Module 1

Mindset

Learn how to fix your mindset so you can ace the TOEFL exam.

Psychological Challenges – The number one reason why you are not studying correctly…

The following is a brief overview of what this module will discuss:
The Motivation Theory
  1. Setting your mind to mastering the TOEFL
  2. Changing your attitude
  3. Avoiding procrastination
Stress Factors
  1. Dealing with stress while preparing for the exam
  2. Dealing with stress a day before the exam
  3. Dealing with stress during the exam

The first part of the plan covers an important factor that many TOEFL experts have ignored – the mental process you undergo while preparing for this exam. Changes in your study habits and attitude will likely be necessary.

At some point during your TOEFL preparation, you may have felt demotivated, stressed out, impatient, hesitant and disappointed. You may also have been guilty of not working hard enough or even procrastinating.

Procrastination is the habit of delaying a task that one finds uninteresting. These are all psychological challenges you face when you take an important step in your life – and the TOEFL exam is definitely an important step in your academic and professional life.

In this module, you will read about the common psychological challenges students face while preparing for this exam. The module will also discuss helpful solutions for tackling each one of them. If you recognize these issues and follow the tips in this module, you can put an end to your struggles.

Many students skip the preparation steps that can make a study session more efficient and instead go too deeply into the details of the TOEFL exam right away. This is not a good approach.

Rather, you should become accustomed to the fact that you will be taking an intense test. However, look at this in a positive light. Consider this to be a challenge you must overcome to reach your ultimate professional goal.

This e-course addresses a variety of problems to help you improve your confidence level and pass the exam with excellent scores.

The first part of the plan addresses the psychological challenges students face. By the end of this module, you will know how to deal with a lack of motivation and discipline, as well as how to overcome the stress you will face before and during the exam.

The Motivation Theory

1. Setting your mind to mastering the TOEFL

The TOEFL requires a lot of concentration, motivation and patience. For this reason, every student should motivate themselves before starting. This requires changing your mindset right from the very beginning.

Taking a TOEFL exam might not be the most exciting experience in the world, but it is worth working hard for. Students who want to study at a university level must complete an English proficiency test such as the TOEFL or IELTS. Therefore, it is imperative that you motivate yourself to do as well as you can on your TOEFL exam – it is the first step on your journey to success.

Although you already know this information, be sure to write it down in a special notebook you use for planning. If you do not have such a notebook, buy one, as you will use it extensively in the coming modules.

On the first page of your notebook, list your main goals for the future – and make the TOEFL one of them. Remember that organization is the habit of all accomplished and successful people in the world today.

2. Changing your attitude

When studying for the TOEFL exam, you must be motivated. Most students regard the TOEFL as something to get done as easily and quickly as possible. However, this attitude is one of the greatest barriers to success.

Think about all the people who have achieved success in their lives. They were patient, persistent, and motivated to achieve their dreams. The TOEFL might not be your final goal in terms of success, but you must do well on it to gain admission to college. From there, you can continue with your career.

If you are planning to get a degree from a well-qualified university, you must be tested beforehand to determine your proficiency in English. Your plans to study at a good university indicate that you already have goals and dreams you want to achieve. Whether you are planning to study medicine, engineering or business, you will need strong English language skills for your dream career.

If you ever feel demotivated, remember that the TOEFL (or any other English proficiency test) is your road toward studying at a good college and achieving your goals. If you currently do not have a specific aim in life or a career which you are focusing on, look for something you think would be interesting – something that would inspire you to work hard.

Succeeding on the TOEFL exam is like investing in your professional career. A good score on this exam will open gates that would not otherwise have opened. That is why you must stay motivated and work hard.

Map this out in your mind in the following way:

Reminder:
Someone who is new to the TOEFL exam might feel motivated to study and succeed. However, as the months pass, you might experience uncertainty about your progress. You may become demotivated and feel lost because you do not know what to do next.
Keep reminding yourself that you must work hard to get the degree you want.
To keep active and track your progress, draw up a plan from now until your scheduled exam date. Part 3 of this e-course discusses this in more detail.

