Advanced English: 12 Methods and Additional Resources for Continuous Improvement

As we all know, learning a language is not an easy task.

At higher levels of language learning, it’s very common to reach a plateau—a point where you feel like you’re no longer making progress.

In this post, we’ll discuss 12 methods to continue improving the four major language skills (reading, listening, writing and speaking) at an advanced level of English proficiency.


The Receptive Skills

Reading and listening are receptive skills. This means you’ll receive English-language input and need to understand it. Here are three ways to improve each.


1. Change your usual resources

One of the reasons students reach a plateau in their advanced English reading skills is because they often read the same kind of text over and over again.

Do you read the same newspaper every day? Are you reading the fifteenth book in a series of mystery novels?

To get better at reading, change it up! Choose a newspaper you’ve never read before. Select your next novel from a genre that is new to you. Read an English-language blog.

If you read a wider variety of genres and authors, you’ll encounter more varied language and you’ll be more likely to learn something new.

If you’re hesitant to read new material because looking up new words is time-consuming, consider using the online extension Readlang. Adding Readlang to your devices will allow you to click on any English word for an instant translation. It will even automatically save the words you’ve clicked as flashcards so you can study them.

Of course, reading anything is better than not reading at all. But to improve your reading skills, you have to get out of your comfort zone!

2. Test yourself on the text

Are you studying English by yourself without a classroom or teacher? Has it been a long time since your last formal English reading exam?

If so, then you may be out of practice with certain skills. For example, guessing the meaning of a new word based on its context is a skill often taught to students when they’re going to take exams.

No worries—you can also improve these types of reading skills on your own!

Next time you read something for pleasure, take a few minutes after you finish to study the text as if you were preparing for an exam.

Pretend that it’s very important for you to remember all of the most important information about the reading. Imagine what type of questions could appear on an exam, and then try to answer them.

For example, questions on this section of the post (under #2) could be the following:

  • In the third line, what does the expression out of practice mean?
  • The author discusses finishing something. What action is being finished?
  • What is the main idea of the text?

3. Try speed reading

Is there anything better than being a good reader?

Being a good, quick reader is definitely better.

You don’t have to sign up for a speed reading course or get competitive about it, but you can try to increase the number of English words you’re able to read and understand per minute.

Follow these steps to give it a go:

  • Time yourself while reading a paragraph of a book or other text. For example, read quickly for 30 seconds.
  • Then, without timing yourself, read the paragraph again to check for any key information that you didn’t understand.
  • If you missed something, review it. Then, do more practice reading at the same speed.
  • Keep reading at the same speed (or even a little slower!) until you’re able to understand almost everything.

If you can read the text without missing key information, then you know you can try the next paragraph a bit faster.

Little by little, your speed will improve along with your advanced English reading skills. Reading quickly takes practice, but remember—it’s only helpful if you actually understand what you’re reading.


4. Get familiar with different accents

One challenge of learning any language is the fact that different regions have different dialects and accents.

You may be perfectly comfortable listening to an American speaker, but have you mastered the Australian accent? What about the Northern Irish accent?

If you still find certain accents difficult to understand, focus on improving your listening comprehension.

These days, it’s easy to find YouTube videos narrated by users from around the world, or even full-length films featuring actors with the accent you’d like to work on.

One easy way to find tailored content with different English accents is FluentU, where real English media clips like movie trailers, news reports and excerpts from popular TV shows are used in a language learning platform.

FluentU comes with tools to make learning advanced English much easier. The program has a unique video player on both the website and the app (for Android or iOS) that allows you to quickly see the definition of any unknown words, so you won’t get lost with tricky pronunciations or meanings.

Using authentic content intended for native speakers will allow you to pick out the nuances of different accents so you can practice listening to all types of English.

Like all language skills, your listening comprehension of English accents will improve with practice. Once you feel more comfortable, you could even try to find a language partner from that region to practice with!

5. Try listening to different podcasts or videos

Nowadays, podcasts and videos on just about every niche (very specific topic) are available online.

Listening to a podcast or video on a topic that you know a lot about in your native language will improve your language skills in English. You’ll already know the general idea because you learned about this topic before you learned English.

So, is it also a good idea to listen to a podcast or video about a topic that you’re interested in but that you don’t know a lot about?

Well, yes! You’ll be excited to learn something new, find all kinds of new vocabulary, broaden your general knowledge and improve your listening comprehension. That’s a lot of learning!

If you need some resources for finding interesting videos or podcasts at advanced English levels, you can check out:

  • BBC Learning News Review. They release 10-minute news stories every Tuesday about the relevant issues of the week. It’s free, and you can download the transcript and audio, and take a multiple-choice quiz for each episode.
  • TED Talks. Whatever you’re curious about—whether it’s street art, technology trends or something else—there’s probably a TED talk about it. Each talk has transcripts and subtitles in 30+ languages to aid your understanding.
  • English Learning for Curious Minds. This podcast focuses on interesting people and weird history like banned books and the quest for immortality. It costs €15 a month, but you’ll get transcripts, subtitles, important vocab and more.

6. Transcribe exactly what you hear

One of the best ways to truly test your listening comprehension is to try transcribing, or writing down everything you hear.

You can type your transcription on the computer, but writing by hand is much better for your memory.

Transcribing will give you an idea of how much you actually understand when you’re listening. You’ll also learn whether that understanding is based on your real comprehension of individual words, or just on overall, general context.

That is, did you understand 100% of the words that were spoken? Or did you understand 50% of the words and the overall message from context?

