I finally got a perfect score on the TOEIC. It was my second try. I retook the test exactly a month after my first:
If you still haven’t read my post about my first experience of the test, just click the link below:
If you're taking the TOEIC for the first time or if you're aiming for a good score but not really 990 (the highest), it will be better for you to focus on the tips in my first post.
There will be some more useful tips for you here but, in general, the advice on this post will focus on getting the top score.
It’s a bit like archery (our picture above). After you’ve hit close to the target, you're able to make small adjustments to make your aim sharper and more accurate.
General TOEIC Tips
Listening in the TOEIC shouldn’t be a passive activity. “Passive” means you're just waiting for the answers to come to you. Sometimes this might happen. But most of the time, this is a bad way to follow if you want to get a good score.
“Active” listening in the TOEIC (in fact in many other tests) is all about keeping your state of readiness high. Anytime the answer in the recording comes, both your ears and your mind are prepared to receive it. This requires a lot of concentration, like what I said on my first post. At the same time, you should consciously and closely follow the exchange -- or monologue -- of information so you don’t miss anything.
Read the questions written on your test booklet in advance, then make an image inside your head of what situation will be asked. Fill in the gaps in the scene or dialogue that you're hearing. Don’t let yourself be left behind by the conversation. Try and keep one step ahead if you can.
The most basic and simplest example of a listening exercise is when you’re watching a movie. You have to know the characters, the setting, the time, their problems, their proposed solutions, their final solutions, the results etc. in order to understand the story. The biggest difference between this and the TOEIC is that the level of focus is much higher in the test.
Skimming and scanning are the oldest tricks of the trade when it comes to test reading, including the TOEIC. Although old, they are still timely and true. Test-takers who complain of not having any time to finish the Reading Part are most likely crippled by a wrong habit in reading, one which eats up too much time and attention to details. The TOEIC test was designed with enough time to be spent on each part. But if you always let yourself fall into the temptation of reading more than you need, you will surely find yourself running out of time.
There’s one tip I’d like to call the “In and Out” strategy. Hopefully, this would help to constantly remind you of the need to touch and move on, touch and move on.
Imagine a team of well-trained professional thieves (thief = only 1). They enter a very secure building, acquire (get) only what they need, then get out of the place as quietly and efficiently as they came. They don’t waste any time to admire the place.
This is what you should also practice yourself doing. For each and every question in the Reading Part.
For the other questions of the Reading that heavily involve grammar, there’s no way to get around them but to study syntax beforehand. This means that if your grammar isn’t enough, unlike with comprehension, you won’t be able to answer the grammar questions well or fast enough.
Advanced TOEIC Tips
If you’re a long-time TOEIC-taker and your target score right now is 990 or close to that, these suggestions might help you.
1. Review your answers. This piece of advice is further broken down into 2 parts:
1.A. Answer the Reading Part questions as quickly but accurately as you can, so you will have enough time for review. If you’re having a hard time coming up with the answer for one particular item, leave a light mark so you can come back to that once you’ve finished.
WARNING: This strategy will not work unless you’re certain that you will have extra time to come back. So knowing your general pace through previous experience and simulations and budgeting your time properly during the actual test are important. Leaving a question either unanswered or half-answered could be harmful for a test-taker who constantly finds himself short of time at the end of the test. But it can be a valuable strategy for those who are on a higher level.
Skipping many questions is also a bad technique, because this will eat up even more time. So, the total tip is: Answer as many questions as fast and well as you can, and leave the really complicated ones for a well-planned review.
1.B. Review your answers.
Obviously, if you weren’t able to do 1.A, then you won’t be able to do this. But from experience, in both of my tests, I have had enough time to review all my answers in the Reading Part. On my first time, I had 30 minutes left before the end (Unfortunately I made the wrong decision of leaving early and not reviewing. You already read about this on my first post.) On my second time, I reviewed all my answers very closely and still had about 15 minutes left on the clock.
In the end, I believe that review is very important in a test like the TOEIC. Because almost always there are questions whose answers will surprise you, whose answers aren’t what you expect. This is a natural and integral character of the TOEIC. Many answers and choices are designed to seem perfectly natural and correct the first time you think about them, but after deeper thought aren’t really the best answers.
2. Because this isn’t your first time anymore to take the test, you should spend enough time working on your weak points.
2.A. The first thing you should do is take a good look at the Score Report from your last test and try to interpret what the numbers mean. The Score Report is not something you receive one day then throw out after a glance.
If you look at your Score Report right now, you will see below your actual score the breakdown into individual areas. The heading of this part reads “Abilities Measured.” There’s one for Listening and one for Reading.
Here’s a sample from my own first test. Like I said on my first post, I got a perfect score on the Listening Part, but my Reading was something like this:
You need to learn how to interpret the numbers on your score sheet. The items shown on the sheet are not the same sections on the actual TOEIC test. This means that, although there are 7 parts on the test (4 for Listening and 3 for Reading), you won’t be able to see each part’s score on the report.
You should learn how to interpret your score so you will know which exact parts on the test you need to practice more. Look for keywords on your score sheet. In my case, my weaknesses were: “inferences (assumptions)” and “connect(ing) information.” After knowing this, I was aware that Parts 6 and 7 are my weak points, the biggest being Part 7.
2.B. After knowing what your weaknesses are, concentrate your practice on these but also train for the TOEIC test as a whole.
3. Do not underestimate any question or item on the test. Like I said, the answers will often surprise you. Although it’s good to use and trust your strong instincts to get you the right answers, at a certain point when you need sharper attention and a higher score, you should also learn to doubt and double-check your initial conviction. If your answer still holds true after scrutiny, then keep your answer.
4. Make sure you have a good personal system to mark, find, and clean up uncertain answers. A good system will prevent the big risk of you getting confused and all your answers messed up. I’m talking about marking the wrong places and mixing up numbers or choices. This is really common, believe me.
Also, if you develop a system for marking and review, make sure your mark isn’t too light. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to find the exact point you want to check. Vice versa, after reviewing your answer, clean up the area around it. This is why it’s important not to make very deep marks for relatively unsure answers.
5. One thing I actually did was count all my answers to make sure there are no duplicates (answers in the same column or the same row). This is useful because it’s highly possible for test-takers to mark the right answer on the wrong number.
6. You don’t need to get all 100% of the answers right to get a perfect score. TOEIC considers a few mistakes on your raw score and when it converts those into the final score, you can still get a perfect score even though you made a couple of mistakes. It depends on what kind of mistakes you made.
So, in the end, do your best and TOEIC might recognize your effort. Similarly, keep on aiming to improve yourself. Never give up and you'll receive the reward to your hard work sooner than you expect.
Hope you learned something! Good Luck on your next test!!