When planning to take the iBT TOEFL examination, there are a number of strategies, tips and tricks that you must be aware of in order to achieve your goals. In this article I will provide a brief overview with a few tips and tricks for each section.
TOEFL® iBT is:
- The Test of English as a Foreign Language. Internet-Based Test.
- A test that you take on a computer.
- A test of Academic English
- A speaking test that integrates reading and listening with speaking through a headset.
- A writing test that integrates reading and listening with typing responses on computer.
- All multiple-choice or multiple-matching in the Reading and Listening sections.
- More academically-oriented than IELTS™.
- More science-oriented than IELTS.
- Less Internationally-oriented than IELTS.
TOEFL® is not:
- A grammar test.
- Easier than IELTS.
- Marked by robots, although practice tests are! (See the bottom of this page).
How to prepare
- Do take a preparation course that offers a free diagnostic test to assess your level and your needs and has trainers who have had special training by an accredited institution. You also need a course that uses the appropriate hardware, software and networking to simulate the test. A course that does not follow a diagnostic, needs-tested syllabus will waste your time. An untrained English teacher will not be able to offer the necessary guidance and a course that uses only the traditional classroom environment and facilities will not prepare you adequately for an internet-based test.
- Do lots of homework and practice in your own time.
- Don’t book your test until you have taken a preparation course. There are plenty of tests and plenty of test centers.
- Don’t take a preparation course until your General English level is at least upper Intermediate.
How not to prepare
- Only study English twice a week.
- Use practice material designed for the old paper-based test.
Tips and tricks for the reading test
- You don’t have much time so don’t read all of the reading passage in detail.
- Read the instructions for each set of questions carefully as there are several different types of question, each with different rules.
- Read each passage quickly to get a general impression first then read the questions and locate the answers in the text.
Tips and tricks for the writing test
- Use a formal style for both of the writing tasks; don’t use conversational language, slang or contractions.
- Practice taking notes from lectures and summarizing reading passages quickly.
- Always write in paragraphs.
- Don’t copy any phrases or sentences from the question; use synonyms and paraphrases
- Check the word count before you submit your response.
- If the question asks you to discuss two opinions/positions, try do write an equal amount about each position.
- When the question asks you to support your position/opinion with reasons or examples, the plural “s” means you must give more than one reason/example to get a good score.
- In the integrated Writing question, you only need to summarize the reading passage, but you should try to get all the details of the listening passage.
Tips and tricks for the speaking test
- Practice talking about your home, your family, your work/studies, your hobbies, your favorite things etc but don’t be surprised if questions one and two ask you about something you don’t normally think about, or have no experience of.
- Practice speaking for 45 seconds with fifteen seconds preparation for questions one and two. The examiner will expect you to use all of the time available.
- Don’t try to memorize speeches.
- If you can’t think of the right word, use other words to explain what you mean. Don’t stop speaking!
- Practice taking notes from lectures and summarizing reading passages quickly for questions three to six.
- In questions three and four you only need to summarize the reading passage, but you should try to get all the details of the listening passage.
Tips and tricks for the listening test
- Taking good notes is essential. You don’t see the questions until after the listening passage has finished.
- There are several different types of question, so Listen for and note down main and supporting ideas, details, lists of items and examples of concepts or categories.
- Watch out for “exception” questions that ask you to choose items NOT included in the passage.
- Read each question carefully because there are several different question types.
- You will usually hear the answers in the same order as the questions so order your notes linearly.
Did you know?
- You have to complete all four parts of the test on the same day.
- TOEFL® is accepted my most universities but there have been issues with test security that may affect its acceptability for Immigration purposes. Check the requirements from your host countries Immigration website as well as the requirements from your place of study.
- Qualified trainers prefer not to, or in some cases are not allowed to give predicted scores, only feedback and advice on how to achieve your target.
- The scores given in a real test do not have a fixed relationship to percentage and practice tests cannot give a definite predicted score. This is because the scores are fixed after the test results are collected to allow statistical smoothing and standardization of the results.
- The speaking test is recorded and graded after the test by an examiner in another location. This means that your manner and non-verbal communication are not noted. However, being positive and natural will affect your delivery, so it might help to imagine you are actually talking face-to face.
- The speaking test is graded “holistically” which means that the overall fluency, organization and clarity of your answer are more important than accuracy of grammar and vocabulary or your accent.
- There is an official online ETS TOEFL® test practice service which uses a software program to give a predicted score for writing and speaking!