Why your English (probably) isn’t good enough to get 100 in TOEFL/7.0 in IELTS

If you’re struggling to reach 100 in TOEFL or 7.0 in IELTS, there’s a strong possibility that it’s not just your strategy that you need to work on. You probably also need to improve your English.

Of course, you may have been lucky and had some great English teachers at school, or you may have had the opportunity to study abroad. But for most Japanese people, even if you went to good schools, your English probably didn’t get to a high enough level to achieve top scores in the TOEFL or IELTS tests. But why is that?

Well, there are two fundamental problems – how you studied, and what you studied.

At school, you probably had English lessons where the students were quite passive – a lot of listening to the teacher, a lot of grammar translation, and a lot of vocabulary tests. This means that you probably have a lot of knowledge of English, which is good, but TOEFL and IELTS are not just testing your knowledge. These tests assess how you can use English in realistic scenarios that you will encounter when you study abroad.

The range of English vocabulary and grammar you studied at school was probably also too narrow, too basic, and quite unnatural. Here’s a real example from a student showing some common problems:

‘My trip to Kyoto was good because I could enjoy various dishes.’

This sentence has several problems:

  1. ‘My trip to Kyoto was good.’ – this is not grammatically wrong, but it sounds a little unnatural. Native speakers are more likely to use a different expression, the word ‘good’ is very common and basic, and native speakers would usually use stronger language to express this idea, like this: ‘I had a fantastic time in Kyoto.’
  2. ‘because I could enjoy various dishes.’ – here, there is some direct translation from Japanese, ‘various’ is used wrongly, and ‘dishes’ sounds unnatural when used in this context. This is better: ‘mainly because of the great food.’

So this sounds much more natural and high level:

‘I had a fantastic time in Kyoto, mainly because of the great food.’

If you can already produce this kind of sentence, then you’re probably at the right level to get 100 in TOEFL or 7.0 in IELTS. If not, you might need to work on your English!


If this sounds like you, then check out the second in our series of videos about our new ‘Essential English‘ course here. You’ll find another useful example of how to change your English there.

You can join the Essential English course from April 6th 2019.

The course is specially for TOEFL and IELTS students who are currently scoring 70-89 (TOEFL), or 5.5-6.0 (IELTS) who need to improve their English. The classes are very active and lively – so you’ll get plenty of opportunity to use the language you’re learning, and get feedback from your teacher.

For more information, please visit the Essential English home page here. You can also register for a free demonstration lesson here on these dates:

Saturday 16th March, 14:30-16:00

Saturday 30th March, 15:00-16:30

Saturday 6th April, 14:30-16:00

Hope to see you soon!

Mike Thundercliffe, Manager Curriculum and Instruction, Agos Japan

Why improving your English is key to increasingTOEFL and IELTS scores

Hi, this is Mike, and in this blog post I’m going to explain why improving your English is probably the key to improving your TOEFL or IELTS test scores, and to introduce a new course we’re developing to help you achieve your goals.

If you’re taking TOEFL or IELTS, you may have experience of ‘hitting a plateau’. This is when your score stops going up for an extended period of time. You keep practicing and taking the test, but your score just doesn’t change. It’s a very common problem, but why does it happen?

Basically, when this occurs it’s usually because you’ve reached your limit in terms of your English. It’s important to remember that TOEFL and IELTS are (very accurate) measures of your English level. So if your knowledge of English and ability to use it are too low, you’re not going to increase your test scores beyond your limit, even if your strategy is really good.

To help students overcome this issue, the Curriculum and Instruction team at Agos is currently developing and piloting a new course called ‘Essential English‘, which you can join from April 6th 2019.

We’re designing the course specially for TOEFL and IELTS students who are currently scoring 70-89 (TOEFL), or 5.5-6.0 (IELTS) who need to improve their English.

If this sounds like you, then check out the first in our series of videos about the course here. For more information, please visit the Essential English home page here. You can also register for a free demonstration lesson here on these dates:

Saturday 16th March, 14:30-16:00

Saturday 30th March, 15:00-16:30

Saturday 6th April, 14:30-16:00

Hope to see you soon!

