Free Apps for Improving your English

Free apps to improve your English for the TOEFL and IELTS speaking exams.

by John Grant

I’m often asked by students which online resources they can use to improve their speaking skills in preparation for taking either the IELTS or TOEFL exam.

I base my recommendations on three criteria:

  1. Motivating
  2. Easy to use
  3. Free (mostly)


  1. Google pronunciation

This completely free (amazing !!) function in the Google search engine allows you to hear and see how a word is pronounced in both British and American accents. Also, it has a practice button allowing you to try to pronounce it with feedback to see what you are doing wrong. This is a real game changer! Just type the word and type pronunciation. For example, try to type ‘wonderful pronunciation‘ into your search engine. Try it now!

Note: This works best with Google Chrome.



The free version of this app is a must-have for mobile phone owners. Practice small discrete lessons based on topics to expand your vocabulary and improve your grammatical accuracy. The daily reminders and point system keep you motivated and you can finish a lesson in less than 10 minutes. Perfect for the commute!

Note: There is a paid version that eliminates the ads.

3 Drops

This beautifully designed app builds your vocabulary in a wide variety of topics with a clean interface. The constant repetition of vocabulary ensures that you won’t forget new vocabulary.

Note: The free version has a time limit for how long you can use it, but it is more than enough for daily use.


4 Busuu

A variety of lessons on common topics will keep you motivated with very natural conversations. This app uses cutting-edge AI machine learning to constantly improve the app! Also, it has a feature that connects speakers of other languages ​​to grade each other’s progress . This is a great source if you would like to move beyond textbook English.

Note: The free version limits access to the whole lesson so you may want to pay for the full version.


5 Ted Talks

This is a huge resource of lectures and talks on almost any subject imaginable. Use these lectures to practice summarizing skills that are so vital for the academic lectures you encounter in both the IELTS and TOEFL. Each lecture has subtitles in many languages ​​so you read along with the lecture in both English and Japanese! This feature also allows you to navigate the lecture easily so you can repeat sentences and phrases.

I will be back soon with more tips and suggestions!


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