7 tips for learning English online

Pearson Languages
A man sat at a laptop with headphones on

Learning English online is very different from studying in a physical classroom, and there is not always a teacher looking over your shoulder. And more often than not, you have to motivate yourself and keep yourself on track.

In this blog, we’ll share seven tips to help you learn English online – including how to set goals, create a study schedule, and stay focused. Let’s explore:

1. Set SMART goals

Lots of students wonder how to learn English online. And we know getting started is often the most challenging part. So before you begin studying English online, we recommend setting some SMART goals. These are goals that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Let's say you:

  • Have an ultimate goal to get a high score in an English language exam (like PTE Academic), so you can study abroad.

You’ll need to plan how to reach this. An excellent way to start is to begin planning your short and medium-term goals. For example:

  • Short-term goal: Learn ten words each day
  • Medium-term goal: Improve practice test scores by 5% over the next month

2. Make a study schedule

Creating a well-thought-out schedule will help you to study English online and stay organized. It’ll also mean you dedicate enough time to each language skill – speaking, reading, writing and listening:

  • Pick times that work best for you – You may prefer studying at certain times of the day when you have more energy, or after doing something energizing like working out.
  • Stick to it – Once you’ve set a regular fixed time, stay with it to ensure it becomes a routine habit.
  • Make time – Give yourself as much time as possible to finish each task (especially in case life gets in the way) and some time to relax.

3. Create a comfortable learning space

Where you study can impact your cognitive performance. For example, sunlight can lead to better learning outcomes. Temperature and noise can also affect the way you learn. If you can, make sure that your learning space is:

  • well-lit
  • temperate
  • quiet (and private if possible!)
  • relaxing
  • organized

You might also want to decorate your study space, perhaps with an indoor plant – they can improve concentration by 15%!

Also, before you start, do you have everything at hand? Do you have water? Is your coursebook close by? And is your computer fully charged? Having all your supplies on hand will help you stay focused – and learn English online faster.

4. Eliminate distractions

To learn English online, you need to eliminate distractions. Logging off your social media accounts and anything else distracting you until you’re done studying is good practice. If you find yourself logging back in, you might want to use a focus app (like Leechblock, which can block up to thirty websites).
If you can, turn off your phone altogether and put it away and out of sight. If you’re tempted to pick it up again, ask yourself why. Sometimes, there’s no good reason, and it’s best to keep studying.

5. Try the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is a great way to break your studying into manageable chunks, which will also help you stay focused.

The technique:

  • Set a timer for 20 minutes
  • Each time the timer goes off, write a tick on a piece of paper
  • Take a five-minute break
  • Continue to set the timer for 20-minute intervals
  • When you've got four ticks, take a 20-minute break

This time management system works well because it gives you frequent breaks to look forward to and helps you concentrate. You can use this time to stretch, have a snack, take a walk – or do anything that gives your mind a rest.

6. Use self-study resources

There are lots of English learning materials available online – including worksheets, mock tests, games and grammar exercises. There are also various games and quizzes available online.

7. Find a study partner

We all know studying online can get lonely! That’s why we recommend you find a study partner. With a partner to work with, you can practice speaking and listening. You’ll have someone to check over your work. But most importantly – you’ll have someone to hold you accountable and help you stay motivated. Perhaps you know a friend or family member who is also studying English, and you can work with them. You can sometimes find local study groups or clubs depending on your location.

If you're unable to find a local study group or an in-person partner, there are many places to find a study partner online – for example, Mooclab or dedicated social media groups. You might also want to try out silent Zoom meetings; students and professionals keep each other focused by simply working together on mute.

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