There are some specific tips and strategies that can be very helpful while you are planning to take Toefl.
Two candidates with the same knowledge may not necessarily receive the same score on a Toefl test. This is because only one of
them knows how to do well on the exam. These strategies are concerned with how you approach the language, how you use the language, and
how Toefl is usually constructed.
These tips should only be used as an adjunct mechanism for preparing to take the TOEFL and obtain the best
possible score. Candidates should also practice speaking, listening, reading and writing in English.
Before the Test
During the Test
Understanding the test directions
Understand the basic information regarding the Toefl format.
Familiarize yourself with the test directions. Once you learn how to do the questions, you won't have to read the directions during the real TOEFL exam.
Knowing Toefl score requirement
Before you begin studying, find out what the requirements are for the school, college or university
you are interested in going to. Remember that the scores for the paper based test are different than the scores for the iBT. The average minimum score required is approximately
550 (paper test) or 70 (iBT). A prestigious university such as Harvard has much higher expectations. Some schools will look at your scores from different sections.
Many universities expect you to achieve higher writing skills than speaking skills. TOEFL scores are only valid for two years.
Use practice tests
The best way to prepare for the TOEFL is to practice doing the Toefl tests.
Build up your stamina
The TOEFL iBT test takes about 4 hours. You can expect to be at the computer during all that time. Generally, many students have an attention span
of about two hours. This is the maximum length of most classes. After this amount of time performance starts to weaken. If you keep your study
sessions to one or two hours, your brain will not be prepared to work
for four. Start off with short study sessions, and work up to longer
ones. Remind yourself that it is a long test a few days before test day.
Night before the test
You must have a good dinner and go to bed at your normal time not too early and not too late, as you do not
want to disrupt your sleep pattern if possible. Have everything ready that you need to take with you to the
test so you can simply pick it up in the morning. Check before the exam exactly what articles you need. Set your alarm clock the night
before or arrange a wake-up call.
On the morning of the test
Eat a good breakfast. You will have several hours of
concentration ahead of you and you will need food and drink in the morning. If possible, wear a watch in case you cannot see the
clock in the exam room. It is essential that you keep track of time. Wear clothing in which you feel comfortable during the test.
If you arrive at the test centre with all of the things you need, you will feel calm and
ready. When you are nervous, your memory does not work as well. Make
sure you know exactly how to get to the test centre. It is also
important that your identification looks valid. If you have had problems
with your ID before, make sure to bring a backup photo. Don't forget any
paper work that ETS sends you to prove that you have registered.
During the Test
Click 'Help' when absolutely necessary
Click Help to review the directions only when absolutely necessary; because the clock
does not stop when the Help function is being used.
Do not panic
Concentrate exclusively on the current question only. Do not think about
how you answered other questions. (This is a habit that can be learned through
Avoid spending too much time on any one question
If you have given the question
some thought and you still don't know the answer, eliminate as many choices as
possible and then select the best choice. Although responses can be reviewed in the
Reading section by clicking on View, it is best that test takers do this only after
answering all the questions in a Reading subsection. Once test takers leave a
subsection, they are not allowed to return to it.
Pace yourself so you have enough time to answer every question. Be aware of the time
limit for each section and budget enough time for each question so you do not have to
rush at the end. You can hide the time clock if you wish, but it is a good idea to check
the clock periodically to monitor progress. The clock will automatically alert you when
five minutes remain in the Listening and Reading sections, and in the independent and
integrated tasks in the Writing section. Wear a watch. This is especially important if you are taking the paper based test.
Guidelines for Reading section
Just like in the structure section, it is not important that you know every word
in the reading section. Concentrate on the areas that the questions pertain to.
Skim through the passage, read the questions, then read for more detail. The
questions usually come in the order they appear in the passage. Anticipate the
type of questions you will be asked in this section. At least 60 percent of the
readings will have a main idea question. You will be asked at least two
vocabulary questions from each reading. You will also be asked some detailed
questions and some inference questions. You will not have time to reread a whole
The TOEFL iBT uses reading passages from university-level textbooks
that introduce a discipline or topic. The excerpts are changed as little as possible so the
TOEFL iBT can measure how well students can read academic material.
The passages cover a variety of different subjects. Test takers should not be concerned if they
are unfamiliar with a topic. The passage contains all the information needed to answer the
All passages are classified into three basic categories:
Often, passages present information about the topic from more than one perspective or point
of view. This is something test takers should note as they read. Usually, they are asked at least
one question that allows them to demonstrate that they understood the general organization of
the passage. Common organization types that test takers should be able to recognize are:
- Exposition (Material that provides an explanation of a topic)
- Argumentation (Material that presents a point of view about a topic and provides evidence to support it)
Test takers must read through or scroll to the end of each passage before receiving questions
on that passage. Once the questions appear, the passage appears on the right side of the
computer screen. The questions are on the left. (See the illustration that follows.)
Test takers do not need any special background knowledge to answer the questions in the
Reading section correctly, but the defi nition of diffi cult words or phrases in the passage
may be provided. If test takers click on the word, a defi nition appears in the lower left part
of the screen.
The 60 to 100 minutes allotted for this section include time for reading the passages and
answering the questions.
Reading Question Formats
There are three question formats in the Reading section:
- questions with four choices and a single answer in traditional multiple-choice format
- questions with four choices and a single answer that ask test takers to “insert a
sentence” where it fi ts best in a passage
- new “reading to learn” questions with more than four choices and more than one
possible correct answer.
