook, joining a class etc.

My score increased suddenly but now has gone flat

It may be that the initial boost in your score was due to learning a few exam tips or suddenly remembering all your English because you started studying it again after many years. Unfortunately, there is no way to learn new language as quickly as you remember old language or to give a whole year of useful exam tips and exam training. Instead, you will need to put move onto putting in the time and effort to get your English up to the next level. On the bright side, many students find their English can take another unexpected jump up after many months or even years at only improving at a modest rate, for example by reaching the level where you can read newspapers or understand English songs for the first time and so boosting the amount of English you have access to. If your problem is that the level of materials you are studying are not high enough to boost your level but the next level is too high and makes you tired and confused, try alternating, for example, materials written for native speakers and materials written for language learners.

My score increased suddenly but now has gone back down

Having a temporary drop in your English level despite studying a lot can often be because your mind is busy learning new language and so is slowed down when trying to access old language. If you have at least 3 months before your next test this problem usually sorts itself out naturally and you are probably doing the right thing to get to the next level in the long term by pushing yourself. However, you might want to try one of these things:

1. Check that you are actually studying something at the next level, rather than studying something that you should leave until next year. For example, are you really ready to read and/ or listen to books, radio etc. for English native speakers, or would you learn more from studying something at an Upper Intermediate level like a graded reader first?

2. Try taking a break from the new stuff and just revising or just completely resting for a while, and you will find you can use the language you know much more fluently than when your head was tired and confused with lots of new language

3. Maybe general mental alertness is your problem. Time spent sleeping, exercising, eating healthy or doing brain training exercises might be just as beneficial in the short term as studying more language

My TOEIC score keeps on jumping up and down

If the change is only around 30 to 40 points, this may simply be because you have been lucky or unlucky in the questions that have come up or the ones you have guessed. If you have taken 4 or more TOEIC tests, you should still be able to draw a graph to show you whether the general trend is up, flat, or even down. Apart from sheer luck, things that can have this effect and you can control include:

- Tiredness from excessive work, cramming before an exam, studying too many other subjects at the same time as TOEIC, lack of general health, too much or too little exercise etc.

- Sleepiness in the exam due too much or too little food, time of day etc. If you are a morning person or an evening person, time of day in particular can have a big impact.


By the time I hear the listening questions I have forgotten what they said

Even some native speakers have to concentrate in order to not have this problem when trying TOEIC exam questions. Especially for students with quite a high level who can lose concentration if the questions are too easy, it is worth spending some time on developing your short term memory of language, and your short term memory more generally. Techniques include listening to a TOEIC listening without the questions and writing down as much as you can of what you heard and then checking it against the tapescript, then seeing how much of that listening you can still remember after doing the same with the next question. General brain training on your Nintendo DS can also help, but make sure you are doing this outside the time you have put aside for English practice.

By the time I hear option C I have forgotten what option A was

Although you are not supposed to write on the question paper, making some kind of mark to remind you of each option as you hear it can be a good idea, e.g. marking a cross or a question mark depending on what you think about how likely it is to be the correct answer. It you are nervous about being caught writing, you can just make an indentation with an automatic pencil with the lead inside and so not touching the paper.

100 Ways to Improve your TOEIC Listening

As most people find TOEIC listening Part One an easy place to pick up points and it comes at the beginning of the exam and so can give you confidence for the rest of the test, it is well worth spending some time and effort thinking about how you can get the most out of it. Below are 100 ideas on how you can improve your score in the short and long term, most of which you can do on your own outside of class:

1. Concentrate on your pronunciation. More than sentences that you would not understand if you read them, most people have problems with sentences in the exam that they would understand if they could read them carefully but have trouble understanding quickly when listening to them from a native speaker speaking at natural speed. Working on your own pronunciation is the best way of making sure you recognize English words and sentences when you hear them in the TOEIC exam.

2. Buy an electronic dictionary that speaks. If you can get a dictionary that has different accents you can also use that to make sure you are familiar with American accents (most of the test) or British and Australian accents (some parts of the test that people who have only studied American English can find difficult).

3. Learn homonyms. Homonyms are words that have the same spelling and pronunciation but totally different meanings, and so have different entries in a dictionary. These are sometimes used in the exam to try and fool you into choosing the wrong answer in Listening Part One. You can find lists of homonyms on the internet, and learning the more common ones can also be a good way of learning similar words that you didn\'t know.