3. Avoiding procrastination

If you are not studying enough, procrastination is the most likely reason. Many people procrastinate (leave things for later) when they lack motivation.

Consider that for a second; when you do not feel motivated to study for the test, you make excuses and try to postpone your studying to another time.

For most people, demotivation occurs when they must carry out a task that they know is important but that they do not enjoy doing. This is the reason why many TOEFL students procrastinate; deep down, we all know that studying for this exam is not very fun.

However, you can take steps to solve this problem.

  1. Remind yourself that the TOEFL is important and make it your number one academic priority. Remember that the TOEFL exam will open new doors for you in your life.
  2. The TOEFL is just the first step. Once it is out of the way, you can pursue your career without having to worry about language proficiency exams.
  3. If you still are not very motivated, conduct some research into your area of study to help you develop some interest in it. A lack of interest or direction in life will negatively affect your level of motivation to study for the TOEFL exam.
  4. Write down all your goals and include the TOEFL exam as a priority. Also, decide how long you will study for this exam and plan accordingly for the approximate exam date. That way, you can monitor your progress and create more detailed plans on a daily or weekly basis.

Stress Factors

Stress is a psychological effect that arises when the body must respond to a real or perceived threat. Stress is a common problem today.

In most cases, we cannot control stress; this is why many of us have difficulty dealing with it. However, there are many ways to fight the uncontrollable feeling of stress and anxiety we experience when facing a challenging task.

This module will discuss the most effective ways to fight the stress and anxiety most students experience while preparing for and writing the TOEFL exam.

Let us start with the stress you might face in the weeks and months leading up to the exam.

4. Dealing with stress while preparing for the exam

Overcome stress by being well-prepared. The more you are prepared, the more confident you will feel about your ability to do well on the exam:

Almost every TOEFL student prepares for the TOEFL exam. However, despite this preparation, many students do not seem to meet the required score. In this section, you will learn how preparing effectively and efficiently helps reduce exam stress.

Remember, though: Do not just skim through the following tips and tactics and breeze through the e-course. Apply them and live by them for the whole exam preparation process. Change your whole mindset starting now.

Just stick to the following tactics as carefully as possible. Consider writing them down as a poster on your wall to continually remind yourself as you prepare for the exam:


Tactic #1: Take notes while studying


Write down for future reference any information you obtain from a trustworthy source, such as a TOEFL book or tutor. Note-taking will boost your memory and help you become more organized and consistent in your work.

A good student is always an efficient note taker. This point will be discussed in more detail later in the course where you will be taught how to do this well.


Tactic #2: Summarizing your notes for the exam in chart form


After you have taken notes, you will have to revise them. Once you understand your notes, recall what you have learned in the way of language and test-writing skills. Take short notes in chart form to summarize these skills.

Charts help students connect ideas. Plus, recalling the content of your notes will help plant the information firmly in your mind.

However, this is not a strategy you should use during the exam. Instead, this is for use only during your preparation period, to help you improve your study habits and boost your memory.

In a special book, note down anything you learn that is related to the TOEFL. Every time you learn a new skill, try to recall it on an empty piece of paper by drawing charts and making connections between the ideas. This will help keep the information organized in your brain.

Good students have reported that they used this strategy a couple of days before the exam. To do this, you must make sure you have studied well enough and learned all the important strategies mentioned in this e-course.

A couple of days before the exam, pull out a blank piece of paper and write down whatever you can recall. That way, you will have a clear idea about how much information you have absorbed and your confidence levels will increase accordingly.

To learn faster, use this strategy after each study session.


Tactic #3: Complete a lot of exam exercises


The more exam exercises you do, the better your grasp of the exam format, the types of topics the exam will cover, and the exam’s time frame, will be. They will also help you overcome fear, which in turn will help you be more confident when you are taking the exam.

Practice will expose your weak points and your strong points. With this knowledge, you can work to overcome your weak points. This is a key point that you should keep in mind and apply as you go through your exam preparations.

So find out what your weak points are through taking mock exams, and then focus on strengthening them as you move along.

