Reduce your anxiety if you’re taking the TOEFL test

Over the last 9 years, I’ve spent a lot of time helping people to prepare for important language proficiency tests.  Many of those people have taken the same test, again and again, hoping to achieve a different result.  However, they keep finding that their score isn’t high enough, in at least one area.  One reason for this can be because they have not had an expert help them out with their test preparation.  Another common reason is that of anxiety.

One resource that I recommend for people who have really struggled is Glenn Harrold’s hypnosis MP3. You can purchase it and download it very quickly to begin working on reducing your stress.

For others, who are feeling that stress is reducing their score, I recommend taking the time to focus on breathing. Even in the middle of a high-stakes test, it’s relatively easy to take 3 slow, deep breaths before each speaking session.  This will reduce anxiety, slow breathing and pulse, regulate the voice, and clear the mind.  Don’t wait until test day to do this.  Incorporate the practice into every practice session, so that it will come naturally on test day.

All the best on your big exam, and if you want personalized help to improve your score and reduce your anxiety, you can book lessons with me here:




Advice from English language learners


In 1996, I lived in the USA for six months. I stayed with a host family, went to high school and was the only Brazilian in my neighbourhood. At the time I found it very hard to come to a new country and to have to deal with everyday situations, because my English background was not as good as I thought it was. Being immersed in an environment and being surrounded by people who are only speaking a foreign language, makes you improve your skills, whether you like it or not. It’s a matter of survival. So, when you least expect it, you are not only speaking the language, but also thinking in that language. People often say, once you are fluent, you can even dream, have conversations or interact in English. Although it is hard not to be able to speak your native language with anyone around you, it can be a very helpful situation.


This time around, I came to Canada with my husband and even though sometimes, we speak English to each other to improve ourselves, I find it much more difficult to be eloquent in the language. When we are tired, just not “in the mood” or want a sense of private talk, we tend to speak Portuguese with each other. It is comfortable, comes naturally, and it is easier to express yourself. As well, it is incredibly hard to be around a person that speaks your native language without doing so. Although having the company of someone from your country can be very comforting, it also can delay the process of enhancing your language skills. We see it happen all the time, families or friends that come together to a different country and keep the household with the original language. It can be even worse if one of the members isn’t working or studying at the time. Mostly the only people they interact with all day long are their spouse, or their friends from their home country. It is a much harder process to learn under these conditions.


Taking a class in English, any kind of class, can be helpful. Not only because you practice your speaking skills, but also because you mostly have to think in English. As you are taught the lessons and the procedures, you eventually absorb more than you realize from the language. Working in an environment where your colleagues are talking to each other and you have to do your share and explain yourself, gradually helps you to take your skills to another level. Part of the process of adapting to a different language is being able to understand the social aspects and conduct input in a conversation as well as the use of words in context that you could never be aware of if you don’t interact with people from that culture. So, get out, participate in as many activities as you can, try a hobby, or join a group. These are all effective ways to improve yourself. In summary, I’m trying to say that it is much easier to learn a new language if you can interact with others, especially native speakers.



I have been learning English for more than 3 years. At first, I just knew some vocabulary and grammar that was learned in middle school and high school but I had lots of difficulty in speaking and writing English. So, I thought that I needed to set a goal to improve my English. At that time, I just decided to immigrate to Canada for many good reasons. To apply for Canadian permanent residency, a good result on an English proficiency test was mandatory. It became my short-term goal. I think this was really effective for improving my English. In order to get the required score in the English test, I studied very hard. Despite all of the difficulties such as spending only a little time with my family, I was able to focus on studying English. Then, after about 1 year, I made it! It was hard and sometimes stressful, however, there was no doubt that my English skill improved significantly. So, I would say that you must find a strong reason why you need to learn English.


I was so happy that I could get the P. R. (Permanent Residency) permit, but I felt like learning English was too boring back then. I just put away all of my English books and did nothing relating to English until I came to Canada. Then, I was shocked for some time as I could not speak and understand English well!


So, I started to study English again, but I wanted to do it for fun at that time. Meanwhile, I purchased the Netflix program on my smart TV application for my daughter, as there are various kids’ cartoons.


But, after I logged in, I was really into those programs. There were new and old movies, dramas, documentaries and cartoons with English subtitles. By just pushing buttons on my remote control, I could study English for fun. I followed the story, listened to the dramas or movies and watched the subtitles at the same time. Sometimes I took notes when I read some new words and I read aloud along with the scripts. Now, it is my favourite way to enjoy learning English.

I know it is a long way to go for mastering English. However, I believe I can enjoy the long journey if I keep learning English with a strong goal and easy and fun methods.