4. Learn homophones. Sometimes a question will try to fool you by using a word with the same pronunciation but a different meaning in that sentence to the thing you can see in the picture. By learning words that sound the same but have different spellings you can make sure you recognize each word in its context in the sentence. Learning words this way can also help you get the pronunciation exactly right.

5. Practice minimal pairs. A similar trick is to have a wrong sentence that has a word in it that has a similar but different pronunciation to something in the picture, e.g. "first" and "fast". Practising the pronunciation of these pairs of similar words will also help with your general listening comprehension and speaking.

6. Count the syllables. As learning the sounds of a language can take a long time and be difficult without a teacher and/ or special software, a good way to start improving your pronunciation and so listening comprehension is to count how many syllables (beats) there are in every word you learn. You can then check in your dictionary and try saying the word with that many beats. You can mark the number of syllables on each word by drawing a little circle above the vowel of each one.

7. Learn word stress. The next stage is to learn which of these syllables is pronounced longer and louder than the others. Again, you can try and guess this from reading or listening to the word and then check it in your dictionary. You can write this down by making the circle above the stressed syllable bigger than the others, or just underlining the stressed syllable. If you write words with the same number of syllables and the same stressed syllable down in a list, this can help you practice and learn them.

8. Learn the phonemic script. The final stage in learning the pronunciation of English words and therefore making sure you understand them when you hear them is writing the pronunciation of the whole word down. The only way of doing this accurately is to use the special "phonemic script" symbols (if you use the spelling of your own language to do it you will not be able to write down the difference between minimal pairs). As this can take some time to learn, you can start by just trying to write the one difficult sound of each word down and then check if you have used the correct symbol with your dictionary.

9. Practice short forms. As all the voices in the text are using natural speed and rhythm, you will very rarely hear full forms like "I am" or "I would have done", but rather short forms like "I\'m" or "I would\'ve done". Using these when you are speaking can improve your fluency and stop it seeming like you are overstressing what you are saying, but more importantly will make sure you can understand those forms when you hear a native speaker using them.

10. Learn connected speech/ how words connect together. Now you have learnt the short forms of grammatical verbs, in order to understand fast, natural speech you will need to look at how other words are changed when they are spoken next to other words. The easiest one to understand is how a consonant (b, c, d, f etc.) at the end of one word joins with a vowel (a, e, i, o etc.) at the beginning of another, e.g. the words "between us" when spoken at natural speed can sound like "betwee nus". You can practice this and see how it affects a TOEIC exam listening by marking the places on the tapescript where you think this happens with a loop between the words and then listen and read to check.

11. Learn and practice sentence stress. The next stage is to look at how the whole sentence sounds together. One of the easiest ways of doing that, which is also one of the best ways of practising it, is to mark on a sentence which words are pronounced the loudest and longest and to practice saying the sentences with that natural rhythm.

12. Learn weak forms of words. Now you know which words are pronounced loudly and clearly, try and listen to how the smaller grammar words between them are pronounced in fast natural speech. For example, when "at" is not stressed in a sentence (which is most of the time, as it is a grammar word that doesn\'t often give you much information), it sounds more like "ert". Weak forms like this are usually given in your dictionary, so make sure you look at all the pronunciation information when you learn a new word.

13. Record your own voice. Now you understand how and why sentences sound different to individual words in English and so are more difficult to understand, by practising producing sentences like a native speaker would say them you can make sure that you recognise the words you know when you hear them in the test. If you don\'t want to buy a digital voice recorder, you might find that you can use a mobile phone, MP3 player (e.g. iPod), cassette recorder or computer and microphone record yourself and listen back on. Obviously, the best sentences to practice with are real exam sentences.

14. Buy a pronunciation practice CD ROM. Some language learning CD ROMs come with headphones and a microphone and claim to be able to analyse your voice and tell you how well you are pronouncing in English. Although the scores such programmes give you are actually very unreliable, the process of saying the same word or expression over and over again to try and matching the wave pattern on the screen is good pronunciation practice.

15. Listen and read and repeat. As well as reading sentences from the tapescript with the rhythm and pronunciation you have written on it, you can try repeating the sentence and recording your voice just after hearing the exam version. If the thing you are playing the recording on and the thing you are recording your voice on are different (e.g. a CD player and digital voice recorder), you should be able to record the exam version and your voice one after the other and try and listen for differences when you play it back.

16. Shadow reading. A variation on the activity above that is really good for speaking and understanding at natural speed and with natural rhythm is actually trying to speak at the same time as the tape, saying each stressed syllable at exactly the same time as the voice on the tape. Before you start speaking, you will need to listen a few times and try and remember where the stressed syllables are or write them onto the tapescript.

17. Listen and repeat. A step up in difficulty is to listen over and over to one sentence and try to repeat the whole thing without looking at the tapescript. When your idea of what the whole sentence is isn\'t changing, you can check with the tapescript and then listen a few more times with your book closed.

18. Listen and write and repeat. This is similar to the activity above but possibly a little easier as you try to write the whole sentence down as you listen to it a few times, like a dictation. When you have checked your answers, you can then do some speaking practice with it.

19. Build up the correctly pronounced sentence from the end. Although it may seem strange, rather than starting at the beginning when you try to pronounce a sentence with natural sounds, rhythm and speed, it is actually easier if you start from the end. For example, for the sentence "The man is stepping onto the bus", it is easiest to pronounce it by saying "bus", and then "the bus", and then "onto the bus", until you have built up the whole sentence.

20. Make sentences about everything you are doing in English throughout your day. As most sentences in TOEIC Listening Part One are descriptions of things people are doing, by trying to make English sentences in your head describing what you are doing ("I am sitting on a bus", "I am opening up my laptop") and what people around you are doing ("The man wearing a hat is carrying a package"), you can practice this language any time you are out and about in the street. If you are in a café or sitting on a bus, you can also write those sentences down.

21. Label the picture. Apart from being caught out by the pronunciation, the biggest problem students have with the TOEIC Listening exam is with words they don\'t know. You can reduce this problem by looking at the photos in a TOEIC Listening practice exam and labelling all the things you can see in the picture (e.g. lift, button, lift door, briefcase). After trying on your own, use a dictionary to check your answers and find more words. If you don\'t have any exam pictures to do this with, you can try the same thing with pictures from a picture dictionary.

22. Brainstorm more words. As the pictures you see in the exam will not be exactly the same but the situations will be similar, after writing the things you can see try to brainstorm other words connected to that situation, e.g. for a street scene you could add "cycle courier" and "bus shelter".

23. Brainstorm collocations. Once you have a list of words for a particular situation, try to think of verbs for each object, e.g. for "bus timetable" the verbs could be "look at", "read", "check with", "find", "copy" etc. Knowing these combinations of words will help you understand the exam sentences much quicker than if you just learn single words.

24. Brainstorm possible exam sentences for each situation. The next stage is to write out whole sentences for each of the verb + noun collocations you have written, practising saying each one with natural rhythm and linking.

25. Learn the vocabulary of travel. One common situation shown in pictures in the exam is places connected to transport, e.g. at a taxi rank or in the airport. As well as brainstorming the vocabulary, you can try reading the English notices on public transport in your city, and listen to the announcements. Buying a phrase book (a kind of short language course and dictionary for travellers) can also help with TOEIC Listening Parts One and Two.

26. Learn the vocabulary of offices. If you have an office at home, one way of learning the names of the objects you can see is to label the real objects in your office with post it notes with the names written on. If this could be embarrassing, try sketching your office and labelling the drawing instead.

27. Learn the vocabulary of restaurants. One newer way of practising this vocabulary is to visit restaurants in a virtual world like Second Life. This is also useful for TOEIC Listening Part Two.

28. Learn the vocabulary of things you see in the street. Like the vocabulary of travel, buying a phrase book with CD can be good practice for the types of shops etc. that you would see in an American main street.

29. Draw a picture of each option before looking. One fun way to practice the skill of picturing what you hear that can help TOEIC Listening Part One is to listen to one exam question and try to make a sketch of each option you hear, e.g. drawing "The man looks happy", "The man is giving a package to the woman", "The man is holding open his trench coat" etc. You can then look at the exam picture and see which of your pictures it is most similar to in order to find the correct answer.

30. Imagine each picture before looking. This is the same as the activity above, but just picturing what you hear instead of drawing it.

31. Try to write down each sentence as a dictation. Although you don\'t need to understand every word of a question in the exam, trying once or twice to write every word of an exam question down can help you analyze which words, sounds and pronunciation changes of fast speech you have most trouble understanding and so need to practice most. If you type the sentence into your mobile phone or laptop as you listen, you can also then use the corrected version for revision over the following days and weeks.

