You know all the TOEFL questions.
You know all the TOEFL strategies.
But, you're still not getting your TOEFL score.
What do you do?
A lot of teachers will say if you want to get good at reading, you have to READ MORE!
Before you get more stressed than you are already, let's look at this idea of reading more, reading something outside of TOEFL - something that's fun. (Wait a minute - is reading fun?)
One of my students said, "I don't read anything outside of TOEFL because I have tried many times in the past and left since I feel lost. What do I do if I feel bored? Should I still continue reading different topics?"
Here was my reply:
Read anything that interests you. It doesn't matter what it is. It could be fairy tales or magazine articles. Choose something that is not related to TOEFL. You can even read my book if it interests you. It's a true life story from my life and you can find it here.
Why read something outside of TOEFL?
1. People who do well at standardized tests (like the TOEFL) are readers. They read a lot and they tend to read everyday.
2. Reading for fun helps you learn and understand language. Your brain relaxes when it is focused on something else unrelated to TOEFL. When you get out of a stress response guess what your brain can do? It can access your prefrontal cortex - the area of the brain that is in charge of (drum roll please....) LANGUAGE!
3. Reading outside of the TOEFL will give you more opportunity to practice gathering context clues and inferring meaning. When you read for fun, you're not looking up every single word you don't know in a dictionary. What you are doing is taking your best guess about what certain words mean based on context clues. As soon as you do this, you're inferring meaning. Mastering the inference is key because the inference question appears on your TOEFL test. You also practice your inference skills in the middle of a good story when you think about what will happen next or what the characters in the story might do.
4. Reading for fun helps you acquire a broader range of vocabulary. What happens when you really can't guess the meaning of a word and you have to look it up in a dictionary?
That tells you that learning the word is important for YOU.
You'll write it down with its definition. Look up some synonyms and antonyms. Get curious. Then, go back to see how the author uses it in the sentence. Get an image of this word in your mind. This locks it in to your memory. Learning vocabulary words in context is better than memorizing long lists because you are more likely to remember it and you'll know how the word is used.
But you ask, "Shouldn't I be reading TOEFL passages? I don't want to waste my time reading for fun."
Has reading TOEFL texts 7 days a week helped you so far?
Are you getting results?
If the answer is no, then it's time to try a new strategy!
Reading outside of TOEFL is never a waste of time because reading is never a waste of time.
Think of it this way...
Are you good at the listening section?
If the answer is yes, why are you good at that section?
Have you watched a lot of movies in English? Do you listen to podcasts or songs in English?
Have you had conversations with English speaking people?
Would you say these movies, songs, podcasts and conversations happen at least once a day? How long do they last, 5-10 minutes or more?
Are these conversations or movies about TOEFL topics like dinosaurs or geology or volcanoes? Are you talking about parasitic wasps with your coworkers? Probably not.
So WHY are you so good at the listening section?
ANSWER: You're spending time everyday in an English listening environment and you're speaking in English. It's that simple.
So now you've got to invest that time in an English reading environment. It doesn't have to be TOEFL related. It just has to be an English reading environment that YOU engage in.
Instead of watching the movie, read the book. Instead of listening to a song on the radio, can you read an article about the artist that wrote the song? Read the lyrics of the song. See if you can understand the song's meaning. When you look up a recipe in English, can you read the whole article on how the chef explains the details of that recipe?
See what I mean?
Instead of avoiding reading, take every opportunity to read MORE! That's how you can create an English reading environment. That's how you really develop excellent reading skills.
Go back to your childhood when someone read you a story.
What stories did you read?
Why were they interesting?
Go find that passion for reading again and read ANYTHING that excites you. Make time in your day to read for fun!