Practice makes perfect…

Practice exam papers can come in three forms:

a.) TOEFL iBT test papers that come in book format

b.) Interactive online exams that are like the real test

c.) Downloadable software that allows you to practice in a format similar to the exam

1. The importance of having a TOEFL preparation book

By now you should know that you cannot pass this exam if you do not have a TOEFL practice book. To be fully prepared, you will need the test papers.

Online and downloadable test preparation software is not sufficient on its own because software will not provide you with as many tests as the book does. The book also gives you the freedom of starting and continuing a test whenever it is convenient for you. Usually, preparation books offer more original practice exams than the other options do.

2.The importance of interactive online exams

After you have taken several practice tests in the preparation book, you will be ready to take interactive online exams. Interactive exams boost your confidence because the exam conditions are similar to those of the actual test. If you want to know how well you would perform on the real exam, it is worth spending money on one of these interactive tests.

The disadvantage of preparing online is that most of the available software is not free (though some websites will give you a free trial the first time/s you use it). In addition, the test samples that are offered online were not originally official exam papers.

A small investment in online interactive tests will go a long way towards helping you achieve the TOEFL levels necessary to enter the higher education institution of your choice.

3.The importance of downloadable software tests

Some downloadable software tests are helpful in the sense that they give you free samples of the exam. However, they can be very limited in number. Also, the quality of these tests is generally not as high as that of the other types of practice exams. Still, they are recommended for use as extra practice.


Tactic #4: Prepare intensely for at least six months if English is not your first language


Regardless of your current level, give yourself at least six months of full preparation, especially if you have not taken the test before.

Learning the specific strategies in this e-course is very important if you want to achieve complete success on the exam.

If you are at an intermediate level and have already completed the exam, or if you have already done a lot of studying and practicing, prepare at least six months ahead of time so that you do not have to take the exam all over again. Keep in mind that native speakers take the TOEFL exam, too, so you have a lot of competition.

As a non-native speaker, you will face a lot of challenges in this exam. The more you prepare, the less anxious you will feel.


Tactic #5: Understand the examiner’s expectations for the TOEFL


he key to becoming a great test taker is to look at the exam from an examiner’s point of view. This guide will help you understand what an examiner is looking for while he/she is correcting your paper. The more you please the examiner by meeting his/her expectations, the higher your overall grade will be. This e-course gives you strategies based on what the examiner expects to see from you. Always keep this in mind as you prepare for your exam.


Tactic #6: Build up your test writing stamina


our exam will last four and a half hours, although you will be given breaks.
Studying continuously for five hours is a bad idea. To maximize your practice and build your test writing stamina, try the following plan:

  1. Set aside five hours of your day – let's say from 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., which is the most recommended time. People tend to be more productive in the morning, especially people who have good sleep habits (and good sleep habits are essential).

  2. Set a timer for these five hours.

  3. Throughout the five hours, study for 40 minutes, then take a 10-minute break to do something you enjoy.


Studying for five hours per day will prepare you for a long exam. This technique will help you become accustomed to the length of the TOEFL exam. When you build your test writing stamina, you will not have to worry about the exam length on test day because you will have already trained yourself for a long exam.


Tactic #7: Maintain a healthy diet


A healthy and balanced diet affects your exam performance. Your body needs iron and vitamins B and C, which boost your concentration and memory as well as maintain your physical and mental energy. The ability to concentrate will make you feel less worried and stressed out during the exam. You can improve your diet by eating as many fresh fruits and vegetables as you can.

In addition to following a healthy diet, you will want to become aware of the number of times you eat per day. Consuming several small meals throughout the day is healthier than consuming three large meals per day. Large meals slow you down mentally and physically; if you have a large amount of food in your stomach, you will start to feel lazy and sluggish. So make sure you eat sensibly, as this can really help you have more energy to study, do well and generally feel good about yourself.


Tactic #8: Follow the four-part plan


This e-course is based on a four-part plan that has been carefully designed from various perspectives. This is the only e-course on the market that has done its best to approach the TOEFL iBT exam from all angles.

Therefore, it is important that you focus on each section equally and understand that your TOEFL preparation will not be complete if part of this plan is missing.

Part 1 of the plan: Dealing with psychological challenges

Part 2 of the plan: Enhancing your language skills by following a daily routine

Part 3 of the plan: Creating the ultimate study plan for time management purposes

Part 4 of the plan: Test taking strategies for the four sections (CORE SECTION)

Part 5 of the plan: Studying the smart way

5. Dealing with stress a day before the exam

So far, we have dealt with the best ways to deal with stress when preparing for your exam. If you were careful enough to draw up a poster to remind yourself daily about the tactics you should use to reduce your stress load during this time, you should be feeling pretty good about yourself the day before the exam. This will help you immensely in your efforts to control your stress levels.

Now, let us move on to some tips you can use to control your stress levels the day before the actual exam:


Get plenty of sleep:


Sleep is one of the keys to success. Have you ever wondered how the brain stores information? This process typically takes place while you are sleeping.

After you gain new bits of information, the neurons in your brain need rest so they can build connections. When connections are built, you focus better and consequently learn more effectively. Without sleep, your brain becomes clogged with toxins that cannot be washed away ... except during sleep.

Depending on your age and specific needs, you should aim to sleep around 7 to 8 hours the night before the exam. Anything less than 7 hours might make you feel tired, and once you start reaching anything beyond 9 hours, you start to feel tired and lethargic, too.

If possible, a power nap for ten to fifteen minutes in the hours before the exam will help give you a little energy boost, as well as calm your nerves in a very positive way.


Exercise:


Exercise allows your brain to relax while blood is pumping through your body. An active and healthy body will promote the circulation of blood in your brain and prevent toxins from forming while making your memory even sharper. The two best post-study relaxation options for your brain are exercise and a short nap.

Of course, make sure that you do not overdo any exercise as the exam approaches. In fact, avoid doing anything out of the normal that might negatively affect your ability to perform well on the exam.


Keep track of the exam date:


Mark the date of your exam on a calendar. You want to create a study program based on the number of days left before your exam. Keeping track of the date will help you remain organized and avoid having to rush at the last minute. Organization and planning will boost your chances of success.

Make sure you mark down the date in a place that can be seen on a regular basis. Apart from being aware of how much time you have left to prepare, keeping your eye on the ball by continually being aware of the exam date will help you stay focused, motivated and confident in your preparations.


Think positively:


Negative thoughts act as barriers to success, allowing a person to drown in depressing and demotivating thoughts that slow down progress. On the other hand, positivity is a source of motivation. Thus, a positive attitude before the exam will significantly improve your performance on the exam.


Wear warm clothes:


Warm clothes will help you stay comfortable. We humans are warm-blooded, so our bodies feel more relaxed in warm temperatures. A sense of being cold can distract you during the exam, allowing stress to take over. Also, keep in mind that most centers are air conditioned, so wearing warm clothes is a good idea. You can always shed some layers of clothing if you get hot.


Think positively:


Negative thoughts act as barriers to success, allowing a person to drown in depressing and demotivating thoughts that slow down progress. On the other hand, positivity is a source of motivation. Thus, a positive attitude before the exam will significantly improve your performance on the exam.

6. Dealing with stress during the exam

Now that we have had the opportunity to consider how to minimize stress levels in the months and days leading up to the exam, the all-important subject of dealing with stress on the actual exam needs to be addressed.

Here is what usually happens during the exam:

Before you start the exam, instructions are read aloud to you. This allows you to psychologically prepare for what will come next. Most students ignore the instructions and allow stress and fear to overtake them. You must avoid this.

At this stage, many students start thinking about the timer, the passages, the topics that might come up, and so on. This lessens their ability to concentrate and could affect their performance. You must know how to focus on and prioritize what matters. Your state of mind determines your success.

As you sit in your chair, take comfort in the fact that you are at an advantage to the other test-takers now, because you have not only prepared better than them; you also have consciously worked on minimizing stress levels, and will not fall into the nerve-wracking mistakes they normally do.

Instead, you will remain calm while you are receiving instructions. Listen carefully and allow your mind to focus on the upcoming tasks. Keep in mind that the exam room will probably be noisy because some students will be doing their speaking component, while others might start to read aloud next to you. Ignore noises, crowds or anything else that might distract you or cause you stress. Once you have listened carefully to the instructions, move on to the next step.

