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English Proficiency Exams – TOEFL
07-04-2016

Accepted by over 9,000 colleges, agencies and other institutions in more than 130 countries around the world, the Test Of English as a Foreign Language is one of the two major ‘graded’-style English language tests. It is administered by the US-based Education Testing Service. The version of TOEFL required by most institutions is the internet-based […]

English Proficiency Exams – TOEFL

by Peter Leamy

Accepted by over 9,000 colleges, agencies and other institutions in more than 130 countries around the world, the Test Of English as a Foreign Language is one of the two major ‘graded’-style English language tests. It is administered by the US-based Education Testing Service.

The version of TOEFL required by most institutions is the internet-based test (iBT), which tests the four skills of Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing. Being an internet-based test, you go to the test centre and complete all four parts of the test on a computer. The reading and listening containing approximately 35-50 questions each and lasts around 2.5 hours. Speaking takes about 20 minutes, and you have to complete 6 tasks. Some will be talking about familiar topics; others will be reporting on information provided to you. Writing gives you 50 minutes to do 2 tasks. The first is a response of 150-225 words to some material provided, and the second is a 300-word essay.

Each section is worth 30 points, giving you a maximum score of 120. Generally speaking, a score of over 60 proves you are a ‘competent user’, although most institutions have set their own score for entrance. For example, Bowling Green State University requires only 61, UCLA 87, and Harvard 109.

There is also another form of TOEFL called the Institutional Testing Program (ITP). The ITP is a reduced form of TOEFL, and is only accepted in the country where you take it. It is a paper-based test which has multiple-choice questions in 3 parts – Listening Comprehension, Structure and Written Expression (grammar and vocabulary), and Reading Comprehension – and lasts around 2 hours.

TOEFL certification has a validity of two years, so it is worth keeping this in mind before you decide to do the test. You should familiarise yourself with the test format and types of questions before you sit the test, as this will give you an advantage on the day. More information can be found at the TOEFL website.

Tags: exam / exams / learn english / proficiency / test / TOEFL /


About Peter Leamy

I was born and raised in Wellington, New Zealand, and had a fascination with language from an early age. After graduating in Linguistics and working in Recreation Management, I set off to explore the world and ended up here in Brazil, where I've been teaching since 2006.


English Proficiency Exams – IELTS
31-03-2016

The International English Language Testing System is a test managed by Cambridge English Language Assessment, the British Council and IDP Education. It is the other major ‘graded’-style English language tests, accepted by more than 9,000 educational institutions, governments and professional registration bodies in over 140 countries. There are two main formats for IELTS, Academic and […]

English Proficiency Exams – IELTS

by Peter Leamy

The International English Language Testing System is a test managed by Cambridge English Language Assessment, the British Council and IDP Education. It is the other major ‘graded’-style English language tests, accepted by more than 9,000 educational institutions, governments and professional registration bodies in over 140 countries.

There are two main formats for IELTS, Academic and General Training, but the structure is the same in both. The test begins with 4 listening tasks over about 30 minutes, with 10 minutes at the end to transfer your answers. Then the hour-long Reading section begins, with 3 texts, followed by the Writing with two tasks: 150 words either describing a graph/diagram or writing a letter, and a 250-word essay. The speaking test is done individually with an examiner, sometimes on a different day to the written test, and should last 14 minutes.

The test results take about two weeks to come out, and you receive a Band Score from 1 to 9. A score of 6 is considered to be a ‘competent user’, and most academic institutions accept either 6 or 7 for their programmes. Countries differ, depending on the type of visa you’re looking for, but a 5 can be good enough for New Zealand, 6 for Canada and a 4.5 for Australia (as a NZer, I should make a joke here, but I’ll take the high ground☺) . The UK asks that you do the UKVI version of the test, but it is essentially the same format. There is also the ‘Life Skills’ exam, but this is only for people who are permanently emigrating to the UK.

Like TOEFL, IELTS has a validity of two years, so you should remember that before you decide to take the test, and you should definitely familiarise yourself with the test format before sitting it. More information can be found at our IELTS website.

Tags: cambridge / exam / exams / IELTS / learn english / proficiency / test /


About Peter Leamy

I was born and raised in Wellington, New Zealand, and had a fascination with language from an early age. After graduating in Linguistics and working in Recreation Management, I set off to explore the world and ended up here in Brazil, where I've been teaching since 2006.


English Proficiency Exams – What you need to know
29-02-2016

It’s an exciting time to be a CTJ student. We are welcoming a wider range of exams for people who want to obtain internationally-recognized qualifications in English proficiency. But how do you know which certificate will suit you best? They all have impressive names, but what do these names actually do, and mean? To start […]

English Proficiency Exams – What you need to know

by Peter Leamy

It’s an exciting time to be a CTJ student. We are welcoming a wider range of exams for people who want to obtain internationally-recognized qualifications in English proficiency. But how do you know which certificate will suit you best? They all have impressive names, but what do these names actually do, and mean?

To start with, let’s look at which exam would suit you best (are the perfect fit for you). There are two main types, what I call the ‘graded’ exams, and the ‘pass/fail’ exams. Let’s look at the differences…

‘Graded’ exams test your English ability at a specific time. This may sound strange, as most exams are at a specific time, but these exams are designed to find where you fit on a scale from “My name is…” to being a ‘language boss’. In these exams, there are easy, medium and difficult questions covering a wide range of vocabulary and grammar. The listening, writing and speaking tasks are also of varying difficulty, so your score can best reflect your competency on the exam day. The most well-known of these kinds of exams are TOEFL (administered by ETS) and IELTS (Cambridge University), which both have a recommended validity of two years. These exams are usually requested by universities, institutions and governments when someone is wanting to study, work or live abroad for a specific period of time.