32. Write down just the most important words. As you don\'t need to understand every word, you can also do a listening and writing exercise that is more similar to what you have to do in the exam. The first time you listen, just write down one word for each sentence that is probably the most important to get the correct answer. This is probably a noun or a verb, although it could also be an adjective or some other part of speech. You can then listen again and add one more word to each sentence etc, until you are ready to check which the correct answer is and if you wrote down the correct words with the tapescript of the listening.

33. Write lots of sentences describing the picture. Before you listen, write at least 15 sentences describing things in the picture and then listen to see if any of the exam sentences are similar to one of the sentences you wrote.

34. Watch wildlife documentaries. It is quite rare in normal life to hear someone describing something you can see, as happens in TOEIC Listening Part One. One common place you do hear this kind of language is wildlife documentaries, many of which were made by the BBC and/ or the Discovery Channel and so will have English language sound on the DVD, e.g. Planet Earth or The Secret Life of Plants.

35. Watch science documentaries. Other kinds of science and engineering documentaries are similar, and have possibly more suitable vocabulary than programmes about plants and animals.

36. Watch sports. Another common situation in your everyday life in which you might hear someone describing something you can see is when watching sports. If you watch a sport from an English speaking or other foreign country, on satellite and cable TV nowadays you can often change the language of the commentary to make it English.

37. Listen to sports commentary. If you can understand TV sports commentary, the next stage is to listen to a radio or podcast version and see if you can understand without pictures.

38. Watch breaking news. Although news TV like CNN is a lot more difficult than TOEIC Listening Part One, if there is breaking news like parades and other ceremonies, car chases, hostage stand off crises etc, this language is similar to what you will hear when photos are described in the news. You can also often find these clips on Youtube, especially ones connected to famous people like O.J. Simpson.

39. Listen to audio commentary on DVDs. Again, films and TV series have very different language to TOEIC Listening Part One. However, if you listen to the optional audio commentary where the director describes how he made the film that way and why, this is more similar to the exam.

40. Make your own home videos with audio commentary in English. If you have a video camera, this is probably the audio visual thing that is most similar to TOEIC Listening Part One.

41. Act out the exam sentences. If you don\'t have any technology, you can still practice the exam language in a more active way that will help you remember it by listening to the exam sentences without looking at the picture and try acting out what is described.

42. Keep an audio diary. Speaking is the most similar skill to listening, but finding something you can talk about everyday without finding a teacher is quite difficult. If you record yourself talking about what you did during the day, that is similar to the description of actions in the Listening Part One and will be easy to remember because it is personal to you.

43. Buy a photography book. Although the detail explained in such books is usually much more than the simple description you hear in the TOEIC Listening part one, it is still a nice way of reading something easier in English. If you know that you are the kind of person who will buy a book and forget about it, try buying it in the form of a calendar or diary with different photos every week or day instead, e.g. "365 Days from the Air".

44. Label your photo album in English. One step up from the idea above is to put one line descriptions with each of your own photos, either as stickers in your photo albums or as one line descriptions with online photo albums like Flickr.

45. Play Pictionary with your one to one teacher or study partner. This is a game where you draw something and the person you are playing with tries to guess what it is as quickly as possible. You can do this with exam sentences (read from the tapescript) and pictures or with your own ideas.

46. Play a miming game with your private teacher or study partner. This is like Pictionary, but acting out the sentence from the exam tapescript, the photo, or your own ideas.

47. Write exam tasks for each other. If you do this with an exam picture, when you do the exam task it should be easier than if you come at it cold.

48. Go over and over, longer and longer. Do the first task. After checking your answer and maybe reading the tapescript, listen to the first task again to make sure you now understand everything and then go straight into the second question. Check this one, go back to the beginning of the tape and do those two questions again before you go onto the third question etc.

49. Learn the correct exam sentences off by heart. As the sentences in this part of the exam are always quite similar, learning a few sentences so you can repeat them days or weeks later with the correct natural pronunciation can be a good way of preparing yourself to hear other exam tasks.

50. Carry around the exam picture to test yourself with. Once you have learnt the correct exam sentences, you can test yourself on them by looking at the exam photo several times a day and seeing if you can remember the sentence that was used to describe it in the exam. If you don\'t want to carry paper around, you can take a photo of the exam picture and store it in your mobile phone, MP3 player, PSP etc.

