Independent Study Links

General ESL


Websites suitable for beginners are marked with an *.

  • * Games to Learn English uses pictures, text, and audio to help students practice vocabulary, spelling, and basic sentence construction. It even has speech recognition to allow users to practice their pronunciation.
  • * USA Learns is a project of the U.S. Department of Education. It offers free instruction at beginning and intermediate levels in listening, speaking, reading, and writing in a simple and engaging format. Lessons focus on practical skills related to everyday life, family, health, and the workplace. There are classroom videos, story videos, news feature stories, and many interactive practice activities.
  • English Central offers a clever way to practice pronunciation skills in a meaningful context. Choose a short video clip from a TV show, movie, or informational topic, and repeat the phrases you hear into your computer's microphone. English Central's speech recognition feature records it and rates it in comparison to the original phrase. You can also get definitions and hear phrases spoken at a slower rate.
  • * Literacy Center offers simple activities for learning alphabet letters, numbers, colors, and shapes. Although the site is designed for children, it is suitable for adult literacy learners as well.
  • ESL Gold has everything you could want for learning English. There are hundreds of lessons for speaking (including common phases for conversation, & role play/conversation topics) grammar, vocabulary, idioms, pronunciation, reading, writing, etc, and most lessons include audio. There are also hundreds of quizzes, good links to other ESL web sites, and textbook recommendations.
  • Real English uses authentic videos (of interviews with ordinary English speakers on the street) to teach basic listening, vocabulary, and grammar skills in a meaningful context. Each interview video is accompanied by a series of related short audio or video segments that are used in matching, sentence completion/construction, and other exercises. The registration process for this site is a bit cumbersome, but the quality of the videos and exercises make it worth the trouble.
  • * Learning Chocolate offers a variety of vocabulary picture-matching games with audio. Language Guide offers similar picture-matching activities (with audio).
  • E-Z-slang features recorded conversations that incorporate lots of natural-sounding examples of slang, idioms, and “reduced” speech (“wuh-d’yuh-mean?”). Each conversation comes with a written transcript, definitions of the slang/idioms/reductions, additional sentence examples, and a practice quiz.
  • The Idiom Connection offers explanations of hundreds of idioms, together with quizzes to practice them. No audio.
  • English Language Listening Lab Online offers short authentic interviews/monologues with English speakers from a variety of countries. There are listening comprehension quizzes, photos, and transcripts for each conversation.
  • Basic English Speaking offers clear audio of common English expressions, sentence patterns, and practical conversations. There are transcripts and explanations of grammar rules, but unfortunately, the site doesn’t offer any free interactive skills practice.
  • OM Personal offers more than 50 conversations on a variety of topics, (in both American and British English), along with a transcript, Spanish translation, photo, and completion quiz for each conversation.
  • Passport to English offers lessons on practical topics like greetings, food, health, etc. Each lesson starts with a vocabulary list that you can listen to, and sometimes see a picture of, but you must look up their meanings through google translate (or another device). Once you have looked up the words, you can work through an extensive series of lessons and interactive activities for vocabulary, grammar, writing, reading, listening, and pronunciation. Many of these activities include audio. There is a companion site for Spanish speakers: Inglés Mundial.
  • The English Minute offers short videos to teach vocabulary and grammar. Each video is followed by a short interactive quiz. If you choose, you can watch a Spanish-language version of each grammar video. The site is optimized for use on a cell phone, so students can practice "on the go."
  • The English Listening Lessons at TalkEnglish use a 3-step process: listen to a short dialog, take a quiz, then read a transcript. The site also has audio files of hundreds of words, phrases, and sentences for practice with listening and pronunciation (but offers no quiz for these sections).
  • Side by Side TV is a set of (rather dated) YouTube videos that correspond with the chapters of the popular Side by Side textbook series. They feature short, entertaining skits that illustrate the same beginning to intermediate-level vocabulary and grammatical structures covered in the textbook series. You can watch and learn from the videos without having the books in front of you, but it would be even better to use them together. (The videos alone do not provide explanations, written transcripts, or practice exercises.) Note: these videos would be good for tutor/student pairs to watch together and discuss, or even try to re-enact themselves.
  • Ventures is a textbook produced by Cambridge University Press. The publisher offers additional on-line practice for each chapter. [You can use the practice activities whether or not you have the textbooks.] The activities are well-designed, fun to use, and cover a broad range of levels and skill areas, including listening, grammar, sentence construction, and vocabulary.
  • Communicating at Work is a project of the Asian American Civic Association of Boston. It features audio dialogs and videos of common workplace scenarios, such as communicating with co-workers, customers, and supervisors, asking for clarification, cultural differences, reporting problems/progress, etc. The language level is fairly advanced. Lessons are quite detailed and include practice quizzes.
  • English Club features a wide range of lessons and quizzes at various levels. Not all of the lessons include audio, but many do.
  • Merriam Webster’s Visual Online Dictionary presents very detailed images/audio related to 15 (mostly academic) themes, such as science, the arts, and society, enabling students to see and hear the pronunciations of more than 6,000 words. For advanced level students.
  • REEP World offers short stories about immigrants’ experiences with healthcare, work, and life in the US. You can listen and read the stories, then check your understanding. (Note: The stories are narrated by immigrants who speak English with an accent. It may be easier for beginners to skip the first section, which offers audio only, and go to the next section where you can read along with each sentence in the audio.)
  • Randall's ESL Cyber Listening Café and Daily ESL offer lots of easy-to-use audio exercises for practicing listening skills at all levels. (Note: Look for instructions on how to slow down the playback speed of these recordings on Windows Media Player.)
  • Voice of America’s Learning English Section section features short audio and video clips on a wide range of topics, including current events, business, science, health, people and life in the US, and popular culture. The speech is 1/3 slower than a normal broadcast and you can read along with what you hear. In addition, there are short video lessons on vocabulary, grammar,  and other English skills (but only a few of these include interactive practice.) You can also access VOA through their Learning English YouTube channel.
  • Story Corps has thousands of short audio clips of real people telling their stories. Even better, some of the stories have animation so there are images to go along with the audio. If you would like to read a transcript of what the person is saying, click anywhere in the frame to view it in Youtube, then can click on the “CC” (subtitles/closed caption) button at the bottom. (There is no interactive practice available, however.)
  • Business English Pod and 925 English offer high-level podcasts and videos that provide conversation strategies, advanced vocabulary, and background information related to business/workplace scenarios. The content itself is free, but corresponding quizzes, lessons, and study notes are only available by paid subscription.  

