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Adult English Lessons / English Teaching / TOEIC Classes

Introduction to Teaching a TOEIC Class

Understanding how to teach standardized English tests is an important skill for all English teachers. The TOEIC test and its counterpart the TOEFL tests are two of the most popular standardized test in the world. It is likely that at some point you will have to teach one of these tests. Use this article to prepare yourself.

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In this article we are going to go over some basic methods on how you can teach a TOEIC test class. Teaching any kind of standardized test can be quite difficult. I remember my first day teaching at an English school in Japan. My first class was a private class with a student who was studying for the TOEIC test. The student asked me a question, I looked at the test and I knew the correct answer but I had no idea how to explain it. Hopefully this article will prevent that from happening for a few of you out there.

 

Basics

Before we get into how to teach for the TOEIC test you will need to know a little bit about the TOEIC test itself. There are many standardized English tests around the world but the top three are the TOEIC test, the TOEFL test and the IELTS test. Millions of people around the world take these tests every year. Let’s get a little bit into the differences between each test

 

The TOEIC test

Basically the TOEIC test is used by businesses or employers who want to measure their employees’ English ability. This means that it is business centric. There are a lot of business reading passages, a lot of business related vocabulary and most of the listening questions are related to business related situations.

 

The TOEFL test

The TOEFL test is actually created by the same company that creates the TOEIC test. The TOEFL test differs in that it is mostly used by anyone who wants to go to an international university, more specifically a North American college or university. Because the test measures your ability to use English in a university setting, obviously the content of the test is mostly university related.

 

The IELTS test

The IELTS test is similar to the TOEFL test in that it measures a student’s English ability and how well that they can interact in a university setting. The major difference is that the TOEFL is generally a North American University test. The IELTS test is focused more on the British Commonwealth; Britain, Australia, New Zealand.

 

The TOEIC Bridge test

The last test we are going to mention is in all honesty not very well known internationally. The TOEIC Bridge test is basically a simplified, easier version of the TOEIC test. The reason it’s important for you as a teacher is because occasionally you will get students who want to study for the TOEIC test but don’t have the ability or skills yet. Here the TOEIC Bridge test can be of some help. The TOEIC Bridge test is made for people who would score below 500 points on the normal TOEIC test.

If you want to learn more about the differences between the test then I suggest you follow this link to our sister website, Goodwin TOEIC. There you will find more information. (insert link)

 

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Student levels

The TOEIC test is not an easy test. Generally you want students to be at least an intermediate level. If they are of a lower-level then you should have them take a practice full-length TOEIC test to get there current TOEIC score. If their score is below 500 then they have two choices. If they are not in a rush to take the TOEIC test, let’s say it’s just a future goal for them, then I would suggest they go join a few “standard” type classes so that they can build up their basic English skills. While they are doing this you can give them some TOEIC bridge homework to do at home. If they are diligent and do the homework then they should be able to join the normal TOEIC class in a short amount of time.

If on the other case they don’t have any time, let’s say that their boss is forcing them to take the test in two months. In that case, they need to take a TOEIC Bridge class. In all honesty, most English schools do not have a lower level TOEIC bridge class or a lower level TOEIC class. If your school does, then great, you’ll have no problems. If it doesn’t then perhaps you can convince them to take a private class until their level improves enough to enter the normal TOEIC class. If the class has some intermediate level students and advanced students, I usually have no problems mixing them together.

 

Primary objectives

There are many different schools of thought in terms of teaching English for standardized tests. Below you will find the method that I and some of my fellow English teachers have found the most success with. We measured this success by our student’s improvement and ability to pass tests.

There are two primary objectives that I have when teaching English for the TOEIC test. One of them is teaching the English skills that are needed to do well on the test; this includes business vocabulary, grammar, listening skills and other skills. The other objective is to teach the test itself. This means teaching the students commonly used tricks and traps, best practices for different sections of the test, different ways to search for information quickly, time management skills and other aspects of the test itself that can help the students do better on the test.

I have found the most success blending these two objectives together. Some classes might focus on overall English skills and then the next class might focus more on the test itself. Let’s take a look at some example TOEIC class lesson plans.

 

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Lesson plan one-grammar base class

In this class, my plan is to go over and practice a particular grammar point that often comes up on the TOEIC test. In this particular example we’re going to look at the differences between infinitives and gerunds.

