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How To Prepare For TOEFL

The TOEFL test is an abbreviation for the Test Of English as a Foreign Language. As the name suggests, it is a standardised test similar to GRE, GMAT, or IELTS. The main aim of the TOEFL test is to check the English proficiency of the test takers. The TOEFL ibt test is mainly taken by undergraduate and graduate students willing to study abroad as it is widely accepted. All across the world, the test is accepted by 11,000 universities in over 150 countries. 


Before coming to how you can prepare for the test, it is essential to understand the difference between the various types of TOEFL tests and the main pattern of the ibt test. Read on to find out!


There are three main types of TOEFL tests:

  • TOEFL PBT – This is the paper version of the test or Paper Based on Test
  • TOEFL cbt – This is the computer version of the test or Computer Based Test
  • TOEFL ibt – This is the online or Internet-based test version, which has replaced the computer version entirely. This is also the most common version.

There are the TOEFL Primary, Junior, and ITP tests for smaller children, but we will focus on the standardised tests and their patterns. 


In this section, you will find a detailed explanation of the format, which is the first thing every test-taker should be familiar with. 


  • There are four sections on the TOEFL test – Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. The total duration of the test is 4 hours and 30 minutes.
  • In the Reading section, test-takers must read a text and answer the following questions. There can be between 3 and 7 texts in total, each about 700 words. This section aims to test how easy it is for you to understand the content written entirely in English.
  • In the Listening section, there will be two types of tasks – lectures and conversations between two people. After listening to either, you must answer the following questions within a stipulated period. This entire section is divided into smaller parts, each for about 10 minutes. This section aims to test your ability to understand the language while you hear it.
  • The Speaking section of the test includes six exam questions that need to be answered in a microphone. The purpose is to test the understandability of your accent.
  • Last but not least is the Writing section of the test. In this section, every test taker is required to write two essays. One task is Integrated Writing, while the other is Independent Writing. For the independent writing task, you are required to present your opinion on a given topic. For the integrated writing task, you must listen to a recording and read some provided material before writing an essay. This section will judge your writing ability, grammar knowledge, and vocabulary usage.
  • After the Reading and Listening sections of the test, there is a compulsory 10-minute break where every candidate is asked to leave the room.
  • The Reading section is 60-100 minutes long, the Listening section is 60-90 minutes long, the Speaking section is the shortest at 20 minutes, and the Writing Section will take you 50 minutes in total.
  • The test is scored out of 120 points in total.

Preparation Strategy for the TOEFL TEST

Here are a few tips and tricks to help you prepare for the test:


  1. The first step to preparing for any standardised test is identifying your pre-existing knowledge levels and then determining how to improve them. You must decide whether you want to learn yourself or you need a private tutor to help you. 
  2. There are innumerable online resources available to help you in your preparation. Magoosh, Kaplan, Manhattan Prep, Barrons, etc., are some of them, so make sure you leverage these resources.
  3. It is important to have an ideal test score in mind. This is because different universities have different minimum eligibility scores required to consider your application. You must set an aim and then work towards achieving it. 
  4. While preparing for a test like TOEFL that can make or break your application, you must ensure that you take every necessary step to ensure a high score. For this purpose, you must choose a proper study place every day. The first step to doing this is selecting about 2-3 of your top study locations where you can focus well. They can be your room, a cafe, a library or any other place where you are comfortable. Make sure you choose a place that is quiet. You must always keep this space clean and organized. 
  5. You must make it a habit to read newspapers, novels, and/or articles, anything that interests you and is written in English, for at least 30-45 minutes on a daily basis. This exercise will help you improve your reading and writing skills.
  6. After reading something, ask yourself questions about the text and see how you can answer these questions and how much of the text have you been able to retain. This will also help you determine your levels of understanding.
  7. You must practice your Listening skills as well. This is because Listening can prove to be one of the most difficult sections of the TOEFL test and it is important you prepare well for it. Before you begin listening, there are certain points to remember. Always make a goal to understand the main ideas of the task, its purpose, and the transitions that the speaker makes. Also, make sure that you take note of the speaker’s intonation.


8. You can practice your listening skills by listening to native English speakers with a proper accent as much as possible. You can watch the news, short films, documentaries, etc., to upgrade your listening skills. There are various audios and podcasts available on the Internet specifically for this purpose.