Mike Thundercliffe, Manager Curriculum and Instruction, Agos Japan


TOEFL iBT ® Reading Sectionで安定的に28点以上取るために ― by 岡田徹也

皆さん、こんにちは。TOEFL/GMAT/GRE講師の岡田です。TOEFL iBT ®で100点突破を目指している方は多いと思いますが、Reading Sectionで安定的に28点以上が出せる力を身に付けることで100点突破の可能性は大いに高まります。私はReading Practice Advancedというクラス(安定的に28点以上のスコアを出すことを目的としたクラス)を担当することが多いので、今回は「Reading Sectionで28点以上を取るために鍵となること」についてお話ししたいと思います。

1. 時間配分
「時間との戦いを制する者がReadingを制する」と言っても過言ではありません。クラスの初日に課題分析をしていただくのですが、ほとんどの方が「時間配分が上手くいかないこと」を課題に挙げます。この課題克服のための一つの方法が、28点以上を取る人と同じようなペースで読み・解きする感覚(体内時計)を身に付けることです。例えば、クラスでは、私が実際に解いたペースとほぼ同じペースで問題にチャレンジする、という演習を行っています。初めてこの演習を行うと、ご自身が普段解いているペースと異なるため慌ててしまい実力が発揮できない方がいます。しかし、この練習を数回行っていくと28点以上を取る人のペースにも慣れ、多くの方はクラスの最終日には28点以上を取る人と同じような時間配分で読み・解きする感覚(体内時計)を身に付けています。なかなか独学で同じようなことをするのは難しいですが、一つの方法として、「10分経過の時点で7番目または8番目の問題を解いている」、「最後から2番目の問題(Insert Test Question)と最後の問題(Prose Summary Question/Fill in a Table Question)を残り3分で解く」という2点を意識しながら演習を行うと良いでしょう。

2. Question Types
ETSが公表しているQuestion Typesは10個ありますが、28点以上を安定的に取れる方は苦手なQuestion Typesというものがありません。「24点~26点は取ったことはあるが、なかなか28点を越えない」という方は、例えば、以下のような課題があることが多いと思われます。
・後半に出題されるFactual Information Questionsの正答率が低い
・Rhetorical Purpose Questionsで簡単に解答できる問題とそうでない問題がある
・Sentence Simplification Questionsでハイライト文が長いと正答率が低い
・Insert Text Questionsは正解を知った後で考えれば分かるのに、自力で解くとなかなか上手くいかない
・Prose Summary Questionsの正答率が安定しない
まずは苦手なQuestion Typesを把握することが大切ですが、ここでは課題克服のためのコツの一部をお話ししましょう。例えば、Prose Summary Questionsの正答率が安定しない方は「本文に記載がある些末な情報が書かれている肢」を選ぶ傾向にあります。本文に記載がある情報だと選びたくなりますよね。しかし、要約として「些末な情報」は不適切です。では、「些末な情報」と「要約として適切な情報」をどのように見分ければいいのでしょうか? 一つの方法としては、選択肢を見比べながらどちらが些末な情報かを考えます。Prose Summary Questionsには、「正解となる情報」と「それを具体的に説明している情報(本文に記載がある些末な情報)」の両方が選択肢になっている場合があります。

「Reading sectionで28点以上を取るために鍵となること」についてまだまだお話ししたいのですが、あまり長くなるのもどうかと思いますので(すでに長いかもしれませんが)、今回はこの辺りで失礼します。私のブログの内容が少しでも皆さんの目標達成にお役に立てたら嬉しいです。

Improve your Vocabulary for TOEFL and IELTS Speaking Tests – by Dan Bates

Hi everyone, I’m Dan and today I’m going to give you some advice on how to improve your vocabulary for your TOEFL and IELTS speaking tests.

I’ve noticed that many of mys students find it difficult to express themselves when it comes to talking about their feelings and emotions in English. All too often, my students will rely on ‘basic’ or neutral vocabulary to describe how they were feeling. For example, “I was happy/sad/tired/angry” or “It was fun/nice”. Using this ‘simple’ or ‘neutral’ vocabulary (in bold) limits your ability to truly express your feelings and can have a negative impact on your grades in TOEFL and IELTS. Only using simple vocabulary in your speaking test can limit your TOEFL score to a 2, or your IELTS Lexical Resource score to a 5.

