Learning on your own at home can be challenging in many ways. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to study without the guidance of a teacher. It can be difficult to know if you’re improving, and what areas you still need to work on. Usually, taking tests is a good way of measuring progress. However, that’s tricky when lots of assessments have been cancelled or postponed.
But, there is good news! If you want to keep learning and tracking your improvement in English, there are lots of online tools that help you along:
1. Check your reading level
At Oxford University Press, we offer a smart test to check your reading level. In the first part of the test, you’ll be shown a series of words (in context) and you’re asked to decide whether or not you understand them. The words will get gradually more and more difficult as the level goes up. You’ll also read a page in English. The test will ask you if it’s too easy, too difficult, or just about right. Once you’ve chosen, you’ll be shown your reading level in English.
This learner-driven exercise isn’t like a traditional test – there’s no mark given at the end and you can’t fail. Instead, it works as a tool to help you discover your reading level in English on your own. You can use it as many times as you like to check your progress, so it’s a great way of measuring improvement, too.
The Oxford Learners’ Bookshelf is currently offering access to 148 graded readers for free. The offer lasts until the 30th of June, so you’ll have plenty of time to read and boost your level. You could even set yourself a goal of re-checking your reading level at the start of July. That way, you can see how much you’ve improved after two months of using the free graded readers.
2. Build your own test
If you’ve been focusing on particular grammar points, you can actually build your own test to discover how much you’ve learned. Headway, one of our popular general English courses, has a ‘build your own test’ tool. You can choose to be tested on grammar topics such as conditionals, modal verbs, time expressions and verbs patterns.
There are twenty topics to choose from and each topic has ten questions; five multiple-choice questions and five where you have to write your own answer. Once you’ve submitted your answers, you’ll receive your marks. If you’ve made a mistake you’ll be shown the correct answer.
3. Do a practice test
The Oxford Practice Grammar series has free downloads available online with practice tests and answer keys. There are three levels available, so you can choose the one most appropriate to you; basic, intermediate or advanced.
The basic test covers past, present and future tenses, as well as other topics like adjectives and pronouns. However, if your level is higher, you can test yourself on common intermediate topics such as reported speech, past and present tenses, modal verbs and word order. And if you’re feeling really ambitious, the advanced level tests you on grammar points like prepositions, adverbial clauses, determiners and quantifiers.
All the tests come with an answer key, so you can check your answers to see how well you did. The topic lists also provide a good study guide, so you have an idea of what is covered at each level. This way, you can really focus on your grammar and boost your level while learning at home!
If you’re working at roughly a B1 or B2 level, you can use the practice tests for the Oxford Test of English to test your skills. These will also help you become familiar with the question types and format of the test, and allow you to practise your English at the same time.
4. Take the Oxford Test of English demo
Another way to practise for the Oxford Test of English is with our two hour demo. This will allow you to see how each of the four modules of the test work. Just like in the real test, you can take the modules one at a time, or you can sit them all a once.
There are four modules in the test: Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing. The Listening module has four parts and takes about 30 minutes to complete. In the Speaking module, you practise skills like answering questions, leaving a voicemail and giving a talk. It should take about 15 minutes.
The Reading module has four parts. Each part is designed to test your reading skills in a different way – for example, you’ll be asked to read for gist and complete a gap-fill exercise. You’ll have approximately 35 minutes to answer all the questions. And in the Writing module, you’ll be asked to write an email response, and choose between writing an essay or a review. The whole module takes about 45 minutes to complete.
Even if your test has been postponed, you can make sure you are fully prepared for sitting the Oxford Test of English. You’ll be able to take your test at the first opportunity and feel confident about what to expect.
More tips for studying at home
Are there any other ways that you have been testing your English at home? If you are struggling to stay motivated, check out our post full of useful tips. And if you want to add some creativity into your study routine, have a look at these six creative ways to practise English online.
You can also find more resources to practise your English on our dedicated Learn at Home page, including free access to 148 Graded Readers e-books for all levels, ages and interests (available until 30th June 2020).