Get ready for the english test

Whether you are planning to take the TOEFL, IELTS or some other English test, here is our best advice on how to prepare for it. 

Our top advice
1. Solve as many of the previous exams as you can! Assess and improve.
2. Find other people who are preparing for the test and practice together with them!
3. Practice being able to solve the tasks in the amount of time that they give you. 

Shilpa, India

All my education in school and bachelor’s had been in English. A letter from my university stating that they use ‘English’ language for education, would have been enough to meet the English requirements for admission in Sweden. However, to be on the safe side, I decided to take an English test anyway. As I was working at the time, I felt it was easier to schedule for TOEFL than IELTS​ as it was only a one-day test compared to the later which has an additional interview session.  By the time I had decided which test to take, November was already gone, and I got the test dates for January. Yet, being from an English-speaking country, I was taking it easy with my preparations. 

This changed when I did an online sample test and found that timing is the key in these tests and that I really needed to prepare more seriously. I kickstarted my preparations by December. Since I had just one month left to the test date, I straight-forward started with solving earlier TOEFL exams. As I went through them, I realised my weak point was speaking with maximum impact within an allotted time. Official TOEFL iBT guidebooks & CDs from ETS were very helpful in my preparation, especially their given suggestions on each of the areas – reading, speaking, listening and writing. Solving previous exams also helped me in scheduling my time during the actual test. So that is my advice - solve as many of the previous exams as you can assess and improve.

Dante, Mexico

I always had problems with the English subject (I still hate it). I have no problem if it is a math test, but please not an English one. My application to Chalmers started just when I started my degree thesis, December 2015. I realized that the university had an English requirement and decided to take the TOEFL iBT exam. Then I realized that it was too late, the dates were after 1st of February (do not forget that it is the last day to upload your documents). Even so, I wanted to do it to find out what my level of English was.

Unfortunately, I realized that I had to improve my writing and my speaking. I also felt that I couldn’t practice these skills by myself. I needed someone to help me improve. So, my solution was to look for a native teacher since I wanted to have the real experience of knowing that the other person wouldn't know Spanish when we didn't understand each other. I had to travel 3 hours at least 3 times per week (sometimes more) for over a year to improve my skills. After several months, I decided it was time to take the exam again to apply in 2017 to Chalmers. Just my luck, for the first time in the history of TOEFL (that's what they told us) the system failed, and they cancelled the exam, so they assigned us a new date in another place. That date came in September 2016 and just my luck again, my computer failed. When I was doing the reading everyone else was already talking. This time, I managed to improve what I needed, I raised my score, but my reading was much lower than the previous time I took the test for obvious reasons.

So, I had to register again to do it in December 2016. There were almost no dates available and sometimes it’s hard to find them in the place where you live. I took the exam with people who had to travel for more than 10 hours to take the exam, so have that in mind. Sometimes you will have to travel far to take the test.  
This last time (I will never do the test again), I saved money (and yes, the dollar was very high) I paid for the exam without telling anyone, just my English teacher because I told my family that I had passed it on my second attempt (if you're reading this mom, I'm sorry I lied to you). I decided that if this time I did not pass it, I would not try again because I had done everything possible. My third time was the best one, I got 91 points (I still can't believe it). 

All in all, my recommendation is that you should look for ways to help you improve your weaknesses. Take the practice exams. Improve your time, because it is the key to this exam, to be able to solve the tasks in the time they give you. Practice the exam as many times as necessary. Even though it is not mathematics, the exam has a certain structure and the examiners evaluate specific things in each task. Check out YouTube exam videos, so you know what is expected of you in each part of the exam. Be sure that you obtain the required score, no less than that, not even a point. Believe me, I tried to explain my lower score to Chalmers, doesn't work. Fulfil the requirements, trust me, it's completely worth it.  And finally, good luck!

Aleksandra, Poland

I started to think about applying to Chalmers two years before my graduation from my bachelor studies. I had enough time to plan things. While considering which English test I should take I asked my previous English teacher which recommended me IELTS Academic. She also told me it is good to go for courses which are focused specifically on this exam. 

I didn’t want to do this at the very last moment during my final year, so I started my course nearly one year before the Chalmers applications deadline. I joined a three months intensive course with six-hour lessons per week in a smaller group, where we were intensively practising English towards this exam. After finishing the course, I took a month to prepare myself and then I passed the test in July. What are my recommendations? Find other people who are preparing for the test and practice together with them! Also, the fee for the exam is quite high so it is also good to check your skills with a tutor before you go for the main exam. And remember that the certificate is only valid for two years from the moment of passing it. 

Read more about the tests here


Published: Mon 20 Jan 2020.