‘Pass/fail’ exams test your English ability at a specific level. These exams take a level of English and then test you at that level. For example, if you’re doing an ‘intermediate’ level exam, there won’t be really easy questions and there won’t be really hard questions. When your exam is corrected, you will have either passed or failed. If you pass, you will receive a certificate saying that you are an ‘intermediate’ English user. If you fail, many exams will tell you what your level is, e.g. pre-intermediate, but you won’t get the certificate you tried for. The most well-known of these kinds of exams are CaMLA’s (Cambridge-Michigan Universities) ECPE and the Cambridge ‘Main Suite’ – PET, FCE, CAE etc. Since these exams are targeted at a specific level, you are considered to have that level forever if you pass, so these exams do not have an expiry date. Because of this, they are good for professional and personal reasons, but you might need to take a ‘graded’ exam for a specific opportunity.

To sum up, which exam is best depends on your need (needs). If you are doing it for personal satisfaction or to have something to include in your resume or CV, the ‘pass/fail’ exams are best. If you have a specific course or job in mind, the ‘graded’ ones are better, but make sure you check which specific exam they’re asking for, as some institutions have a preference.

Next we will take a closer look at the specific exams.

Tags: cambridge / exam / exams / learn english / proficiency / test /


About Peter Leamy

I was born and raised in Wellington, New Zealand, and had a fascination with language from an early age. After graduating in Linguistics and working in Recreation Management, I set off to explore the world and ended up here in Brazil, where I've been teaching since 2006.


Weddings, Marriage and Anniversaries
26-08-2015

There is an important event coming up for me, my anniversary. Anniversary isn’t to commemorate the day I was born. That word is ‘birthday’. My anniversary is celebrating the day I got married. Many years ago, I met a woman. We started to date. While we were dating, we were boyfriend and girlfriend and in […]

Weddings, Marriage and Anniversaries

by Peter Leamy

There is an important event coming up for me, my anniversary.

Anniversary isn’t to commemorate the day I was born. That word is ‘birthday’.

My anniversary is celebrating the day I got married.

Many years ago, I met a woman. We started to date. While we were dating, we were boyfriend and girlfriend and in a relationship.

After some time, I proposed to her. That was the day I asked her to marry me. She became my fiancée, and I was her fiancé. These words are written differently, but pronounced the same. They come from a French word that means ‘to promise’, or ‘to trust’. That’s why they can have the accent (é), and why the woman has another ‘e’ at the end of the word.

On the day of our wedding, we said our vows. I was the groom and she was the bride. We got married in Brazil, but when people get married in New Zealand (or the USA), the groom has 2 or more groomsmen and a best man. The bride has 2 or more bridesmaids and a maid of honour.

After we said our vows, we exchanged wedding rings and the marriage celebrant pronounced us husband (me) and wife (her). Then we kissed and went to the wedding reception to celebrate with our friends and family.

Marriage isn’t always easy, but it’s important that the couple love and respect each other, and that you have fun with them.

Tags: anniversary / bride / bridesmaid / fiancé / fiancée / groom / groomsman / husband / marriage / wedding / wife /


About Peter Leamy

I was born and raised in Wellington, New Zealand, and had a fascination with language from an early age. After graduating in Linguistics and working in Recreation Management, I set off to explore the world and ended up here in Brazil, where I've been teaching since 2006.


When an ‘a-‘ is not an opposite
20-05-2015

It was a winding path that led me to teaching the English language, which started with an interest in the development of language. I think you can appreciate language more when you have an idea of where it comes from, what has influenced it and how it has changed over its history. There is an […]

When an ‘a-‘ is not an opposite

by Peter Leamy

It was a winding path that led me to teaching the English language, which started with an interest in the development of language. I think you can appreciate language more when you have an idea of where it comes from, what has influenced it and how it has changed over its history. There is an excellent series of short videos on the history of English by the Open University – http://www.open.edu/openlearn/languages/english-language/the-history-english-ten-minutes – and although the narrator speaks very quickly, you can read the video’s script while watching.

What is interesting is how some words that don’t seem connected are, while others that you think would be related are not. One of these came up in a class last week. The word ‘apathetic’ means “showing little or no feeling, emotion or interest” (merriam-webster.com), and is an antonym to words like ‘sympathetic’ and ‘empathetic’. Normally, adding the prefix ‘a-’ to a word gives the word an opposite meaning, so this definition makes sense. However, if you remove the prefix you are left with another word – ‘pathetic’ – which is clearly not the opposite of ‘apathetic’. So how can this be?

The answer is in the etymology of the words, or the history of them. For my 21st birthday, my parents were a bit surprised that I asked for the Chambers Dictionary of Etymology, but it has come in handy when questions like these arise. Words like ‘apathetic’, ‘sympathetic’ and ‘empathetic’ are derived from the Latin version of the Greek word páthos, which means suffering, feeling or emotion. ‘Pathetic’ is also related to this word, but when it was borrowed (or stolen) from the French word pathétique in 1598, it meant “moving, stirring, affecting” – the feeling you get when you hear a beautiful piece of music. 150 years later, it had evolved to mean “arousing pity”, which it retains today.

So even though these words are connected, time has seen that they don’t seem so. And in case you’re wondering, none of them are related to the word ‘path’ (course/route), which comes from the much-older Germanic side of English.

Tags: efl / etymology / tefl / vocabulary /


About Peter Leamy

I was born and raised in Wellington, New Zealand, and had a fascination with language from an early age. After graduating in Linguistics and working in Recreation Management, I set off to explore the world and ended up here in Brazil, where I've been teaching since 2006.