51. Listen again, try to picture the photo, and look to check. If you have an MP3 player (iPod etc.), you can do a version of this where you listen to sentences again, try to remember the photo that went with it, and then look at the exam photo you are carrying in your pocket, in your notebook, or as an electronic version on your mobile phone or MP3 player.

52. Use your electronic dictionary in the street. Keep your electronic dictionary with you and look up words of things you are doing that you don\'t know the words for. You will then be able to use the list of most recently looked up words when you get home and write them down. Many mobile phones also have electronic dictionaries in them you can do the same things with.

53. Learn the most common verbs. As well as being in every English sentence, verbs are also often the part of the Listening Part One sentence that changes the meaning the most. Finding the most common verbs in English from the special marks in your dictionary or from the internet and learning them and their pronunciation can be a great help.

54. Start slow. If you can play recordings faster and slower with your cassette recorder or computer music player software, when you are practising repeating the sentences start really slow and then speed up to natural speed.

55. Start fast. To make the natural speed of the exam seem easier, you could try starting with the recording even faster than normal speed and play it again and again while bringing the speed down until you think you can understand or guess the correct answer. If the speed you have understood it at is the same as the real speed or even faster, you have done very well.

56. Try it with background noise. Another thing that can make listening more challenging and so make the real listening seem more manageable is doing it with headphones on somewhere a little noisy like on a train. When you do the same exam task somewhere quiet later on, you will find it is much easier. This is also good practice for the exam, where the silence and sound quality might not be what you are used to.

57. Play around with your graphic equalizer. The exam sound system might also not be set up with a perfect balance of high and low sounds, so it is worth trying a few exam questions with the amount of bass etc. changed to see how that affects your ability to understand.

58. Try it somewhere busy. Another distracting thing can be people moving around, which could also be a factor in the exam more than where you practice at home.

59. Try to identify the accent. A good way of listening very carefully for how fast, natural speech of a native speaker really sounds is to try and see if you can identify if each sentence is said by a British speaker, an American or Canadian speaker, or an Australian speaker. After you think you know, you can check with your teacher, find an example of each accent on the internet to compare it to, or sometimes it will be written in your exam practice book.

60. Repeat with an accent. After you can identify different accents, trying to copy them is another good way of developing your understanding of native speakers at natural speed.

61. Read it out first, then listen and check. When you have practiced copying native speakers, try taking an exam sentence you have never heard before and pronounce it with the speed, linking between words, rhythm and intonation (pitch) of a native speaker, then listen and check how similar you were to the exam recording.

62. Mark the sentence stress and listen and check. To make the task above easier, you could try guessing which words are pronounced strongest (usually "vocabulary words" that give the most information about the thing being talked about), mark them on the tapescript, and then listen and check.

63. Listen and mark the sentence stress. The activity above is just as useful with an exam task you have just completed in the usual way, to make sure you can pick out the most important information next time you listen.

64. Mark the links and listen and check. Another way of analysing how the language will sound when spoken by a native speaker in the TOEIC is to mark on the tapescript where you think the pronunciation of two words will run together like one word, and then listen and check.

65. Listen and mark the links. Again, the idea above can also usefully be done after finishing a practice exam task.

66. Mark the extra linking sounds and check. A more difficult effect of words being spoken quickly next to each other is extra sounds being added to make your mouth move smoothly from one sound to the other, for example the extra /w/ sound when you say "so open" quickly so it sounds like "sowopen". Learning which vowel sounds together add which sounds and marking them on the tapescript before you listen will help you with this.

67. Listen and mark the extra linking sounds. Again, this is a good way of making sure a practice listening test is something you learn from and so understand better next time by listening carefully for these sounds the second or third time you listen to a TOEIC Listening Part One question.

68. Check the tapescripts for words that often come up. When you have done a few exam tasks, listen again to them (if possible) and read the tapescripts, checking whether any words are used in more than one of the questions. This can not only help decide what are important things to remember the meaning and pronunciation of, but is also a good reason for reading through the tapescript one more time and therefore reminding yourself of other thing like common grammatical forms.

69. Describe your own photos to someone in English. You can also make this into a game by describing one of a page of photos and seeing if the person who is listening can guess which one it is.

70. Play the Magazine Search game with your study group. Each person has a copy of a magazine (either the same as each other or different is okay). One person chooses one picture from anywhere in the magazine and says one sentence about it, e.g. "The woman isn\'t looking happy". The other people race to be the first person to find a picture that matches that description in their own magazines.

