(This post is a re-fereshed version from a one on the TOEFL Excellence Blog. It has been re-freshed due to many new developments here at GiveMeSomeEnglish!!!)
Q: Should I be studying vocabulary For The TOEFL Exam?
A: (short version) Well, sure! That certainly can’t hurt your score. In fact, if you are able to successfully implement higher-levels of vocabulary into your speaking and writing responses, this will definitely improve your score…(in most cases.) Sometimes it will increase it by a little, and sometimes by a lot. This can also help you with some of the questions types in The Reading Section.
A: (more realistic version) You do not NEED to study vocabulary for The TOEFL Exam as there is no “Vocabulary Section” in the exam. There are, however, vocabulary questions with-in The Reading Section – but the way that these questions are formulated are to test a persons ability to learn new vocabulary if they do not already know it… Not to test the vocabulary which they already know. (And here’s the most important part)…
All The Answers To Vocabulary Questions Are Contained Within The Reading Passages
This is done either by, directly stating the meaning of a chosen word, or by “explaining” it through context or implied meaning. And the questions are multiple-choice, so one is able to choose which word he or she thinks it might be. So even if you are not sure, you can still guess. (which is what you SHOULD do in this situation… never leave a question un-answered 😉 )
What About All Those Books About Vocabulary For The TOEFL?
I have seen lots of book and various documents floating around the internet (usually for free down-load) with titles like: “The 500 Words You Need For The TOEFL” – “2000 Words for…” – “Essential Vocabulary for…” – Blah blah blah.
Will those book be helpful?
Maybe… They will be helpful to your English learning if you learn one new word. But will they be USEFUL to you in achieving the score that you need to get on the The TOEFL Exam?
No! Absolutely NOT!
Unless you are taking a year or two to prepare for the exam, those books will only waste your time and mental energy! This is because they have no logical focus. Do NOT spend any money or any time with those books, or any books like them. To prepare for the exam, you need to maximize your time and efforts. Do not waste your time with anything which will not be on the exam. Those books have nothing to do with The TOEFL Exam (except for their title). If they have vocabulary from Reading or Listening Passages from text-book examples or past exams, you can almost guarantee that those questions, absolutely, will NOT be on your exam.
I have examined many of these books and documents – and what they do is simply put in a huge amount of vocabulary, from many different topics, on the INCREDIBLY slim chance that MAYBE one of those topics will be the subject of ONE of the Reading or Listening passages. But with literally thousands of possibilities for subject matter, and the fact that the organization administering the exam changes it ALL THE TIME (so that people can’t steal the questions and cheat on the exam), the chances that anything in those books will be effective for getting the best score possible on The TOEFL Exam is VERY slim. Your time is much better spent working on HOW to actually respond to each TASK and how to use certain skills to FIND the answer, rather than trying to prepare for every single possibility in the Universe… (That is, in fact, the actual purpose of those question-types… To determine if you are able to learn new information… not to test what you already know.)
Not having a vast vocabulary, but being able to effectively fulfill each task is FAR more valuable to you than having a large vocabulary but having no idea how to put those words together. This would be like a person who wants to be a painter – One who has lots of different high-quality paints and brushes, and plenty of gorgeous models who are willing to pose for him or her – but then, not knowing how to even get the paint out of the tube, let alone mixing the colors to get exactly the shades that he or she desires in order to express him or herself.
So please… do not waste your time with books and documents which are supposed to give you all of the vocabulary that you need for the exam – they won’t. The people who put those books out there into the Universe should have to pay for all of the exams of all those people who did not get the score that they needed because they wasted their time learning useless vocabulary. Some of those test-takers (or their parents) then can not afford to re-take the exam. Or, they are so devastated at their perceived “failure” that they do not even try – they just give up – and that is not only sad, but is a serious problem!
So… What Next?
Having said all of that, we are not actually done with the topic of vocabulary. (And if you have been following this blog, you already know this.) That was just the most important piece of information that I needed to get out. Now we can move forward with what kind of vocabulary WILL be useful for you, and how to actually LEARN vocabulary when you don’t have a dictionary… this IS one of the things the exam is testing, after all. 😉
So, How Can I Help?
As you may have notice already, I have been making posts on TOEFL Vocabulary. This is why I am refreshing this post right now.
- The vocabulary that you WILL need on The TOEFL Exam has to do with the words that will actually be used ON the exam itself – either in the questions or in the directions. This is what I refer to as, “Functional Vocabulary“
- Then there are the words that will be expected for you, as a test-taker, to know in order to be able to function in a University-type setting. This is what I refer to as, “Level-Checking Vocabulary“
In addition to this, there are words which may or may not be on the exam, but will be very good for you to know as they relate to the exam, and will not be a waste of your time to learn as they can also be translated into “normal” life as well… (not like learning random words about Geology, Agriculture, and the Art History.)
All Of Which Will Be Covered Here…
Further-more, All of these words are listed in The GiveMeSomeEnglish!!! – TOEFL Vocabulary Database, and are being turned into posts, systematically and alphabetically. But that doesn’t mean that you should wait. You should be doing studying on your own as well. If you do not know a word in the list… Then look it up, read all the definitions, find out its etymology and see how changing the word to its different parts of speech can actually change its meaning. And then, if you have any questions – feel free to ask me. I am always happy to help when I am able… And that is essentially what I am here for.
Have An Excellent Day!
Remember: If there are any words in this post that you do not know – look them up. Though you do not need to waste time memorizing lists of vocabulary before taking The TOEFL Exam, it is always a good idea to look-up words that you do not know. Even if you think you know them, you may be surprised, so if you see a word that you may “know” but can’t actually define or explain… look it up. I suggest Wikitionary.com