So You Want to Take the TOEFL? 5 Tips To Prepare

by: David Recine

Studying for the TOEFL? Perhaps you haven’t yet begun, but are already looking ahead at this daunting endeavour. Well, it’s time to quell your fears and begin your TOEFL journey (or start advancing significantly further ahead!). Just like tackling any task, preparation is key. Here are our top five tips to help you prepare!

Tip # 1: Research quality practice materials

High-quality TOEFL prep resources are essential to your studies. Bad prep materials often give inaccurate or misleading information. With poorly-written prep materials, you’ll waste time (and money!) on questions you won’t actually see on test day. So—first and foremost—research TOEFL prep materials. Check out reviews of TOEFL books and websites and choose only the most reputable TOEFL prep resources. Then and only then will you want to make a purchase.

Tip # 2: Take full-length practice tests

Taking full practice tests is a very important part of preparing for the TOEFL. You should take one upon beginning your studies, to determine your starting skill level; take another halfway through your studies, to measure progress; and then one more, right before the TOEFL itself. In addition to tracking your progress, taking multiple practice tests will give you a feel for what test day will be like. Here again, the quality of the practice tests matter. Check online and find a test—like these tried and true TOEFL practice tests—for the best practice.

Tip # 3: Get TOEFL speaking and writing feedback

When you take practice tests, you’ll be able to self-score your Reading and Listening sections. However, TOEFL Speaking and Writing are not multiple choice and can be difficult to grade without outside feedback. Record your TOEFL Speaking responses and save your TOEFL Writing essays. Then show these responses to a teacher or study partner. Make sure that your Speaking and Writing feedback partner is familiar with the official TOEFL Speaking Rubrics and the official TOEFL Writing score guides. Learn these scoring guides for yourself as well. This kind of feedback is an incredibly valuable part of TOEFL prep.

Tip # 4: Practice English as much as you can

While practicing actual test questions is obviously important, the TOEFL is designed to test your broader English abilities. Get in as much practice with English as you can. Don’t just record TOEFL Speaking responses; also practice real English speaking with a conversation partner. Practice real English writing too, whether you do so on an internet message board, on social media, or in a private journal. When you read and listen in English, don’t just go through the TOEFL Listening and Reading sections. Read news websites in English, listen to English podcasts, and watch English-language movies and TV.

Tip # 5: Learn to identify your strengths and weaknesses

TOEFL and English practice don’t have a magical effect on your TOEFL abilities. You don’t get better just because you’re putting in a lot of practice time. You also have to analyze your practice experience. Think carefully about the language skills, TOEFL sections, and TOEFL question types that you feel the most confident in and identify areas where you struggle. From there, adjust your study plans as needed, building on your strengths while addressing your weaknesses.

For nearly ten years, David Recine has been teaching ESL students ranging from Kindergarten tots to university grads. He is a test prep expert; writing articles for Magoosh, covering everything from tricky TOEFL vocabulary to complex TOEFL practice problems. You can read more of David’s awesome blog posts on the Magoosh TOEFL Blog.

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