Keep in mind that some exam supervisors might not attend to you as they should, while others might be outright rude. Therefore, when you enter the exam hall, make sure you pick up enough blank paper to last for the duration of the exam. While preparing for the exam, determine how much paper you typically need for note taking. This way, you will know how many pieces to pick up before you start the exam. Although the exam is computer-based, you must make sure to bring enough supplies (pen, pencil, eraser and sharpener) for your note taking.

L1 is your native language and L2 is your target language – in this case, English. Remember to set your thought process to your target language (i.e. English). Do not think in your native language and translate those thoughts into English. If you do this, you will be working in an unproductive manner and losing valuable time. Now is the time to begin the process of familiarizing yourself with thinking directly in the target language (i.e. English). Get used to this process early so that nothing you do is new to you when you sit down for the exam.

When you start the exam, focus only on the passage, the questions, and the remaining time. However, do not get flustered about time-related matters. You should have already trained yourself to use the timer in a constructive manner by pacing yourself properly without panicking. Remember, all of this will make sense to you then if you get sufficient practice before the exam.

These tips are very important because everybody experiences exam stress to one degree or another. You must control test-stress so that you avoid any productivity-sapping anxiety attacks during the exam.

Scientists have discovered that neurons do not connect well during times of stress overload. One of the most important skills to work on is focusing well, especially under extreme pressure.

Moreover, know that it is quite normal to experience an anxiety attack during an exam, especially if you are a perfectionist or hairsplitter. This is not necessarily a negative condition, but you must keep it under control.


Review the whole section before answering it:


Review an entire section before you answer it. This way, you can obtain a better picture of the types of questions and topics you have received. However, you cannot do this in all TOEFL sections. This tip is helpful for the reading and writing sections because there, you have the option of going back and forth throughout the section. However, you will not be able to do this in the speaking and listening sections because once you press “next”, you cannot return to previous questions.


Work on the easy questions first:


Begin by working on the easy questions. Once you are done with the easy questions, go back and concentrate on the more difficult questions. This exam strategy works like the warm-up sessions you take part in before exercising. When you start by completing the easier questions, you feel more confident and less stressed. The process is like a warm-up session for the difficult questions to come.

How can I do that?

Start by working on the questions in the same order in which they are given to you. Once you find a question that is a little difficult, skip it and move to the next one. In other words, proceed from questions 1 to 20 in numerical order, but skip those questions on which you feel stuck. Once you have finished the easy questions, go back to the beginning of the paper and solve the questions you found difficult. At this point, you will feel more confident and relaxed, so you will find it easier to solve the harder questions. This is a key test-writing strategy you should keep in mind when writing the exam.

What should I do if I experience anxiety attacks during the exam?

1.Observation:

Understand and realize that a thought of fear and stress is forming.

2.Labeling:

Do not ignore the thought or fight it. Acknowledge the reason it appeared, such as time issues.

3.Watching:

Watching a thought that forms in your mind is like watching cars through a window. You usually do not react to them. You simply watch them as they go by. In the same way, try to ‘watch’ the stressful thought form as an observer, then it should begin to disappear as you have detached yourself from it. Practice this skill in the months leading up to the exam. Just make sure that when writing the mock tests in the months leading up to the exam, that you try to mirror the exam conditions (such as time constraints) as much as possible.

4.Moving on:

If you think you cannot finish the exam, just do what is easy for you and move on. Do not allow yourself to obsess over anything. Just do your best, knowing that you know things about the exam that others do not, and that whatever happens, you are not restricted to the amount of times you can write the exam. When you picture these things in your mind, this should help you relax considerably.

The strategies mentioned here are quite different to the traditional way of fighting off stressful thoughts. Most people recommend that you try to think of something that makes you feel relaxed, but in most cases, this technique never works as the stressful thoughts keep coming back.

Instead, you should concentrate on being able to control (and not fight) the stress, and to complete more realistic short-term goals on the exam using the strategies and tactics mentioned in this module when faced with this type of stressful scenario.