9 TOEFL® test tips to boost exam successzinkerz
- Understand how the TOEFL® test is structured so that there are no surprises. There are 4 sections of the TOEFL test: reading, listening, speaking and writing.
- The Reading section has between 36–56 questions based on reading passages from academic texts.
- The Listening section has 34–51 tasks based on listening to lectures, classroom discussions and conversations.
- The Speaking section has 6 tasks.
- The Writing section has 2 tasks.
- Familiarize yourself with TOEFL by reviewing practice tests. This doesn’t mean glancing over sample tests but actually going through the process of taking entire TOEFL practice exams — repeatedly during your course of practice.
- Develop note-taking skills. As you are allowed to take notes during the listening, reading and writing sections of the TOEFL exam, ensure you have mastered the art of note-taking in advance. Note taking helps you to stay focused and retain information more successfully. The Ultimate Guide To Note-taking is a good resource.
- Improve Your skills by immersing yourself in English. Find a speaking partner (preferably a native English speaker or another TOEFL student as enthusiastic as yourself). Listen to university-level lectures online (check out https://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/) to ensure you are learning academic English. Discuss the top points of the lecture with your partner while adding new vocabulary words to your wordlist. Focus on pronunciation and intonation as well as vocabulary. Record yourselves speaking and then play back your recordings to pinpoint areas for improvement.
- Prepare for a long test. The actual paper based TOEFL test takes 2.5 hours. If you are taking the IBT exam then it’s approximately 4 hours. An average attention span begins to weaken at 2 hours without proper preparation. To get used to a lengthy exam, begin your study period in short periods and build up the length slowly so that over time, you are able to maintain your focus for the needed duration of the exam.
- Build your stamina. It sounds simple, but what you eat and drink before an exam impacts exam performance. Many students cram the night before a test, drinking high levels of caffeine to stay alert. They come to the test exhausted and nervous instead. The night before your exam make sure to get a good night’s sleep. Avoid caffeinated beverages and high sugar foods which will give you an immediate sugar “high” but will leave you “crashing” later. Instead eat protein-rich foods which can lead to improved mental alertness (try cheese, nuts, eggs) combined with a whole grain carb (try whole grain breads and/or cereals) and your favorite fresh fruits. As well, dress in comfortable, loose clothing.
- Pace yourself. Arrive at your exam location refreshed, well-fed, and early so you have time to calm rattled nerves. Wear a watch so you can measure the length of time it takes you to get through a particular section of the test. You do not want to lose out on material you know well because you got “stuck” on a difficult question early on. Make sure you have clearly read and/or listened to all of the instructions calmly so you can properly absorb information and follow instructions accurately.
- Answer ALL the questions on the exam so that you maximize your chances of success. If you simply don’t know the answer, make an educated guess! There is a 1 in 4 chance that it’s correct.
- Practicing right makes perfect. There’s no avoiding it, the way to successfully pass your TOEFL exam is to practice, practice, practice. The act of practicing helps you to identify weak areas so that you can address your efforts to the sections that need more of your effort and attention.
Tell us below in the comment box which other tips you consider useful to share.