Instrumental English: two tips on how to optimize question answering time

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One of the biggest challenges applicants face whilst taking English proficiency exams to start their master's or doctorate in a non-English speaking country is knowing where to start. Find below three tips that may help you optimize your use of time.

1. Read the questions first

When we study for a test at university, we usually need to learn everything we can on the topic. After all, we don't know what questions will be asked. Therefore, it is natural to turn up to do a test that assesses your English level for your doctorate/master's and just read everything very carefully and interpret really well, right? 



English proficiency tests for academic purposes are analytical, as opposed to tests we take throughout our degree or post graduation, which tend to assess our skills to provide our own conclusions too. One hint you are taking an analytical test is if people from different degrees are taking the exact same test. If your college of choice has a test for "humanities" or "exact sciences", you probably won't have to interpret the test and add your own ideas. After all, it would be unfair to candidates who are not specialists in the topic presented. What you need to do, most of the time, is translate something. If that's case, do not retell in your own words, do not add your own ideas, do not summarize the entire reading passage. Read the questions first and see what is asked of you. 

2. Find KEY TERMS before reading the test 

Key terms are those you need to find in the reading passage. Generally, they are the verbs and nouns you find in the question. If you do not know those words in English, translate them. After all, you will be looking them up (or their equivalent) in the text. Circle these words and write the translation right above the question.Pronto! Você já está preparado para dar início à leitura do texto. 

Here's a quick snippet from a class The test we are usually is available for free @ UFMG's website: