TOEFL Guide

Introduction:

TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language. It is a standardized English-Language test conducted by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), USA, and is accepted by thousands of educational institutes in more than 130 countries, including Australia, Canada, the U.K. and the United States.

Step 1: Familiarize Yourself with the Test Format

You must be familiar with the format of TOEFL before you start preparing for it. The test consists of 4 sections i.e. Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing. See the following table for details.
For further details from the test-makers, visit the link: here.

toefl_step_1
SectionTimeQuestions/TasksTasks
Reading60-80 minutes

36-56 questionsYou are asked to read 3-4 passages and answer questions based on the passages
Listening60-90 minutes

34-51 questionsYou will be asked to listen to lectures, classrooms discussions and conversations and then answer the questions
Break10 minutes
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Speaking20 minutes6 tasksIn this section, you will be asked to speak on a given topic. You will also be asked to speak based on reading and listening tasks
Writing50 minutes2 tasksTask 1: You will be asked to write an essay based on reading and listening tasks

Task 2: Support an opinion in writing
toefl_step_2

Step 2: Diagnostic Test

Before starting preparation for the test, take a diagnostic test using the official ETS TOEFL Software. This will give you an idea about your strengths and weaknesses. Once you know your weaknesses, you can work in a systematic manner to improve yourself. The diagnostic tests will also give you an idea about how much time would you require for preparation. Please note that no one can tell you about an accurate duration of time required for your preparation; you should decide it by yourself keeping in mind your weaknesses and your general command over English language.

Step 3: Register for the Test

Once you know about your weaknesses, and the time you will need for preparation, immediately get yourself registered using the link:

Click here.

Registering early for the test is highly suggested because it will keep you motivated to work hard for the test.

toefl_step_3

  • Preparation Material:

Many books and software’s are available for TOEFL preparation. It is suggested to use the following material. Please note that the official books, software’s and other material from ETS are the most helpful and closer to the real test. You must utilize all the official preparation material to get a good score.

  • TOEFL Test Preparation: The Insider’s Guide:There is an online course for TOEFL preparation on edx.org. It is an amazing resource for beginners and is highly recommended to get a basic understanding of the format of TOEFL. You will find about the types of questions you will encounter on TOEFL andwill encounter very useful strategies for answering each type of questions. You will also get to know how TOEFL scores are calculated and how to improve your English skills.  The fact that this course is designed by people from ETS makes it even more credible and useful. The course can be accessed using the link: here.
  • The official guide to TOEFL iBT: This is a comprehensive and the most recommended book for TOEFL preparation. Read this book thoroughly and learn the basic strategies for answering questions on the test. The sample responses given in this book will give you very good idea how an ideal response should look like.
  • Free Material from ETS website: You can download many valuable tools from ETS website. These resources include questions from previous tests in PDF, mp3 and other interactive formats. The link for downloading the material is: here.
  • The official guide to TOEFL iBT (Software): This software is from the TOEFL test makers and is designed to simulate the real test environment. It has three full-length tests which are extremely close to actual tests. Again, the sample responses and answers to each question are given so that you can get an idea about what are the main features of a good response.
  • Cambridge TOEFL practice software:It consists of 7 full-length practice tests. You must practice all these tests before sitting for the actual test.
  • If you have time you can also try:

  • Preparation Strategies:

Every person is different and so are the preparation strategies. Here are some general strategies and tips which you may find helpful. You can modify these strategies per your needs.

  • Reading: Since the reading passages are based on academic content, try to read as much academic stuff as possible. Apart from the practice passages given in the suggested material, read on a variety of subjects such as science, literature, philosophy, politics etc. from authentic, quality sources.Reading more and more will improve your reading speed and will enable you to understand complicated passages easily.
  • Writing: Writing skills improve with practice. So, the more you write, the more better you will get. Writing tasks are given in the suggested books and software’s. Once you are done with writing your response, do not forget to compare it with the sample responses to get an idea where your response stands in comparison to the sample response.Do not try to write in a fancy manner be simple and straight-forward. Also, your writings are less prone to grammatical mistakes if you write in a simple way.
  • Listening: Apart from the learning material mentioned above, you can improve your listening skills by listening to audio lectures and watching documentaries on YouTube. If you are working and find it difficult to manage time for study, you can copy the audio files available with TOEFL material into your cell phone and listen to them while you commute or do other chores.As the listening recordings are played only once, it is very important to master the skill of taking notes while you listen to the audio. Note taking becomes vital during the lectures because they are usually lengthier and complicated as compared to the conversations.
  • Speaking: Like writing, speaking also improves with practice. Try to speak with your colleagues, friends and family members in English as much as possible. This will boost your confidence as well as will help you gain fluency in English. Try not to speak very fast. Make sure that the listeners can easily understand what you say.You can record your speaking responses and listen to it to find whether they are satisfactory or not. You can also share them with your friends, teachers etc. and ask for their feedback. 

  • General tips:

  • Since the test is of a very long duration, practice as many real-time practice tests as you can. This will give you equip you with stamina required to deal with the actual test. Practice will also give you an idea of what kind of questions you will be getting.
  • You will be given a 10-minute break after the second section which you must avail to give your body and mind an opportunity to relax a bit.
  • Be completely focused during the test. Since the recordings are played only once, you can miss useful information if you lose your focus even for a split of a second.
  • Do not worry if you do not have an accent of a native English speakers. The accent does not matter until your responses are understandable to the listener.
  • Pay special attention to the time factor. Time management is one of the most important skill you should learn for a good score in TOEFL. Again, you can overcome the time constraint if you practice a lot.
  • If you are given a task which is not related in any way to your field of study, do not feel intimidated. You must answer based on the given information and not based on your previous knowledge of a However, it is greatly recommended to read and listen to academic content from a variety of subjects during your preparation.
  • Confidence is the key to success and TOEFL is no exception. Have belief in your abilities. If anyone can score well, so can you.
  • TOEFL is not much difficult. A person with 16 or more years of formal education has enough control over English language. Scoring good depends mainly on how well you prepare and how well you manage your time and resources on the test day. So, if you prepare properly and go with a positive mindset, you can score decently. Moreover, TOEFL is just another exam of your academic life and the test day is just another day of your life. So, do not stress yourself much as it will do no good to you.

 

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