Nat King Cole

Emily,  Level 3 Reading and Discussion Instructor

Emily, Level 3 Reading and Discussion Instructor

During the month of February, America celebrates Black History Month, which is a celebration of African-American culture and customs. This nationwide celebration was created in 1962 as Black History Week, but the week was extended into a month in 1976. Our class has discussed numerous influential African-Americans such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.; however, we focused our discussion mainly on a legendary musician, Nat King Cole. In honor of this revolutionary artist, we read Nat King Cole: An Unforgettable Life of Music. 

natkingcoleNat King Cole was born in Montgomery, Alabama and grew up to revolutionize music. Though he began his career in jazz, he eventually transitioned to pop music. Our class thoroughly enjoyed learning about Nat’s interesting life, and I hope you take the time to do the same.


5 Tips to Improve Your TOEFL PBT Score!

Kody, TOEFL Prep Instructor

Kody, TOEFL Prep Instructor

Test taking can be challenging for anybody. TOEFL PBT is no exception.  There are a few very simple things that you can do to improve your TOEFL score.

1. Know the test – It is important to familiarize yourself with all of the instructions on every part of the test. TOEFL is a timed test, so you do not want to take any time reading and trying to learn the rules on test day. You should take practice tests early and often to help you become completely confident in the directions of the questions and the style of the questions.

2. Listen for the meaning – On the listening section of the test, do not focus on words or phrases given in the answers that sound similar to the audio. TOEFL will try to confuse you with such questions. You should listen to each part carefully and try to understand the meaning of what each speaker says. The main section of the listening involves short conversations, and the answer is often found in the meaning of what the second speaker says.

3. Look for mistakes in the answers – The grammar portion of the test asks you to complete a sentence or find an error in a sentence. The answers often have one or two very obviously wrong choices. You may be able to eliminate these answers without reading

image courtesy of umshare

the question. Look for patterns or structures that will never be correct and eliminate them first. Then go back to the questions and pay close attention to subject-verb agreement and verb tense.

4. Read the questions first – The biggest problem for most people on the reading section is the limited amount of time given to complete the questions. One way to cut down on your reading time is to read the questions first. After you read all of the questions related to one article, you can skim or read the article quickly to look for the relevant information. Also, many questions in this section are vocabulary questions that simply ask the meaning of a word. These questions can be answered and eliminated early.

5. Answer everything – Finally, you should never leave an answer blank. A blank answer is a wrong answer, so guessing is better than skipping. Always double-check that you didn’t miss any question before the time runs out.

Irregular verbs

Toby, Level 1 Grammar and Writing Instructor

Toby, Level 1 Grammar and Writing Instructor

In the beginner writing and grammar class this semester, we have been discussing various topics dealing with expressing past time and future time. As the class was working through the chapters of the textbook that dealt with past time, I began to notice that many of the students were struggling with the aspect of irregular verbs. This is to be expected with English language learners; particularly beginner level students. As a result, I gave them many exercises in class to help clear up any of their confusion. However, when it comes to irregular verbs, confusion is bound to happen eventually.

So, just what is the easiest way to tell the difference between regular and irregular verbs?

First, in the English language verbs are split into three categories: base form, past simple form, and past participle form.

Regular verbs are those verbs in the English language that have a base form and an -ed form for both the past simple and past participle. (Ex. watch, watched, watched)

Irregular verbs are those verbs in the English language that:

1) have changes in all three forms (Ex. begin, began, begun)

2) have changes in only 1 of the verb forms (Ex. buy, bought, bought)

3) have changes to none of the verb forms (Ex. cut, cut, cut)

One might ask, “What is the easiest way to recognize if a verb is irregular or regular?” There is a simple answer to this question….memorize it!

Give the following exercise a try now that you have a little insight into regular and irregular verbs.  Click here for the practice exercise

For more rules on regular and irregular verbs, click here.

Common Irregular Verbs

Active and Passive Voice

Obie, Level 2 Grammar and Writing Instructor

Obie, Level 2 Grammar and Writing Instructor

In Grammar last week, we were discussing active and passive voice. When attempting to convert from passive voice into active, and vice-versa, you have to know what tense the sentence is written in so that you know which structure to use for the conversion (there are several conversion charts online…google converting verb tense from passive to active…active to passive).

In order for you to know what tense the sentence is in, you have to find the verb (the verb is the action taking place in the sentence). There are many books and other resources that will help you in determining what tense a sentence is written in. Remember, if the subject is doing the action, the sentence is active…if the subject is receiving the action, the sentence is passive voice.


**Please note that active voice is most common in writing because the primary subject and meaning of the sentence is more concrete.

Intelligence Discussion Topic


Obie, Level 5 Listening and Speaking Instructor

Obie, Level 5 Listening and Speaking Instructor

In Listening and Speaking class, we started a chapter on the ideas of the mind and memory. Along with that discussion came the question of intelligence…what is it, how does it work, etc. Watch the video below and determine based on the definition of intelligence if you think these dogs are intelligent.

Intelligence is the idea of taking in information and applying it to some aspect of life.


Do you think the animals in the video are showing intelligence or not?

Why are level exams important in the ESL Program?

Gokhan, ESL Program Manager

Gokhan, ESL Program Manager

I cannot believe that it has been five weeks since classes started. I would like to take this opportunity to mention a few facts about our program

We want each and every one of you to succeed in your academic, professional, and personal goals by receiving high-quality English language training. One way, we are trying to ensure this is implementing level exams. Level exams help us better determine your proficiency level. The contents of the level exams are different from final exams. Final exams have questions about what you have studied this term in the class. Level exams include a variety of questions that are at the level you are in. For example, you did not study Present Perfect Tense in the class, so you will not see any questions about it on the final exam. However, you may see a question about Present Perfect Tense on your level exam because that topic is covered at that level, and you need to know how to use that tense before you can move up to the next level.  As you know, we consider your class average (your grade) and the result of your level exam to decide if you can move up to a next level. Therefore, it is very important that you take the level exams on Thursday, March 14.

We will offer around 20 ESL courses in April, most of which start on April 1. The registration deadline is March 26, 2013. If you are interested in improving your English, I encourage you to take advantage of early registration discounts, which will expire on March 26. If you have any questions about the ESL programs at AUM, please contact Kylie Phillips, our Program Associate at (334) 244-3131 or

We look forward to seeing you in the program this spring!