Guidelines for Listening section
During listening section you will listen
to recorded information. While you're listening, you'll see
pictures of the speakers, or other images, on your computer
screen. If you don't understand a spoken dialogue on a listening
section, do not worry about it and do not get involve in an
inner dialogue; What did he
say? I didn't understand that word! etc. This inner dialogue
causes you to concentrate on what is going on your mind, and
you miss out on what is happening in the conversation. Be very
careful. It is important to train yourself to stay relaxed in
this situation (easer said than done!).
Test takers can take notes on any listening material
throughout the entire test. When you are practicing for the listening sections, don't play
the tape or CD more than once. On the real test you will only
hear everything once. You have to train your ears to listen
right the first time.
In some questions, a portion of the lecture or conversation is replayed so test takers do
not need to rely on memory of what was said. In the replay format, test takers listen to part of the conversation or lecture again and then
answer a question. Sometimes the question repeats a portion of the listening material again,
as indicated by the headphones icon.
After the listening material is played, test takers both see and hear each question before they
see the answer choices. This encourages them to listen for main ideas.
There are four question formats in the Listening section:
- Traditional multiple-choice questions with four answer choices and a single correct answer
- Multiple-choice questions with more than one answer (e.g., two answers out of four or more choices)
- Questions that require test takers to order events or steps in a process
- questions that require test takers to match objects or text to categories in a chart
Guidelines for Speaking section
The entire section is new because there is no Speaking section on the paper-based or
computer-based TOEFL test. The Speaking section is approximately 20 minutes long and includes six tasks.
- The first two tasks are independent speaking tasks (i.e. personal choice from a given category—
of important people, places, events or activities that the test taker enjoys and to make
and defend a personal choice between two contrasting behaviors or courses of action.) on topics familiar to test takers.
They ask test takers to draw upon their own ideas, opinions, and experiences when
responding. (However, test takers can respond with any idea, opinion, or experience
relevant to completing the task.)
A single question that appears on the screen is read aloud by the narrator. Test takers have 15
seconds to prepare an answer, and have 45 seconds to respond. A clock shows the remaining
time for preparation and response.
- The remaining four tasks are integrated tasks(Read/Listen/Speak) where test takers must use more than one
skill when responding. Test takers first read and listen, and then speak in response. They
can take notes and use those notes when responding to the speaking tasks. At least one
requires test takers to relate the information from the reading and the listening material.
Test takers read a passage on a given topic and then listen to a speaker talk about the same
topic. A question appears on the screen and is read aloud by the narrator. Test takers have 30
seconds to prepare their response. They have 60 seconds to respond by synthesizing and
summarizing the information they have read and heard.
Like all the other sections of the TOEFL iBT, the Speaking section is delivered via computer.
For all speaking tasks, test takers use headsets with a microphone. Test takers speak into the
microphone to record their responses. Responses are digitally recorded and sent to ETS’s
Online Scoring Network where they are scored by certified raters.
Guidelines for Writing section
The total time for the Writing section is 50 minutes. Test takers write their responses to two
In all types of writing, it is helpful for students to:
- Integrated writing In this type of writing, students must:
For example, in an academic course, a student might be asked to compare and contrast
the points of view expressed by the professor in class with those expressed by an author
in the assigned reading material. The student must successfully draw information from
each source to explain the contrast. Responses are typed into the computer and sent to ETS’s Online
Scoring Network where they are scored by certifi ed raters.
- Take notes on what they hear and read, and use them to organize information before writing
- Summarize, paraphrase, and cite information from the source material accurately
- Write about the ways the information they heard relates to the information they read
- Independent writing In this type students express an opinion and support it
based on their own knowledge and experience. For example, students may be asked to write an essay about a controversial issue. The
students use past, personal experience to support their position.
- Identify one main idea and some major points that support it
- Plan how to organize the essay (e.g., with an outline)
- Develop the essay by using reasons, examples, and detail
- Express information in an organized manner
- Use effective linking words (transitional phrases) to connect ideas and help the reader
- Understand the flow of ideas
- Use a range of grammar and vocabulary for effective expression
- Use grammar and vocabulary accurately; use idiomatic expressions appropriately
- Follow the conventions of spelling, punctuation, and layout
Guidelines for Structure section (for PBT format only)
This section has been eliminated for the TOEFL iBT. The section measures your ability to recognize correct grammar, vocabulary
and proper usage to standard North American written English.
Many students say that this is the most
difficult part of the Toefl test. Don't get distracted by the difficult
words. Follow few general guidelines;
1) If there is no main
verb, you should first identify the 'subject' of the sentence.
Then, you can eliminate any choice that does not contain a
conjugated verb. Further, any selected conjugated verb must
agree with the subject (in number and tense).
2) If there
is no main subject, you should identify what the verb in the
sentence is. Then plug in the choices and verify that the one
you select agrees with the verb.
choices that contain extra words, especially pronouns, verbs,
4) If the sentence contains a main
subject and a main verb, you should eliminate any choice that
is an incorrect part of speech, or does not agree in form,
number, or tense with the rest of the sentence.
If the sentence contains neither a main subject nor a main
verb, you can eliminate any choice that does not provide both
a subject and a verb, and does not agree completely with the
remainder of the sentence.
6) You should be able to recognize
the structure (for example, prepositional phrase or noun clause) even if
you don't understand what the sentence means. Don't choose the first
letter that looks wrong until you try every choice. You might find two
that look wrong. Then you have to make an educated guess.
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