Michelle Obama once said, “Do not be afraid to ask for help. Nobody gets through college on their own.”
These words are true for any student, but they are especially relevant to students who are taking all their classes in a foreign language.
Whether you are preparing for college or already enrolled in a program, sometimes, you just need a helping hand to make sense of all the academic English you encounter.
Today, we’re sharing both online and on-campus resources to help non-native English students succeed in their studies, specifically resources for exam preparation, writing skills, vocabulary building and more.
- 1. Prepare for Exams with Academic English Help
- 2. Use the Purdue OWL for Academic Writing Help
- 3. Take Advantage of Your School’s ESL Support
- 4. Practice English in Context with Authentic Media
4 Academic English Help Resources for an A+ Education
1. Prepare for Exams with Academic English Help
A formal English exam can prove your English proficiency level to schools and identify your strengths and weaknesses.
Many English-language schools require this for non-native English speakers who want to apply to study.
The two most common exams are the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) and the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language).
The IELTS tests your proficiency in English. It is accepted in many colleges in the U.S. for entering into undergraduate or graduate programs.
Of course, you should only take one of these tests if you are ready! Programs like Academic English Help can prepare you.
Academic English Help is an online program (available on computers, smartphones or tablets) dedicated to helping students pass their IELTS. The course they offer is more than 100 hours long. It comes with slideshows, quizzes and practice tests that cover the listening, reading and speaking sections of the exam.
There are also video lessons and an entire YouTube page with even more resources, such as interview examples. The program also has support and chat services if you have questions.
If you are more interested in taking the TOEFL, Academic English Help has a sister website for that called TOEFL Test Help. It is made by the same company and offers similar courses for passing the TOEFL exam.
By using these programs, you will not only have a better chance of passing an exam, you will also be learning important skills for understanding and using academic English!
Before taking the IELTS or the TOEFL, make sure that you have the requirements and that the school of your choice accepts the test.
2. Use the Purdue OWL for Academic Writing Help
Part of being a student is knowing how to write research papers and persuasive essays. A great resource for mastering these skills is the Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab).
This website provides multiple guides and resources about how to properly write or format your papers. It is recognized and used by colleges all over the U.S., and will be extremely helpful when you are writing essays.
It covers many different writing skills, which you can browse on the left sidebar. Here are two of the most important topics covered:
- Techniques for different types of writing assignments: The Purdue OWL thoroughly explains concepts or vocabulary used in formal writing, from rhetoric to logic in arguments to narrative essays. There is even a guide to writing a proper email.
- Correctly citing and referencing your work: References and citations are used to give credit to the original author if you mention their research or ideas in your own paper. In American colleges, it is considered unethical to claim information as your own (even if you do it by accident).
Being aware of this is very important because the standards are different in some countries. For example, when I worked at a university’s writing center, there were many international Chinese students who were not familiar with citations and references. They explained to the writing center staff that the concept of plagiarism does not exist in China.
The Purdue OWL has an extremely helpful guide to using the correct references and formats in academic writing. The most common ones are called MLA format and APA format. Using these formats can be very confusing, but your professors will expect you to be familiar with them and use them.
Even if you have a fantastic paper, your professor may give you a lower grade if you do not provide references correctly, so make sure to check out those guides.
3. Take Advantage of Your School’s ESL Support
Many schools and universities offer English learning classes to international students. Usually, they will test your English ability through one of the exams mentioned above. Depending on your score, they will place you in a class that matches your level of English speaking, whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced learner of English.
Some schools will not let you take regular English classes (the ones that native speaking students take) or other classes until you have passed your English language class, because they want you to be ready.
There is an added benefit to these classes: You will find other ESL or international students who may also want to practice English. If you make friends with another ESL student, the two of you can practice your English together.
Some schools have English practice clubs, where the whole purpose is to let non-native speakers practice their English.
Additionally, most schools offer free tutoring services to their students. These tutors can help you understand reading material from your classes that is difficult for you. They can also help with essays or writing assignments.
Sometimes ESL students do not know how to use grammar properly or have trouble expressing themselves in writing. It is the tutor’s job to help you write down what you want to say, so it makes sense to you and your professor. A writing tutor can also help you with references or MLA/APA if you are still confused about them.
Also, if nothing else, just talking to a tutor in English can help you practice and learn the kind of English that is used in college.
4. Practice English in Context with Authentic Media
Okay—sometimes academic English just gets boring. You are reading formal papers and memorizing technical terms… it is just not as fun as diving into a good book or jamming to English music.
Authentic English-language media can make all the difference in your learning. It gives your mind a break from the hard study mode of textbooks and lessons. It also lets you see how academic English translates in real contexts in an entertaining way.
Netflix is a good place to start, with tons of titles that can help round out your English learning. Though I do suggest going for documentaries, or series in a higher education setting so the language is a little more relevant to you.
If you want to see examples of formal English, YouTube’s filled with news clips and TED talks that can help you out. For a little bit of everything in the media, the video-based learning program FluentU annotates its authentic English content with interactive subtitles for added comprehension.
All of these resources are designed to help you in an English-speaking university. It may seem scary to learn all of this, but it is a challenge worth taking. By understanding academic English, you will do well in school, which can open an endless number of opportunities for your future.