Encyclopedia of Life

For both IELTS and TOEFL it would be a great idea to catch up with some of the podcasts available at the Encyclopedia of Life here:


Most of the podcasts are about 5 minutes long.

What you could do:

  • Listen to them
  • Make notes
  • Identify the main idea
  • Create two or three questions to check understanding
  • Check your understanding by looking at the transcript
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If spelling correctly is important in your situation then why not have a go at Spell-Up, the new game from Google. You will need to have sound enabled so that you can both hear and speak. You will hear a word and then need to spell it out letter by letter. As you get more words right then you build up a wall of words which enable you to go to the next level.


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Video snippets


If you have one of these 13 languages as your mother tongue (or maybe a good second language) then you could give Voscreen a go. Rather cleverly it takes short snippets of English and asks you to identify them in your native language. The snippets are from popular movies and TV series. This is a bit like the way you learned your mother tongue as a child. You can always ask for the snippet to be repeated and you get points for correct answers.

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Take charge of your own learning and collect useful phrases and words as you surf with Phraseum. Nik Peachey has written a very useful post about how to integrate Phraseum into your learning here. Add it to your browser and start your own collection now.

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Connect with English

Connect with English

Connect with English is a free video course with supporting materials available for free. Video is good for giving yo many clues about what is going on (ie context).

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English in ten minutes

No, I’m afraid this is not a claim that you can learn English in 10 minutes but it is rather an invitation to watch this irreverent history of English from Britain’s Open University. After watching it you may understand why it is not easy to learn English well because it is a mixture of so many influences which have all added to its complexity.

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Simplify your English

Rewordify is a new site to help you understand difficult English by making it simpler. Just add the URL of a website with the difficult text and Rewordify will take away the difficult words and use simpler ones instead. You can also just paste some text from a document instead. This would be useful to help you understand difficult words or to make a difficult text more understandable. See how it works in the video below: 
YouTube Preview Image

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Reading extensively helps a great deal in widening your vocabulary and there is no shortage of material now that so much is online. In May 2011 I featured Lingro as a way of helping you to get just in time translation as you are reading webpages and now there is a new tool called Readlang which offers a similar service. Readlang will help you out with translation and make a note of the words which you needed help with. You can then test yourself on how well you know the words.

One really neat feature is that the words you didn’t know are then put in order of importance so you know which ones you should concentrate on as you do your spaced practice.

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Virtual Writing Tutor

VirtWritTutUsing the spell checker in Word can help you pick up many errors but that tool is not designed to help English language learners and recognise the errors that they tend to make. Using the Virtual Writing Tutor can help you correct your texts. You can also test yourself by clicking on the Random Errors tab which gives you short sentences or phrases to correct. And if you get any wrong the website points you to some exercises you can do to target exactly the error that you made (or failed to spot). It’s all free! (Click on the image to see more detail).

This would be great for practising for TOEFL or IELTS tests.

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Business English

emailappJack Spencer Prince’s Business English blog contains lots of information and tips to help you use English in everyday business situations. It also contains a range of free exercises and offers the Email Writer app for iPhone, iPad and Android for €3.59 which helps you write emails while on the go.

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