Lesson plan #1

Warm-up

Introduction of lesson Key Point

Show real-life questions

Explain grammar

Do two or three example questions together

Students do 10 to 15 questions

Go over answers

Review

 

Lesson plan two-test based class

Lesson plan #2

Warm-up

Introduction lesson Key Point

Explanation of Key Point

Class practice together

Students do Key Point related questions by themselves

Go over answers

Review

 

For a more in depth look at these example lessons click here. (insert link)

 

Textbooks

If you’re going to teach a TOEIC class, you are certainly going to need to have a couple of good TOEIC textbooks. Another alternative to textbooks would be downloads available on line. Whichever you choose, you’re going to need a large amount of TOEIC practice questions for your students to do. If possible, I would suggest getting three different textbooks. One that mostly focuses on practice questions. One that practices different skills needed for the TOEIC test. And the third would be a TOEIC vocabulary textbook. Click here to see a list of our recommended textbooks. (insert link)

 

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To teach in English or native language?

Whether to teach the TOEIC test in English or in that country’s native language is something that all teachers have to think about. Obviously if you are native English speaker and you don’t have the language skills to teach in another language you will have to teach it in English. In all honesty, I believe that teaching the TOEIC test in English has more benefits than teaching in another language. I have known teachers who have been able to speak both English and their student’s native language and they have found some success teaching mostly in English but sometimes using their student’s native language for the more difficult grammar explanations. Half of the TOEIC test is a listening test. That means you will have 100 listening TOEIC test questions. If you teach your students in English then the entire class is going to be one long listening exercise for them. For this reason alone I highly suggest all teachers teach in English. For lower-level students it might be very difficult for them to understand various grammar explanations. The solution to this problem is simple, the teacher needs to take time and think about the best way and the simplest way to explain various grammar patterns.(maybe new article)

 

Student improvement

Every student is different. Some students can quickly improve their TOEIC score. Other students need a long time and a lot of preparation. Here are some things that I’ve noticed teaching the TOEIC test for the last 15 years.

Generally there are two types of TOEIC students. One type is a student who has had some conversational English experience. They have not studied for the TOEIC test before but they have had a few years of English conversation school. These types of students usually will do better on the listening test than the reading test.

The other type of student is a person who has studied grammar and vocabulary in high school and in college but does not have much experience in real life English conversations. This student does generally well on the reading test and has problems with the listening test.

Most of my students can make improvements to their listening test score relatively quickly. But improving your reading score takes more time.I have found that students with a score around 500 points can make the fastest improvement by focusing on their listening skills.I have found the students with a score around 650 points need to continue to focus on listening skills and start seriously thinking about grammar.I found that students with a score around 700-800 points need to focus on vocabulary and reading comprehension.

The above I have generally found to be true but it’s always important to remember that each student comes with their own strengths and weaknesses and you as a teacher need to recognize that and adjust your lessons correctly.

 

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Cautions and warnings

There are many difficulties in teaching the TOEIC test. One of the major problems for teachers is how to give grammar explanations without using grammatical terminology. While you can teach your students to understand simpler terminology such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs other terminology will be very difficult for your students to remember. Whenever possible you want to give your grammar explanations using simple words and easy to understand examples.

While most of your classes will focus on a particular point that you want the students to learn, you do need to have your students practice taking full-length tests. I’ve seen many situations where in the class the student will only do 10 to 15 TOEIC questions at a time. The student learned a lot of things , they improved there grammar and vocabulary skills but when it came time to taking the actual test they quickly found themselves tiring and losing the ability to concentrate. I like to have my students take at least three or four full-length tests before they actually sit for the real TOEIC test. Your students will hate you for making them do this. But it absolutely will help them in the end.

Whenever doing listening exercises make sure that your students have access to the transcripts of the CD. Transcripts are essential for students to be able to review and for them to be able to go back and see why they got a question wrong.

You need to train your students to always go back and look at the questions that they got wrong and try to understand why they got it wrong. Maybe the answer choices on the listening question sounded similar. Perhaps they forgot a grammatical pattern. Or maybe they didn’t understand a vocabulary word. Whatever the reason is, they need to understand the reason, write it down in their notebook and try to review it in later classes.

 

Expectations

Like other classes it’s important for teachers to manage students’ expectations. Unfortunately many students have very unrealistic expectations. Many students believe that they can simply study for one month and get 900 points on the TOEIC test. This is very unlikely. First you need the student to take a sample TOEIC test so that you have a good indicator of where they’re starting from. After that you as a teacher need to sit down with the student and have a discussion about what that student can expect from one month, three months and six months of studying. If the student has a specific goal in mind, let’s say 700 points, the teacher needs to give them a rough idea of when they can achieve that. Without this managing of expectations the students will quickly lose motivation and very often give up the class.

 

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Conclusion

Improving your student’s TOEIC scores is no easy task but with good lesson plans and the right textbooks and materials you can guide your students towards their dream scores. Never forget that for your students, a good TOEIC score can be a life changer. It can lead to a good job and more opportunities. This is a real responsibility. Take it seriously.

 

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Randy League owns an English School in Japan and has been teaching English for 20 years. In his free time he trains MMA , plays video games and studies Japanese.

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