71. Do a picture jigsaw with your study group. Cut up a TOEIC Listening Part One or other photo into several strips. Mix them up and give one strip to each person. Without showing your pieces of paper to each other you have to describe them and decide together which order they go in. Put them down on the table in the order you decided and see if you were correct.

72. Do a Picture Dictation with your study partner or study group. Your partner(s) must try to draw the picture you are describing. When you are happy with their drawing, show them the original photo and discuss the differences together. If you can do it with a TOEIC Listening Part One photo, this is a good warm up before you do the exam task for that photo.

73. Do a Blind Picture Dictation with your study partner or study group. This is the same as the idea above, but you can\'t look at your partner\'s picture as they are drawing it, so they have to ask you questions to check if they understand what you mean.

74. Go on an English language guided tour. As well as tours for foreign tourists in your town like bus tours or tours of historical buildings, some factory tours might also have English language tour guides. Because the guide will spend some time describing what you can see, some of the language will be similar to what you will hear at the beginning TOEIC listening paper. If you find the tour difficult to understand, reading a guidebook first in English or even just in your own language could help.

75. Listen to a museum audio guide. If you can\'t find a tour in English or are too embarrassed to ask to go on the English language tour as you are obviously not a tourist, you could try just hiring an MP3 player in your local museum that explains the exhibits as you go round. If you can find one for a photography museum, that might be the most similar language TOEIC listening part one. Some local councils also offer a similar service now on your mobile phone as you are walking around the historic parts of town.

76. Give someone a tour of your workplace in English. If you don\'t have this opportunity, you can just write down what you would say if you had to give a tour and then practice with and without your script. Make sure you write down what people you can see (your colleagues) are doing, as this is the most similar language to what you will hear in the TOEIC Listening Part One.

77. Write out a whole exam sentence in phonemics without gaps. Once you have learnt phonemics really well or with the help of a dictionary, try to write out a whole TOEIC Listening Part One sentence in phonemics. Don\'t put any gaps between the words, because when we are speaking two or more words often run together like single words. Test yourself over the next few days and weeks on whether you can still understand the sentence, then read it out loud and mark the same sentence stress as was used in the original listening on your phonemics.

78. Try to remember the sentence from just the stress patterns. Similar to the idea above, but this time only draw a line of small and big circles to represent the rhythm of the sentence in Listening Part One and then test yourself over the following days and weeks to see if you can remember the sentence and pronounce it correctly.

79. Change the incorrect options to make them correct. A good way of remembering the grammar and type of sentence used in this part of the exam is to take the three options that are incorrect and see if you can make them really match the picture while changing as few words as possible. This is also a good way of understanding and remembering the tricks that examiners use to fool you.

80. Change the correct option to make it incorrect. Another way of practising the same things as above is to see if you can change the correct option into something that is incorrect for the picture just by changing one word, the tense of one verb, one letter, one sound etc. If you are studying with other people, you can then read the unchanged correct option and your changed wrong one to them and see if they can decide which one describes the photo.

81. Stop the exam sentence half way through. The second or third time you listen to a TOEIC Listening Photos question, pause the tape or CD and try to remember how the sentence ends. Test yourself again later, but stopping the recording at earlier and earlier parts of the sentence, eventually just listening to one word before you try to say the whole thing.

82. Reduce the number of times you listen. Although you will never hear anything twice in the exam, listening just once the first time you try an exam task can be such a shock that you won\'t learn anything from it. In order not to go the other way and get too used to hearing everything repeated and therefore trying to understand every word, listen to the first question 3 times before you answer, listen to the second question twice, listen to the third question just once but stop to check your answer, then listen to the rest of TOEIC Listening Part One section without stopping.

83. Underline the words that gave you the answer. To practice picking out only the important words in the TOEIC listening, after you have finished a question check your answers and underline the minimum number of words with which you could understand that one of the options was the correct choice. This is usually possible with between two and four words. Practising this can help you not be distracted by words that are not necessary to answer the question. You will also notice that these are almost always stressed words in the sentence.

84. Underline the trick words/ the words that show you that option is wrong. When you have spotted how you could easily choose the correct answer, do the same with the other 3 options, underlining the few words you would need to understand to see that each of those sentences is wrong. Sometimes this is possible with as few as one word. Doing this can help you see what tricks are in the TOEIC questions.