How I upgraded my listening comprehension in a very pleasant way


The biggest problem with the English language that I ever had was the understanding of the spoken word. For me it sounded like a sequence of rrr-tones and often I couldn’t recognize where a word started or ended. Most of the time at school, we practiced English by studying texts, reading books or practising grammar. If we had to talk about a subject we could only learn from ourselves, which meant using very simple sentences with a strong accent. Although I was able to read texts or whole books, I had real problems understanding native speaking people. So I could better understand people who had the same strange accent as me.


Our teacher suggested that we watch BBC or CNN news, but in the beginning, this was a very frustrating method. The fast-spoken script, with lots of specialized terminology about special topics in these countries wasn’t the right method for me. But afterwards I discovered the perfect practise for me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been really addicted to American TV-series or shows with a long storyline such as Breaking Bad, Lost, Friends, or Dexter. In Germany, I had to wait a really long time for the next season or episode. That’s because in Germany – in contrast to the most other European countries – all films and TV-shows are first synchronized. So while I’ve loved to spend my time with TV-shows and since I’m always waiting a long time for the next episode, I could just as well watch these shows in English. In contrast to the English news on TV, I could get these shows also with subtitles and stop the scene when it is necessary. This was the best possibility for me to practise understanding spoken English while having fun and reducing tension with this activity. I can really recommend this way of learning English.



Today I am going to write about my experience in learning English as a second language.

To continue my career in Canada, the requirement is an IELTS exam with a 7 score in all four disciplines. When I first took this exam, my score was 5.5, and this improved to 6.5. However jumping from 6.5 to 7 is a challenge for me, especially in writing. The question is why is it so challenging for me? The first reason is that I started out by writing an essay, not by learning about the different parts of essays and their purposes. The second reason is because I was trying on my own to improve, without taking any classes or getting help from a teacher.


My suggestion to people who have a weak language background is to attend classes from the beginning, to learn the different patterns of writing before starting to write anything. This will help significantly to improve your writing. To illustrate, in organized classes you will learn the meaning of writing and the purpose of writing. In my case, when I failed to understand on my own how to write an effective essay, it was a red flag for me. Then I started to take language classes, in which I learned what the purpose of writing is, and how to write various forms of writing for different audiences. In class I learned about writing step- by-step. That means writing is a process of several stages such as introduction, thesis statement, topic sentence, examples and conclusion. To understand all of this took me so long. It is my advice that you join proper classes to decrease the frustration of failure and to build your confidence.



4 top tips for your IELTS essay – Task 2 | How to improve IELTS | IELTS Learning Tips

Learn to get your best result on IELTS essay writing.

Did you know that the IELTS writing usually scores to lowest band in any IELTS exam session? The IELTS writing test can be a hard mountain to climb but with the right preparation you can make sure that your IELTS essay will be good enough to attract the score that you really want.

Taking time over your IELTS writing practice and making sure that you are not repeating the same mistakes over and over is essential and with some focus you will soon be on track to get the score you dream about.

via 4 top tips for your IELTS essay – Task 2 | How to improve IELTS | IELTS Learning Tips.

Most of my students have not written an academic essay in a long time, even in their own language.  There are quite a few skills to practice, if you want to do well on your IELTS task 2 essay.  If you take the time to practice those skills, you can improve your score a lot!  If you’re taking the test, check other links on this website, because there are tips for the other tasks on the test.

Happy test-taking!

Advanced English Lessons – English Activities for Upper Intermediate Level Learners

Advanced English Lessons – English Activities for Upper Intermediate Level Learners.

The ESOL Courses site has many different listening and reading activities, for various levels.  There are many activities here that will help a lot if you’re preparing to take the IELTS test.

Resources for students of English

This page has links to many excellent learning resources for English students!

English resources for students

This section features English language resources which we think are genuinely useful for students. The listings will grow weekly, but we plan to include only the best sites. We hope you like the sites we’ve featured so far. You can browse all the sites listed, or sort them by category. For a full description of a resource, click on its image.

via Resources for students of English.

How to Write in English Like a Native Speaker | English Harmony

How to Write in English Like a Native Speaker | English Harmony.

This is advice about writing in English from Robby, who also posts videos every day on

First of all – who said I’m providing advice to wannabe writers and publishers? I’m giving useful tips for the average foreign English speaker who wants to learn how to write faster, more efficiently and in a native-like fashion at work in terms of professional correspondence, in college and maybe on their personal blog.