9. It is important to practice writing while you time yourself, before the test. This is especially important for people who do not speak English as their mother tongue. In order to be able to write fast in English, we need to first think of points and then arrange them in our minds in English. This won’t be possible unless you put time constraints upon yourself. While practicing, keep the following points in mind: Mention all important points based on the importance of every detail., Check for spellings and grammar errors., Try not to focus on the length of your content much. Instead, make sure that it is well organized and informative.

10. Make sure that you practice speaking English, both with yourself and others around you. You can do so by talking to pets, looking into the mirror, speak to your siblings, etc. Also, make sure that you restrict your conversation in English with your teachers and friends. Constantly ask for feedback. 

11. Make sure that you take a good number of practice tests while preparing. We cannot stress this point enough. Practice tests are the only way you can understand your level of preparation and make the necessary changes in your strategies. Also, this is the only way to measure yourself and prepare for the exam in a very similar environment. Drink adequate water and lock your phone to not be distracted. Make sure that you schedule your bathroom breaks accordingly. The test is very lengthy and in order to make through it in one sitting, you must practice doing so beforehand. 

12. TOEFL is conducted by ETS or Educational Testing Agency. This is the same agency that conducts the GRE and GMAT. You will find various courses, practice tests, and study material on the ETS website. Make sure that you use these optimally and solve as many questions as possible. These are official guides so you can rest assured that your efforts will not go in vain. 

13. It is extremely important to give yourself ample time to prepare for the test. In order to do so, choose a test date as soon as you decide to take the test. 

14. It is important to keep in mind that all preparation strategies do not apply to every test taker. You must personalize your study plan and focus on your own weaknesses and strengths. There can be problems with vocabulary. In this case, you must drill more vocabulary words and grammar patterns. Reading more can help with this. Whenever you come across a word that you don’t understand, look it up in a dictionary immediately. 

15. In a TOEFL test, there will be questions that can have more than one answer. You must learn to recognize such questions as they do not come with any warnings. You will have to get every correct option to score full points. There are four options for every question. You must read every answer choice before choosing the correct one as you may miss a second correct answer otherwise. 


16. The day before the test, make sure you get adequate nutrition and sleep. It is very important to be well-rested before the test to ensure that your mind is alert and calm during the test. Also, do not skip breakfast in the morning on test day as you cannot eat anything during the test and hunger will not let you focus. 

17. A very effective test strategy is to use the process of elimination to answer your questions. If you are not sure about your answer, eliminate the wrong answer options and you will automatically find one that fils the questions perfectly. The idea is to look for wrong answers instead of the right ones. 

18. Make sure that you answer every question in the test as there is no negative marking for a wrong answer. Be is SAT, ACT, or GRE, the same applies to these tests as well. Since there is no way you will be losing marks, it is better to have a 25% chance of being correct in case of uncertainty instead of losing all points. 

19. While preparing for the test, create a reading strategy for yourself and works well. You can either read in parts or underline the important points while you read or you can make notes for every paragraph. Choose something that works for you. Always remember that the goal is to read fast, understand the text, and retain the important parts as much as possible so that you do not have to come back to it over and over again. There can be anything between 12 to 14 questions for each passage and coming back to it for every single one of them can be extremely time-consuming and not a feasible option when you have approximately 20 minutes only for each passage. 

20. While solving the test, you will have an option to marks questions and then review them. If you find a difficult question, skip it for the time being instead of wasting too much time on it. Come back to it later after you are done solving the easier questions that you are sure about. Also, make it a point to review each and every answer so that you do not lose points. Instead of coming back to them later, you can also double-check every answer before moving on to the next question.  

Our 20 essential TOEFL ibt preparation strategies are guaranteed to help you and give you the much-needed confidence on test day. An important thing that you must remember is that it is essential to know everything about the test that there is before test day. If you find something out that you did not know earlier, and you didn’t take into consideration before preparation, it can harm your final scores. Read and research as much as possible. Also, study diligently and consistently throughout the preparation period to make sure that you give your 100% into the test. Last but not least, always have confidence in your preparation and believe that you can do well for yourself. 

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