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18 August, 2016
With Australia’s burgeoning popularity as an expat destination, it’s no wonder that so many immigrants are resettling in the land down under. For many immigrants, part of this process entails securing a high enough score on an English language exam that covers speaking, reading, writing, and listening. Below you will find general test taking tips along with some key points to focus on for each kind of test.
Familiarize yourself with visa requirements
It’s important to know exactly which visa you intend to apply for, as there are many different types of visas issued by Australia. They vary in their language requirements, so it’s important to double-check that you do, in fact, need to take an English test and at what level your proficiency needs to be. While some language requirements can be demonstrated without testing, many of them will require it.
Choose a test and note the differences
When it comes to English tests, you have a handful of options. While they all share many similarities, there are some key points of focus to consider:
International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
· Answer the listening questions in order
· Avoid writing under 150 and 250 words on parts 1 and 2, respectively; practice visualizing what that word count looks like so that you won’t need to spend time counting during the test
Occupational English Test (OET)
· Practice specific industry phrases you will need (e.g. ‘a review is required’ or ‘patient presents with’)
· Practice formatting salutations, dates, addresses, etc.
· Read for keywords, but don’t spend too much time reading carefully as the answers required often do not pertain to the entire text
Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
· This one’s web-based, so work on your typing skills
· Don’t skip any questions
· Focus on pronunciation and avoid idioms
Pearson Test of English (PTE)
· Prepare for distractions by studying in a noisy environment; other test-takers will be speaking during the test, so it’s best to get used to it
· Respond quickly to prevent the mic from turning off
Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
· Read text passages thoroughly
· Answer questions in full and without incorporating personal opinion or knowledge
Understand the logistics of the test
Get to know the ins and outs of the test structure. Familiarize yourself with the testing format you may encounter (multiple choice, essay, etc.) and whether an in-person or online test is your preferred method. Find out how much time you will have to complete each section of the test.
Enroll in a prep course
A preparatory course is a great way to practice and build on your English skills leading up to the big test. Your instructor and peers can help you hone skills that may be difficult to nail in solo-study, such as pronunciation and conversational techniques. Have a look at the Australian Companies Search database to find a course provider near you. If you aren’t in an area where physical prep courses are offered, consider enrolling in a web-based program.
Use multimedia to your advantage
One of the best ways to sharpen your English fluency is by listening to music, watching movies, and reading books in English. You will gain more familiarity with accents and tempo while learning a bit more about cultures in English-speaking countries.
Do practice tests
Before you head in for the real exam, find some practice tests online or in books. You can even take practice tests for each of the different types of tests described above, and then determine which one you feel most comfortable with, if you aren’t sure. Try to take the practice tests in the same conditions that you will at the real exam (accounting for time and structure).
If you don’t pass the test on your first try, don’t get discouraged. Before you take the test again, keep in mind that you should allow yourself adequate study time beforehand. It’s also important to take care of yourself before and during the test. Get adequate sleep, eat before the exam, and learn some techniques to reduce test anxiety.
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