Magoosh GRE

5 Revision Tips For International and ESL Students

| January 4, 2015

Revision for exams is a daunting and unwelcome task for any student; however if you are an International or ESL student studying in a foreign county, revision might be even more challenging than normal. Fortunately WritePass recognises this difficulty and have helped thousands of ESL or international students to revise effectively and to pass their exams with amazing success.

Here are our top tips Revision Tips For International and ESL Students:


Improve Your Vocabulary

Most ESL students write using their existing vocabulary – words that come to you without much thought. This is understandable because, as you write and think you have to juggle many things in your mind; however, sometimes this can sound too casual or disjointed in an essay. Instead you can improve your writing by up-grading, or improving, your vocabulary: use a highlighter pen when revising to mark certain vocabulary items. For example, yellow for nouns, green for verbs, and other colours for adjectives, transitions and so on. Go through your work and ask yourself: “Is that word the best I can do?” Do the words actually express what I want to convey?

Either you can think more carefully about words you know or go to a thesaurus. A thesaurus is a book like a dictionary except that it lists words of the same meaning. You can buy print versions, Roget’s Thesaurus being the most famous, but most electronic dictionaries and computers have them. Not all examples in a thesaurus will mean the same thing so you need to cross-reference with a dictionary to make sure it is the meaning you really want.

Create a Checklist of Your Weaknesses

This is fairly simple: understand what kinds of mistakes you make or habits you have that weaken your writing. If you don’t know, look back at any work that has been corrected by a tutor, or speak to you tutor directly about this. Often the same mistakes are made? Do you forget or mix up articles (a, an, the)? This can help you to create a checklists of your mistakes you could use. Make a list of these things, keep it somewhere prominent and refer to it when you check your writing.

‘Listen’ to Your Essay

As you write and re-read your work, your eye and brain become used to seeing the words. In some cases you become too familiar with your own writing so you miss small mistakes. Read your own writing aloud (in English) will help, but you have to vocalise, or say, the words clearly. As you do this you may catch some things. But, the next step is important. You can also try recording yourself reading your essay and then play back the recording. This will help you to:

  • catch small mistakes (articles, tenses, grammar etc.)
  • realise the rhythm of your writing is too monotonous (similar word length etc.)
  • find you don’t move smoothly between ideas and sections (transitions)
  • see (hear, actually) you have used the same word too much or the words are too simple (vocabulary)

Pause and make corrections to your writing as you listen, and do it a number of times to be sure. At first you may be shy doing this recording and even shocked at hearing yourself speaking in a foreign language, but it is a good exercise to do.


Check Spelling Backwards!

Computers can check spelling for you but electronic spell checks are not perfect.

Firstly, spell check using your computer, then read your writing backwards, in reverse. When we read we group words together in our mind. We do not (or should not) read each single word individually, so we might overlook spelling mistakes or omissions in the process. Reading from back to front makes us focus on individual words and we can more easily pick mistakes.

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Find a Friend

It is advisable to have another person read your final essay before you submit it. If it is someone in the same class or who has the same assignment you can do it as an exchange. A native speaker of the language would also be helpful, but perhaps too helpful. A native speaker who is not a teacher might tend to do too much work for you and you will not benefit in the long-term. Find a friend who is willing to spend some time on your writing and give you constructive comments, advice and criticism. If you are a friend, be honest about where you think improvements can be made. If you are the writer, be open to criticism and consider the advice you are given. Both of you would benefit from the task of peer review, which is what we call this. A peer is someone who is equal to you such as a classmate or fellow student. Often a peer can give you much more feedback than a teacher who might have many papers to check.


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Category: Articles & Advice