ESL Study Guide

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Keeping it simple

I have been going over keeping things simple. One common mistake that students make is regularly trying to use vocabulary that they are not familiar with. The best policy to keep in mind with vocabulary is clarity and repetition.

How does clarity and repetition relate to test scores?

Always be sure to avoid 'beating around the bush'. Say what you want to say and avoid taking too much time to do it. This ties into time management as well, but after learning structure, clarity and repetition are two of the most common mistakes. Learning structure and purpose, students can generally get 3/5 on their TOEFL essays. Once they start eliminating other common mistakes such as clarity and repetition errors, many students rise at least 1 point overall.

Good luck with your studies,

ESL Study Guide

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Vocabulary in context

One practice that all test takers or English language learners should keep in mind is vocabulary in context. When you are faced with an unfamiliar word, learners have several options. Your first option is to skip the word and merely continue. This practice should be avoided.

Proficiency tests are not about achieving a perfect score, language learners should always try to maximize their score.

Your next option, is to randomly guess what the word means. Again this practice should be avoided.

Your biggest advantage is that when faced with an unfamiliar word, you are able to hear the word or see it used in a sentence. Sentences in English are composed of several pieces. A sentence is composed of a subject, a verb, and an object. Looking at a sentence, look at the parts of it that contains the unfamiliar word. Eliminating the parts, what part of the sentence is the unfamiliar word contained in?

Knowing the part of the sentence that the word is contained in tells you what part of speech the word is. The other factors to consider are whether the word has any suffixes or prefixes. Breaking the word or phrase down into its root form is another way to give you a clue to its meaning.

As an example,

The abstract expressionism exhibit opens Friday at the New York museum of art history.

If you are unfamiliar with art, you may be unfamiliar with abstract expressionism. Abstract modifies expressionism. Break expressionism down to its root form, 'expression' and its suffix 'ism'. The rest of the sentence deals with art, giving an additional clue to what abstract expressionism means.

Abstract expressionism is therefore a type of art. Abstract describes the category of art, while expressionism just deals with the fact that art expresses ideas or feelings.

Good luck with your studies,

ESL Study Guide

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Run-on sentences

Here is another grammar tip sent in by Jack.

A run-on sentence is composed of two or more independent clauses. An independent clause is a part of a sentence that can stand on its own. It is not the length of the sentence that makes it a run-on sentence but rather a structural flaw.

When two independent clauses are connected by only a comma, they form a comma-splice. When you use a comma to connect two independent clauses, it must be accompanied by a conjunction (and, but, for, nor, yet, or, so).

Run-on sentences may happen under the following conditions:

a. When an independent clause gives an order or directive based on what was said in the prior independent clause.
b. When two independent clauses are connected by a transitional expression (conjunctive adverb) such as however, moreover, nevertheless.
c. When the second of two independent clauses contains a pronoun that connects it to the first independent clause.

Good luck with your studies,

ESL Study Guide

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Saving time and maximizing your test scores

Once you have finished your writing, never forget to proofread it. In a toefl exam you get 20 or 30 minutes to write an essay. Always leave yourself time to check your work. This practice will ensure you do not lose points to simple mistakes.

Look at the following sentence:

The president ________ the election by a landslide.

(a) won
(b) he won
(c) yesterday
(d) fortunately

Looking at the blank, you should see that the sentence is missing a verb. Looking at the possible answers, the only answers containing a verb are A and B. The sentence already contains a subject, making b an incorrect choice. A is therefore the only possible answer.

Quickly eliminating the obvious is one method of saving time and maximizing your score. While you are proofreading, keeping in mind certain methods or practices can make the most of the time you have available for editing and proofreading.

Good luck with your studies,

ESL Study Guide

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Sentence Structure Tip

The Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft were the first vehicles of humankind to venture beyond the limits of ours solar system.

Looking at the sentence you should first consider the subject and verb. The sentence is talking about the Pioneer spacecrafts, a plural subject. The verb venture agrees with the subject, so there is no subject verb agreement problems with the sentence. Now, look at the rest of the sentence. What do you notice? Looking at solar system, it is talking about a singular object. What about what comes before it? If you noticed this, you found the mistake in the sentence. Instead of ours, it should say our (forcing it to agree with a singular object).

Always remember to keep in mind whether something is singular or plural. Mistakes like these are common for those learning English, this will affect not only verb conjugation but also pronouns.

Good luck with your studies,

ESL Study Guide

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Structure, Structure and Structure

Hi Everyone

This is the first of Jack's posts from abroad. Before I begin going through the interview with Jack, I'll be posting some of the grammar points that Jack has brought up from being overseas. The first thing that Jack has specified as a necessary skill for improving your writing is basic grammar.

Jack: Thanks Amanda, it's great to finally be settled in and begin working with you.
Amanda: Hi Jack, it's great to be able to get started.
Jack: You had asked me previously Amanda about what skill or lack of one I noticed immediately. I would definitely say grammar was the first skill i noticed.
Amanda: How do you mean?
Jack: Many students are familiar with basic grammar rules, but they require more practice than they have been getting. One of the first things I noticed in class was students not using articles properly. Many students are unsure of the difference between using 'a' and 'the'. The next thing I noticed was students using subject and verbs incorrectly. For my first tip I'll be going over subjects and verbs. Take a look at the following sentence:

_______ was ringing continuously for hours.
In the morning
The phone
The bells

In this sentence you should immediately notice the verb 'was ringing'. In the sentence one thing you will see missing is the subject. The third answer is the best answer because it is a singular subject that agrees with the verb 'was ringing'. Ensuring the subject agrees with the verb is known as subject-verb agreement. The first two answers are not subjects and are therefore incorrect. Although the fourth answer is a subject, it is a plural subject and does not agree with the verb 'was ringing'. The fourth answer is therefore incorrect.

Amanda: Thank you Jack, I'm looking forward to future posts and interviews.
Jack: Its been a pleasure, thanks Amanda

Stay tuned everyone,

ESL Study Guide

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