However, talking about your feelings is an easy opportunity to use some more advanced vocabulary and boost your scores.

So, what should you do? First, learn some less common synonyms and phrases for emotions. I’ll get you started with the emotion ‘happy’.

Common/neutral word Less common word
happy delighted, ecstatic, chuffed (Brit. Informal)

These three adjectives are direct synonyms for ‘happy’, and can simply replace ‘happy’ when describing a joyous occasion. If you can use an idiomatic phrase too, the grader/examiner will definitely be impressed. Here’s an idiom for ‘happy’.

‘happy’ = ‘over the moon

You can also use some collocations using a modifier with the adjective, as below:

‘very happy’ = ‘deliriously happy

You can now express yourself with a number of words and phrases that are sure to catch the grader/examiner’s ear. The great thing about focusing on vocabulary for feelings and emotions is that they are very adaptable to a whole range of questions. It doesn’t matter what the topic of the question is, you can always talk about how the topic makes you feel. Here are some more examples:

Common/ neutral word

Less common word Idiom


sad depressed

‘I was depressed when I didn’t get the job.’

down in the dumps

‘I was down in the dumps when I didn’t get the job.’

incredibly sad

‘I was incredibly sad when I didn’t get the job.’

tired exhausted

‘I was exhausted after the tennis match.’

dead on one’s feet

‘I was dead on my feet after the tennis match.’

completely drained

‘I was completely drained after the tennis match.’

angry furious

‘My dad was furious after I damaged his car.’

fly off the handle

‘My dad flew off the handle after I damaged his car.’

absolutely furious

‘My dad was absolutely furious after I damaged his car.’

So, go ahead and find some words, idiomatic phrases and collocations for the other feelings and emotions (you can start here: http://www.thesaurus.com/ )* and then practice using them to answer the following questions.

Speak for 30 to 45 seconds on the following topics:

  1. your happiest childhood memory
  2. your favourite pet
  3. a memorable day from high school
  4. a place you enjoy visiting

Record your speech on your phone then listen back to check you used the less common words and phrases in your answers. Practice until it becomes natural to use these words.

Finally, remember to take risks and do use these words when you take the exam. It’s better to use less-common words (even if you make some mistakes) than playing it safe and using simpler vocabulary. If you can start using these words more frequently, you’ll be ‘over the moon’ with the results!

*When you use a thesaurus, you should also check the synonyms in a dictionary to ensure you understand the nuances in meaning.

「何となくわかった気になっている症候群」を脱しよう — by 小林朋子

こんにちは。TOEFL / IELTS講師の小林です。今日は、英語を何となくわかった気になっている現象を脱することについてお話します。



Room for a kitchen table, intended to be used by the household for informal family meals rather than by the kitchen staff for preparing meals, was provided.

文中にカンマがあるので、時間をかければそれ程難しくないと思います。文構造は、Room was provided. です。文構造を捉えられないと、intendedが動詞かな?などと思ってしまうことがあるようです。文の構造を捉えることによって、正確に読むことができるようになります。因みに冒頭のRoomは無冠詞なので「部屋」ではありません。場所とか空間といった意味です。


These conditions are hostile to plants, making it difficult for new growth to become established in the enriched soil.

makingがどういう使い方なのか、またmaking itのitが何を指しているか理解できますか?makingは分詞構文、itは仮目的語で不定詞to become~を指しています。高校生くらいで理解できる構文です。


While most physicians refused to deal with Beethoven after encountering his ill temper, supporters of his music refused to abandon him because of the radical changes he had brought about as a composer.

冒頭のWhileは対比の関係を表します。何と何が対比されているでしょう? 「ほとんどの医者がベートーベンを診ることを拒否した」という内容と、「ベートーベンの支援者は彼を見捨てることを拒否した」。ざっくり言えば、一方はベートーベンを見捨て、他方は見捨てないという対比です。さらに支援者が見捨てない理由も述べられています。「作曲家としてベートーベンがもたらした根本的な変革」です。つまりこの一文の中に、対比と因果の論理関係が含まれています。このような論理関係は文と文の関係でもよく見られます。TOEFLやIELTSの英語を読むときは、どのような論理展開になっているのかをしっかり意識して捉えていくことが重要です。これはリスニングの講義を聞くときも同じです。