85. Tap out the rhythm of the sentence as you listen. Before you try to repeat a line to practice English rhythm, try listening to the sentence and just making the beats with the beat of the sentence. You can then try repeating whilst beating out the same beat, and then without the help of your pen.

86. Mark all the schwas in a sentence. The most used sound in the English language is called "schwa". It is the "er" sound like at the end of words like "computer", and is pronounced while your mouth is completely relaxed, like the sound made by someone who is too shocked to speak. Listening for this sound on an exam recording and marking it on the tapescript can be very useful as it is in most of the words that change pronunciation depending on whether you stress them or not (like "can" and "for") but is easy to miss because it is never stressed and so is always pronounced quickly and quietly. You can also get some idea of where the word stress and sentence stress is by doing this, as schwa is never stressed and so the main beats of the sentence must be elsewhere.

87. Trust your instincts. Researchers have shown that if someone writes an answer to a multiple choice question in a test and then changes their mind at the last minute, they are more likely to change the answer from a correct answer to a wrong one than from a wrong one to a right one. If you are not sure why you think your first idea was wrong, don\'t change it.

88. Listen to English in a relaxed way before you go into the test. As this is the very first part of the test, being awake, in English mode and ready to go from the very first moment can have an impact on your score in the first few questions. Doing actual English study on the morning of a test is a very bad idea as it will tire you out and mean that you won\'t be able to concentrate by the end of the test. However, listening to some English music or radio with an English DJ is a nice way of getting your mind into "English mode" and ready to hear native speaker voices with natural speed and rhythm.

89. Speak English before you go into the test. Again, be very careful not to tire yourself out, but a little friendly chitchat in English with one of the other test takers can help get your brain ready to listen to English.

90. Learn famous lines from films. All the sentences in the TOEIC Listening Part One section are a single sentence, which is quite rare in normal communication or in the media. One way of learning natural rhythm and speed in such sentences is to learn famous lines from the movies and practice saying them exactly as the actor does. Another advantage of this is that native speakers will often use such famous quotes in social conversations (although obviously not in the test for copyright reasons), and it can help your social skills if you can recognize some of the more famous ones by people like Robert De Niro.

91. Try to predict what answer is wrong before looking at the picture. Sometimes it is possible to guess that at least one of the sentences is wrong without actually looking at the picture. Listen to all four sentences and cross off the ones you think are not likely to be in the picture (e.g. "The woman is sitting on a hose"), and guess which one might be correct. Then look at the picture and check. Thinking about the questions this way can help you learn what tricks the examiners use to fool you, and help you practice guessing skills.

92. Do it again, but testing your study group partners. Either on the same day or later, take the tapescript of an exam task you have done before and test your partners with it, but reading out the sentences yourself. To make it challenging for them, try to read out the sentences as quickly as you can with the unstressed parts of the sentence really short.

93. Warm up. To make sure you actually learn something from practising exam questions, make sure you are awake and have your brain in "English mode" before you start any exam practice at home.

94. Try a test cold. Remember that in the test you will not be able to have a cup of coffee and sit around and relax before you start the exam with Listening Part One. If you want to know how you will do under real exam conditions and practice for it, sit right down and do a test without any warm up a few times.

95. Do it at same time of day. Another way of making the exam practice realistic is to try a Listening Part One at exactly the same time as you will be doing that part of the real TOEIC test (probably in the morning). You can then build up from that to doing the whole test at the real time.

96. Try it with exam conditions. Even if you haven\'t learnt anything about the other parts of the exam yet, if you want to really see how you can do on this part of the exams you will need to do it all the way through and continue onto other parts of the listening without stopping.

97. Try it tired. Another thing that will be true in the exam is that you will have to be able to do the test however you are feeling, so try at least a few practice tests even when you don\'t feel like it. One way of practicing this for Listening Part One is to do a listening test backwards, finishing with Listening Part One instead of starting with it.

98. Try the whole test backwards. This will not only give you even more idea of how well you can do Listening Part One when you are feeling tired, it will also allow you to try the last sections of the Reading with a fresher mind than usual.

99. Try the listening after the reading. This is similar to the idea above, but easier to arrange if you have a tape rather than CD and so can\'t easily skip between tracks.

100. Try different warm ups. As this will be the first part of the real TOEIC test, before doing each Listening Part One practice test, you can experiment with different ways of warming up, to see which one will suit you best on exam day. For example, you could try listening to English music, relistening to a test you have done many times before, or talking to yourself in the bathroom mirror.