Before taking the IELTS or the TOEFL tests, it is imperative to have a grasp of the sections that are evaluated. In the tests, the four language skills are being measured to determine a candidate’s ability to understand and use English.
In education, the four skills are called the macro skills. A person needs to learn all these areas to attain communication efficiency, both in absorbing and presenting information or messages.
The skills can be grouped according to their directions of communication. Language teachers call them the receptive skills and the productive skills. The receptive skills are reading and listening, while the productive skills are speaking and writing. The main difference is that, the receptive skills are directed inwards (input) and productive skills are outwards (output).
The Receptive Skills
The reading and listening sections of language tests are set to assess if a candidate can receive passages of different levels of difficulty under timed conditions. Thus, the reading and listening sections of the IELTS and the TOEFL measure how well a candidate absorbs information and answers questions in one hour. From the candidate’s point of view, the receptive skills are likewise important as they are necessary for extracting information from spoken or written discourses.
Among the four, listening is the first language that a person learns. The process starts with the sounds that enter the ears. They are then processed by our brains and become meaningful messages when interpreted. This is an important skill, as listening helps us understand what others say.
In addition, our speaking skills are also enhanced through our listening. By paying close attention to speeches, a person can improve his or her speaking by imitating the sound features that he or she hears. The sounds may include verbal or nonverbal features, such as pronunciation, intonation, pauses and even the accent. For instance, a person can adjust his pronunciation and accent by observing other people’s manner of speaking and imitating the sounds afterwards. By doing this, speaking clarity may be attained, which is undoubtedly beneficial during speaking tests.
In education, the listening skill is assessed through listening comprehension. In answering questions, the listening sub-skills are evaluated. Among these are: identifying the main idea or purpose, noting details, making connections, concluding, determining tones and attitudes, identifying organization or even summarizing. Under different settings and contexts, the sub-skills are also tested in the IELTS and the TOEFL. Thus, it is beneficial to understand the listening section and question types of your test.
Reading is the third language that a person learns. Similar to listening, it is likewise a process that involves absorbing and receiving information through the symbols or letters our eyes see. Because it is an input skill, it does not only broaden your knowledge, but it also builds your vocabulary and strengthens your grammatical proficiency.
To fully assess a person’s language skills, reading tests are given as comprehension assessments. The complicated part of it is that it involves several complex tasks to do, and they are assessed according to various question formats.
In answering the reading section, a candidate’s comprehension skills may be evaluated by: distinguishing the main idea from supporting ideas, identifying the main topic, extracting details, identifying key words, recognizing vocabulary and understand its meaning, getting important information, making inferences, understanding author’s view, and even summarizing sentences and passages. The tasks require skills, techniques and even previous knowledge to identify correct answers.
On the whole, since the tests evaluate how well you comprehend reading and listening discourses, be ready with effective strategies in approaching each section. Lastly, embrace the challenge of preparing for your test thoroughly. That should include the ways of improving your receptive skills!