Pronunciation



  • Rachel's English offers an extensive series of videos that show how to produce the individual sounds of English, and how to connect them into understandable phrases.
  • At Train Your Accent, you can listen to short recorded speeches on various topics. Each speech comes with two transcripts. One shows the speech in formal written English, and the other highlights all of the instances in which the speaker uses more natural-sounding English.
  • The Cambridge textbook, Pronunciation Pairs, has useful exercises on its companion website. You can use them with or without the textbook. There are downloads of worksheets, corresponding audio files, and answer sheets you can use together to practice the vowel and consonant sounds that are most troublesome to English language learners.  There are also lists that tell which sets of sounds are usually most challenging for speakers of each of 25 languages.
  • Intercambio’s pronunciation practice videos show students how to make the various consonant and vowel sounds and how to distinguish them from another sound that is similar. (For example, how is making the “k” sound different from making the “g” sound.)

U.S. Citizenship



U.S. Culture



  • Hello USA offers immigrants and refugees a guide to life in the US with topics such as daily life, laws, money, cultural differences, American values/manners, diversity, and common questions and answers. Translation is available in Spanish, Chinese, French, and Vietnamese, and additional resources are available for Afghan refugees in Dari and Pashto.
  • Foreignborn.com offers self-help information on many topics such as visas, financial matters, health insurance, college, social security, etc.
  • The creator of the Life in the USA site, Elliot Essman, has put together information (from his own point of view) on many different aspects of US culture for immigrants and visitors to the U.S.
  • EduPASS offers information on American "social customs and cultural differences." The information is aimed mainly at international college students, but immigrants (and their tutors) can also find some interesting discussion/reading topics here.

TOEFL



HiSET / GED



The Massachusetts Department of Education has announced that as of 2017, both the GED and the HiSet are acceptable as measures of high school equivalency. The two tests are quite similar and cover the same five subjects (reading, writing, math, science, and social studies). You can prepare effectively for either test whether you use a website that says “GED” or a website that says “HiSet.”

  • Test Prep Review offers "self assessment modules" that correspond to HiSet subject areas.
  • A set of practice exams is available from ETS, the maker of the HiSet Test. Each test is half the length of the real test, and you get immediate feedback on whether you answered the question right. At the end of the test, you get a score that will tell you how ready you are for the real test.
  • Mometrix Academy offers video lectures and interactive quizzes for all of the HiSet study topics.
  • McGraw Hill offers study aids and practice with each of the five GED subtests: reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. On the top left corner you will links to full practice tests. If you click on any individual chapter, additional links will appear on the left with things like flashcards, content summaries, and quizzes. (These on-line materials were created in conjunction with the Contemporary GED textbook series, but they can be useful even if you don't have the books.)
  • TV411 has videos and online activities, and worksheet downloads to that teach pre-GED (basic skills) in reading, writing, math, vocabulary, financial literacy, and science.
  • The Five Paragraph Essay Wizard offers help on writing effective essays.
  • Jones Library card holders can take LearningExpress Library's practice HiSET or GED tests. Register using your name, email address, and create a password to set up an account and take the practice test.

Accuplacer Test Preparation


Community colleges use this test to determine with which English and math classes you should begin.

Driver's Permit Test



  • You can read or download the current Massachusetts Driver's Manual (PDF) free at the RMV website.
  • Prepare for the Massachusetts Driver's Permit Test at Driving-Tests.org. This site provides several practice tests, as well as online access to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Driver's Manual, motorcycle practice tests and manual, and a road signs practice test.
  • DMV-Permit-Test offers 20 practice tests (500 unique questions) based on the Mass. Driver’s Manual.