There are plenty of reasons to pass the TOEFL test: to enter a high school or apply to a college in an English-speaking country; to get a job, visa or citizenship; or simply assess your mastery of English in a formal setting.
Whatever your goals are, the preparation process will be the same. So doesn’t matter whether you’re a student or an applicant for skilled migration, the guide below will definitely get you one step closer to passing the test.
1. Get Some Advice
If you are completely lost in the deep sea of the Internet and have absolutely no idea how to pass the TOEFL test, the first step you should take is stop wasting your time and get some support.
Look for an ESL teacher in your neighbourhood, find a tutor to help you prepare for TOEFL online, join TOEFL-related groups on social media or ask an old friend who’ve already passed the test to meet up for a coffee.
2. Understand the Exam Pattern
Figuring out it all by yourself? Never mind, get familiar with the test structure first.
Mind that there are two versions of the TOEFL: the Internet-based test (IBT) and the paper-based one (PBT).
Regardless of the format you choose, the TOEFL always has three obligatory parts: reading, listening and writing. The main difference between them is that the digital exam includes a fourth, speaking section, whereas the paper-based one is mostly based on grammar.
Due to its different structure, the digital test takes more time: IBT lasts for four hours when PBT is only three.
Important Notes About TOEFL Exam Pattern:
You are allowed to write notes on all sections of the exam.
You have one break for 10 minutes in the middle of the test and it can’t be skipped.
Reading and Listening parts can differ in length and include so-called experimental questions.
In the Listening section, you are allowed to hear each audio only once.
Speaking is the shortest of all the exam parts, lasting for 20 minutes in total.
The last section evaluates your writing skills. To demonstrate them you have to write 2 essays.
3. Calculate How Long You Need to Study
To develop an efficient study plan, try to estimate your skills fair and square. Depending on a test date, your current language skills and the score you aim for, there will be a different number of hours you need for preparation.
If you’ve taken the exam before, that will be really helpful, as you will know exactly how many points you’re missing.
If you only need to improve your score by a few points, 8 weeks will be enough for preparation, according to the TOEFL iBT Test Prep Planner. If we speak about 10 additional points, it may take a couple of months.
But if you need 20+ points, preparing only for the TOEFL test may not be enough. In this case, you’d have to improve your basic English skills which can be pretty time-consuming.
4. Find High-Quality Study Material to Learn and Practice
Even though there are a ton of courses, books, and videos dedicated to the TOEFL, always begin with official TOEFL resources designed by ETS (the company that actually made the test), as these are by far the best existing guides.
Fortunately, many of them are free. For instance, you can download an official app and prepare for the exam on the go or install software that will provide you with the general experience of taking the test and an almost identical interface of the original exam.
You can also buy official materials:
The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test that includes 4 full-length, authentic tests;
TOEFL Practice Online Speaking Series to practice your communication skills;
The TOEFL Online Prep Course;
5. Practice Timed Writing Before the Test
As it has already been mentioned, Writing is the last section of the test. And it is often the case that by the time the writing task must be done, the student usually has neither energy nor time to finish it.
Moreover, the TOEFL test gives you 50 minutes for 2 essays. That means you will have only 25 minutes to dwell on each topic, which is rather constraining.
Thus we strongly recommend you to work with a timer and develop a particular writing strategy:
Learn to make a quick and clear outline.
Write in English daily to get used to writing in a foreign language. Start with journaling, emails or blog posts.
Check your spelling/grammar and make sure you can do it fast enough. Use writing assistant software regularly to have a keen eye for mistakes.
Surely, many test-takers don’t know how to pass the TOEFL test on the first try and find the exam a bit stressful. But the good news is that you can retake the test as many times as you wish!
So even if you have some difficulties with it, you still have over 50 test dates per year to achieve your goal and eventually pass the exam.
Anyway, with some perseverance and hard work, there is no doubt that you will get your best score. Just master the key learning strategies and follow the crucial steps we’ve listed above, and you will succeed.
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