5 Vocabulary and Grammar Rules TOEFL Test Takers Must Know
- September 5, 2017
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More than 30 million people have taken the TOEFL iBT exam. The exam not only helps prove your proficiency in the English Language, it increases your chance of getting into an exceptional university.
Preparing for an exam is always a little nerve-wracking, but byplanning ahead and studying consistently, it becomes easier. The TOEL iBT exam is designed to analyze your command over the English Language and evaluate non-native speakers in 4 areas: reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
Furthermore, the test is accepted by over 10,000 universities in 30 countries, including Australia, Canada, and the U.S.
However, there is one critical element that will help you do exceptionally well in your exam: grammar.
Even if the exam itself isn’t designed to directly test your knowledge of grammar, all 4 parts are based on how well your command of the English Language is. Before beginning your exam, you need to go over all the rules carefully.
To make your life easier, we have designed important rules you can follow for preparing your exam. Follow these rules to expand your knowledge and improve your vocabulary:
Use ‘the’ for Defining Places and People
Use ‘the’ to define people, places, and things. This is so your readers should know what place, object or person you are talking about. This will not only help improve your grammar, it will add depth to your essays.
While there are several rules to use ‘the’, all of these can be reduced to one idea: we use ‘the’ to define places and objects. For example:
With people/places, it becomes clear who/what you’re talking about in the context:
We’re staying at a nice motel. The motel is in the center of town.
Sarah’s house is situated in an isolated part of town. The house is grand and luxurious.
With things that are unique, even if they haven’t been mentioned before:
We went to the lake yesterday. It was fun.
You can browse through the internet for further information.
Since the reader knows what the lake and internet are, these are considered unique, they are defined again.
With nouns, followed by a (defining) clause:
The jewellery you gave me is pretty.
Jewellery is defined because we’re talking about a specific piece of jewellery, not just any jewellery.
Using superlatives and ordinal numbers:
I think I just tasted the best lava cake in town!
Lava cake is defined because we’re talking about a specific lava cake. The superlative here is ‘best’.
With names of countries that have a plural, or include ‘republic’ and ‘kingdom’:
- The United States of America
- The Czech Republic
- The United Kingdom
- The Netherlands
If you’re new to this rule, you can now use it to your advantage.
Adjectives are Only for Describing People, Places and Things
Some students confuse adjectives and adverbs. It’s important to be able to differentiate between the two.
Adjectives are used for nouns (People, places and things.)
I like watching romantic movies.
Over here, ‘romantic’ is the adjective. It describes the noun ‘movies’. If you want to make sure you have an adjective, simply ask, “What kind of movies?” and the answer will be ‘romantic’.
Adjectives can also be structured like this:
[Noun] + to be + [adjective]
The fish smells/looks/tastes good.
The fish is good.
The words ‘good’, ‘taste’ and ‘smell’ describe the noun and not the verb. Therefore, these are adjectives.
Adverbs, on the other hand, are formed from adjectives but add –ly at the end.
The girl sang beautifully.
Bill talks very loudly.
Very describes the adverb ‘loudly’. To check this, ask yourself the question, “How loudly?” and the answer is, “very’.
Most students make the mistake of spelling adverbs incorrectly. To make things simple, whenever you have to use adverbs during your TOEFL written exam, take a good look at the adjective it’s coming from.
If the adjective ends with an L, then add –ly. Then you’ll have two Ls!
For example: beautiful would become beautifully.
Simple would become simply.
Who, Whom, and Which are NOT Interchangeable
“Who” is used for people, “which” is used for things, and “that” can be used for both people and things. Here are some examples:
I know the woman who you talked to earlier.
I know the woman that you talked to earlier.
The marriage contract which you signed is on the table.
The marriage contract that you signed is on the table.
See how that works? The only exception is when you’re referring to a group of people, and you want to talk about one person.
Who vs. Whom
“Whom” is used for people. However, many writers use whom to sound more academic. This is incorrect. The rules say that you need to use “who” when you’re talking about the subject of a clause, and “whom” when you’re talking about the object of a clause.
Whom are you inviting to the party?
(You are going to invite her.)
Who wrote the party invitations?
(She wrote the invitations.)
When you’ll be proofreading your essay, make sure you’ve correctly used “whom”, “who” and “which.”
Referring the Future Using Time and Conditional Clauses
When referring to the future in time and conditional clauses, do not use “will”. Time clauses begin with an expression such as, “when”, “as soon as”, “until”, “after” and “while”. Conditional clauses always start with an “if”.
You need to remove “will’ when referring to the future. Instead of using the future simple in time clauses, you should use the present simple, instead. When dealing with time clauses, you need to use the present simple tense instead of the future simple tense.
Wrong: After he will return home, we can talk.
Correct: After he returns home, we can talk.
During the TOEFL exam, you will be asked about the future. You will need to pay extra attention to the words. Fortunately , in the written exam, you will have more time to think. Just make sure to make the conscious effort of not using “will” where you’re not supposed to.
Here are a few examples to practice with. See if the sentences still work without “will”:
- It does not matter what I do, Mary will not listen to me.
- If she will play the guitar at night, we can request a song.
- If you write him a letter, he will change his mind.
- Before the physician sees you, you will have to take some tests.
When to Use Present-Perfect
You’ve probably read a lot of rules telling you when to use present-perfect or when to use the past. To make things simpler, follow only one rule: If you feel there is a connection with the present, use present-perfect.
I haven’t read that book yet.
I read that book yesterday.
I have been writing since 2007.
So, during the exam, if you ever struggle between the two tenses, try to see how it will impact the present. All you need to remember is that when the action happened at a specific time, and there’s no connection to the present, always use the past.
While grammar may seem daunting at first, the important thing to remember is that it can give you the confidence you need to speak and communicate in a language. Remember to proofread your essay after you’ve finished your exam.
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