If you need to write for university and a professional environment, it’s likely necessary to use a more formal style, but I agree with Robby that the main goal of writing is communication, so you want to use clear and simple language, as much as possible.  One excellent piece of advice that he gives is to check phrases on Google, to get a better idea of what sounds correct.  In English (and most languages) we often use a particular verb with a particular noun, and it looks really strange to your reader when you use a different combination.  Robby suggests searching different options on Google, or even just typing in the word that you want to use, and you’ll see a lot of possible combinations come up.  A good English-English dictionary will also suggest several phrases with any new word.

I see that many students avoid writing in English, and they prefer to focus on their oral communication.  In my opinion, it’s really useful and important to write about everything new that you learn, using English.  It gives you a permanent record of what you have learned, you have time to really think about what you want to say, and when you write, you use more parts of your body and your brain, and that helps you to remember things for longer.  I don’t mean just writing out lists of words from class, I mean really using written English to communicate.  Start sending emails or text messages to people in English as soon as you can.  You’ll get feedback about how clear your writing is, and you can continue to improve and feel confident.

Start by sending me a comment!

Reading passages for ESL language learners in Canada


Reading passages for English language learners in Canada

Reading ESL

Although there are many language resources available online for language learners, it is difficult to find good materials for practicing reading for comprehension.  This site has reading passages on many subjects, especially related to Canada, so it will be useful for preparing for the citizenship test, as well as for improving your reading skills.  Click the link and let me know what you read about!

10 things ESL students can do with Evernote on their tablets

This is written for teachers, but you can easily see how you can use your tablet, laptop, and/or smartphone, along with Evernote to document your progress in using the English language. I also recommend that you put together a portfolio of any of your work in your field of study!

Oxford University Press

Tablet in handsMohamed El-Ashiry takes a look at how Evernote can be used in the classroom

Portfolio assessment in the ESL classroom offers many benefits. On the Prince George’s County Public Schools’ website, a portfolio is defined as ‘a purposeful collection of student work that exhibits the student’s efforts, progress, and achievements in one or more areas of the curriculum’. Brown & Hudson (1998) have also described portfolios as a ‘family of assessments’. Some of the benefits of using portfolios, as described by Brown & Hudson (1998) include: (1) focusing student attention on learning processes; and (2) increasing student involvement in the learning processes. I have always been a fan of such ‘alternatives in assessment‘ because of the fact that they focus a lot more on the ‘process of learning’ as opposed to the ‘product of learning’ (Brown & Hudson, 1998).

Now that iPads and tablets are spreading into many…

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LISTEN: Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab – For English as a Second Language

Many students really want to improve their listening skills, and it’s really important if you need to take a language proficiency test. Randall has many listening lessons, with audioscripts and quizzes, to help you make sure you got the meaning. There are also lessons for improving vocabulary, specifically for listening.

Randall's ESL Cyber Listening Lab – For English as a Second Language.

Get ready for TOEFL

If you need an English proficiency exam in order to continue your studies or to qualify for your field in Canada, it’s important to explore both the TOEFL test and IELTS.  For those who are already living and working in Canada, I feel that TOEFL is more suitable because the American English will be more familiar for listening, typing on a computer better simulates the workplace, and there are many integrated tasks, which help you to use all of your skills at the same time. Other students prefer the personal interview and handwritten writing assignments for IELTS. Either way, it’s important to choose your exam carefully because you’re investing a very large amount of time and money. Scroll farther down the page for IELTS study websites.
There are several webpages to help you prepare for TOEFL:

Let me know if you want to arrange 1:1 tutoring for the TOEFL test, I really enjoy helping students get ready for this exam.

I want to be a resident in Canada!


Many of my students want to stay in Canada, and they are trying to become a resident.  If you’re already working in Canada, you may qualify for residency, but you’ll have to take a test to shows your skills with an official language (English or French).  The 2 tests that are recognized are IELTS and CELPIP.

Each test has a different format.  Both tests are similar in cost.

IELTS – The International English Language Testing System

IELTS is jointly managed by Cambridge University, the British Council, and IELTS in Australia.  The test uses mainly UK English, and all writing is done with pencil and paper.  The speaking is an interview format, with a tester.  The General writing tasks include writing a letter and writing an opinion essay.  These tasks are quite difficult if you have been away from school for a long time.  Most students find that they need to prepare carefully to succeed at this test.

A newer test in Canada is the CELPIP test:

This test has a different format.  Everything is done on a computer, and the English is Canadian English.  The writing tasks are an informal and a formal letter.  The speaking is done using the computer.  Several listening and speaking tasks include describing a picture.

If you want to take a language test to become a Canadian resident, you should try both sample tests to see what format is best for you.  It will be important to take time to study regularly, and a class or a tutor can help you to do that.  Ask me if you have any questions about the tests and how to get ready.