Transcribing everything you hear, word by word, will draw your attention to important language features like unstressed syllables, different forms of words, which words connect other words and which words blend together—all features of spoken English which can be problem areas for learners.

The Productive Skills

Writing and speaking are the productive skills, where you’ll need to create English sentences yourself, sometimes without any input.

Many learners find these skills more difficult because they require more knowledge about English and how it works. Here are three ways to improve each.


7. Test your ability to write to different people

How would you write an email invitation to dinner for your 13-year-old niece? You would probably be very casual, cute and simple.

How would you write a letter to your grandmother? It would probably be casual and friendly, but also very respectful and polite.

How would you write a business letter to your boss? You would most likely be very formal, polite and professional.

Practicing different registers, or levels of formality, is a useful exercise that will keep your advanced English writing skills fresh and varied.

To help you improve the style of your writing, you can try using Hemingway. Named after the American writer Ernest Hemingway, this program provides immediate feedback that tells you how to simplify your writing in order to be more clear and concise, no matter who you’re writing to.

Even if there are English registers that you don’t normally have to use, it’s good to practice them. You never know when those skills might be helpful, or even required!

8. Experiment with advanced grammar structures

If your daily writing needs are limited to text messages, you may find that you’ve forgotten the advanced English grammar you’ve learned.

But just because you don’t need to use advanced grammar patterns doesn’t mean you should avoid them. In fact, they’ll help take your English skills to the next level!

Try to use more:

If you need a refresher or want to learn more, check out the Advanced Grammar and Punctuation Specialization course on Coursera. You’ll get free online lessons, plus assignments and projects to help the concepts stick.

Another option is the book “Advanced Grammar in Use.” It’s geared towards C1-C2 level English learners and functions as a combination reference and practice book, so you can study grammar on your own as you’d like.

For one-on-one feedback, you can try Go Correct. For a fee of either £10 or £16.50, you’ll receive three to five questions per week. Reply to each question using 70 words or less, and an English teacher will correct your writing, complete with grammar explanations.

So, next time you sit down to practice writing in English, try including some more advanced grammar!

9. Challenge yourself with new vocabulary

Just like with grammar, most language learners understand much more vocabulary than they actually use.

However, there’s no reason not to use the words that you spent such a long time learning! Again, it’s important to get out of your comfort zone and try out vocabulary that you don’t use often.

You can practice using vocabulary in different ways. For example, you can first choose one new word you want to master and write it multiple times in different sentences. Next time you practice, write something longer and replace a few words in each paragraph with more advanced synonyms.

Make sure to stay true to the meaning of new words you use. You should be sure of the word’s meaning and proper usage, otherwise your writing might sound awkward or have a meaning that you didn’t intend.

If you want a fun way to build up your English vocabulary, check out the daily crossword puzzle at You’ll get pop culture tidbits about movies, artists and slang while expanding your knowledge of English words.


10. Incorporate idioms and expressions into your speech

Native speakers of every language use a lot of idioms and expressions in their everyday speech. One way to take your advanced English closer to fluency is to make sure you use them too!

You’ve probably already learned a lot of idioms and expressions. After all, there are many books, websites and videos about them. The Accurate English YouTube channel, for example, specializes in advanced English speaking and explains many useful expressions.

The real key is to start using more English idioms and expressions yourself!

Every day, make a list of five idioms that you’d like to use. It’s okay to repeat them for a few days, or even a few weeks. Challenge yourself to find appropriate moments to use the expressions each day.

Even if you speak your native language all day at work or school, you can do this practice silently in your head. The next time you find a good moment to use an idiom in English, it will come to you more readily and your English will sound more natural and carefree.

11. Keep working on your pronunciation

Unless you moved to an English-speaking country before the age of about four years old, you won’t sound like a native speaker when you speak English—and that’s okay!

Being a native speaker doesn’t automatically make someone a perfect speaker, anyway. And being a non-native speaker doesn’t mean someone speaks English badly.

The most important thing about English pronunciation is that you’re well-understood by the people with whom you converse.

Since you’re at the advanced level of English proficiency, I’m sure people already understand you pretty easily. If so, it’s time to perfect your English accent!

You can do this with ELSA, an AI-powered pronunciation coach designed to help you develop a more standard American accent. Talk out loud to the app, and it will highlight the exact sounds and syllables in your speech that you can work on to get closer to native pronunciation.

For other accents and further practice, keep listening to native speaker pronunciation, as well as friends who have a higher level of English than you do. Try to mimic these people and figure out exactly what mouth shape and tongue positions are necessary to keep improving.

12. Practice with a native speaker or friend

You probably knew this advice was coming. What is the number one way to improve your English speaking skills? Speaking, of course!

Aim to spend as much time as possible practicing your speaking skills. If you have a very advanced level of English, you’ll make the most progress by having lots of different conversations with native speakers.

No native speakers around you? Don’t worry!

There are plenty of other solutions, including practicing with a friend who has the same or a higher level of English than you. You can also find native speakers to practice with online—and you may make some new friends in the process!

Just remember that it’s okay to make mistakes, even at the highest levels of language learning. Even native speakers don’t speak perfectly all the time!

Invite your friends or language partners to correct your mistakes, and you’ll keep improving.


When you’re at an advanced English level, it’s important to know your own language needs.

Every learner has individual strengths and weaknesses. To keep improving, you’ll need to focus on certain skills more than others.

But that’s great, because you are the boss of your own language learning process! You got this!

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