Setting concrete goals is scientifically proven to increase your learning speed. Our brains are simply directed by goals – the more specific the goals are the better.
Your mind is like a heat-seeking missile. It locks onto a goal, and it just works towards it, gradually, over time, going faster and faster. Even when you sleep, your unconscious mind is working on how to get you closer to your goal.
Studying English without any crystal clear goals is like driving without a destination. If you just vaguely want to get good at speaking English, that is an ok goal, but it is not very concrete. Your unconscious mind doesn’t know exactly what ‘good at English’ means.
Create SMART goals
SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound.
So they are specific and measurable, like passing the A2 English spoken level test with 70% mark. Or successfully studying to a certain level with salsa, in an only English-speaking classes.
Attainable means you are able to achieve it – a goal should be challenging enough to be exciting, but not too hard or it will demoralize you. Relevant means if you are looking to learn to speak English, don’t aim for a grammar test. Aim to pass a speaking test. And time-bound means set the target for 3 months or 6 months’ time.
To choose your targets it’s a good idea to learn all about the European Common Framework for English language learners. Or whatever framework for level testing you want. It doesn’t matter, as long as you have some way to measure your progress.
Don’t take tests too seriously
One big warning here is to always remember that tests don’t really matter! What matters is that you enjoy learning English, and that you become happy and comfortable with speaking it. The test is only a nice little tool to give your mind something to head towards, so you can learn faster.
One reason many students stop enjoying learning English, or start to find it stressful, is because education today is obsessed with tests and exams. When you are only thinking about passing exams, so you can impress your parents, or get a certain job, or prove yourself, or whatever reason. When you focus on tests alone, you can forget how much fun it is to learn English.
Remember the first chapter? Children love learning, because it is just fun to learn. You have to keep that mindset. Always remember the test is just a tool to help your mind gently focus a little bit more and learn a little bit faster. That is all.
Any time you start to feel stressed about preparing for a test, remember you can just drop the test at any time. It’s not the real goal. The real goal is to enjoy learning English, and to speak it fluently soon. The test is just to help you get there a little bit faster.
You might find that other people in your life – your parents or friends – take the test very seriously. It’s because they don’t understand the principles in this book. Don’t let the stress of other people get you nervous. This is another reason some people stop enjoying English. Because there is so much pressure and expectations from other people.
Like all things in life, to fully enjoy it for yourself, you have to do it for yourself. Find a way to stop worrying about what other people expect of you. Without meaning to, they can be holding you back. Take the tests as a tool to help you learn, but nothing more. Don’t take them too seriously.
Also, passing a test does not necessarily mean you can have fun speaking English if you go to London or New York. But to make a goal specific so your mind can focus on it, aiming for a test is a good idea. It will supercharge your mind and make you learn twice as quickly!
I do understand that sometimes English tests are important, for your career, not just for personal pleasure. Perhaps a university or future employer wants to see that you have that qualification as proof of your English level. So the next chapter will teach you how to prepare for and pass English language tests with ease.