Setting Measurable Goals
Committing to memory is not just about reciting or being familiar with the meaning. Aim for working memory retention. I will in future posts, explain how to go from short term memory to long term memory top what we call automatic – which involves, unfortunately, quite a number of cognitive processes.
In this area, it is important to be practical. You cannot hope to build reading skills by relying on translation for every 2 or 3 words and trying to improve reading skills and vocabulary retention at the same time can be very taxing on the brain. Work on the easier passages in the beginning so that you can free yourself to concentrate on actual reading skills rather than being preoccupied with word meaning. Make sure that the reading passages you choose are more than 50% understandable and you shouldn’t have to look up in the dictionary more than 7 words per page.
For the words you do not understand, work at either
1. Ignoring the word
2. Guessing the word in context
3. Using features of the work to guess meaning
Be careful – grammar books are notorious for featuring the standard ESL structures but ignoring the reality that these are not the structures often used in the exam in reading writing or speaking. Chose the structures you need to get the job done – not because a grammar book lists them.
Full essays are hard to get done – for example the whole writing exam in IELTS takes an hour.
You may be wise to do the writing in parts, such as the introduction, body 1, body 2 conclusion parts. Perhaps you can tie in the grammatical structures with the writing.
You may think it is tough to set measurable goals in speaking and it is but this doesn't mean it can’t be done. The problem is that we speak to communicate not to be tested or fulfill a quota, so it’s best if we measure natural real conversations as well as the artificial ones done in TOEFL, CELPIP or IELTS. Look at the huge variety of speaking questions and tasks both old and current and write answers to them and show them to your tutor.
Listening to Dialogues