The number of students who do a lot of practice but do not see any results is astonishing. When you talk to them they usually say two things:

1)They have been in many English courses unfortunately the scores have not improved

2) They have done lots of practice tests but with no improvement in results.

To understand why your scores are not improving after having done tons of practice, we are going to use the analogy of a car.

A car has four tires, and regardless of how good it is or its price, if one of those four tires is busted, you won’t go far until you fix it.

These four tyres are the four things you must have in place so that you can see the improvements that you want. If any of them is missing, no matter how many courses you take or how many practice tests you do, you will not get better scores.

1.Having a strategy for every question.

We all know that there are many types of questions in the Reading part of the exam. The way you handle these questions totally varies. You need to have a strategy for every question type because each type of question tests different sub skills of reading. For instance a main idea question tests your ability to understand the gist of the text and on the other hand a vocabulary question tests your ability to understand a word used in context. In the main idea question you need to be able to comprehend the text as a whole while in the vocabulary question you need to be aware of the meaning of the word as used in the context of the sentence where it is.

Apart from having a strategy for every question, you also need to apply this strategy step by step without limiting yourself because of time until you have mastered it. You know you have mastered it if you can explain it to someone else step by step without looking at your notes.

So, until you have gotten a strategy for every reading question and mastered it, no matter how many practice tests you do, you will not improve.

2.Handling of practice tests.

What a lot of students think is that if they do lots of practice tests, their reading scores will increase. This is not necessarily true because if you are doing the wrong thing in those tests no matter how many tests you do, you will always have a low grade. It is like driving in the wrong direction but at a high speed. No matter how far or speedy you go, you will not arrive at your desired destination.

What you have to do to is to approach these practice tests strategically with 2 specific goals.

1.Goal 1 -To apply the strategies you have learnt. Do a complete with all types of questions while applying the strategies learnt previously. At this time, the duration of the test is not important. You may do the test for 45 minutes ,1 hour or more so long as you are learning to apply the strategy for each question.

Do this until you have mastered that strategy for each question.

Goal 2 – Weakness analysis. At this point, you have to sit down and look at the questions you got wrong and find out to which category of questions they belong. There is always a pattern to the types of questions students normally fail. So you need to find out exactly which types of questions you find difficult based on the results from the test(s). This requires deep thinking and pondering.

3.Mistakes analysis.

At this stage,what you actually need to do is to analyse your mistakes. This involves thinking deeply about each mistake. In this way, you are trying to find patterns and reasons why you are failing the questions that you are failing. 

At this stage, you need to think deeply about each question you failed.For instance, if you have failed a question about catching details,you need to find out whether the cause was a vocabulary problem, skills problem(scanning and skimming), strategy problem or generally you don’t understand this type of question.You need to find out the real reason why and state it clearly. That way you can find a solution. This is very crucial for your next step.

If this is not done, you will not advance or go any further because you will repeat the same mistakes over and over without finding the root cause.

4.Work on the weak areas.

Having done an analysis of your mistakes, then the next thing is to work on them. Handle each mistake individually. You need to focus on a single type of question so that you are not overwhelmed or confused when trying to manage many things at the same time. The ETS website provides free reading material for TOEFL students and it works perfect for iTEP as well. Check it out here

While working through all the four things mentioned up there, you need to put the time element into consideration. You need to give yourself time to learn how to answer the questions, give yourself time to fail and fix the mistakes, you need to give yourself the opportunity to master those strategies.Just like all other skills, reading is a skill that takes time to be developed. So be patient with yourself, take action and you will see the results.