TOEFL Preparation Tips

10 minute read
TOEFL Preparation Tips

Developing profound skills in a language can’t be done overnight. It requires persistent efforts and hard work. Just like other English proficiency tests, TOEFL requires you to have a good command of the English language as the exam assesses various aspects of the language through 4 sections namely, Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking. A good TOEFL score can help you get into a wide range of colleges and also eases the immigration process. Here are some TOEFL preparation tips which will help you get a good score in each section!

ExamTest of English as a Foreign Language
Conducted byEducational Testing Service (ETS)
Types of Exam TOEFL iBT & TOEFL PBT
SectionsReading, Writing, Listening & Speaking
DurationTOEFL iBT: Less than 2 hours
Test Fee$190 (16,900 INR approx.)

Must Read: Types of TOEFL Exam

Latest Updates on TOEFL Exam

The duration of the TOEFL Exam has been reduced to less than 2 hours. The exam pattern has also changed accordingly. These changes will be effective from the 26th of July 2023. Mostly the changes in exam sections are in the number of questions and tasks in them.

In the writing section, however, the independent question has been replaced by a task called writing for academic discussion. In this question, students will read a lecture given by a professor on a topic along with the responses of students on the topic. As a test taker, the student has to write their own responses and ideas on the topic and defend them with relevant arguments.

The content of this blog for preparation for the TOEFL exam has been updated accordingly.

8 TOEFL Preparation Strategies

While the aforementioned tips will surely prove imperative in gearing up for each section of the exam, we have also compiled a list of top TOEFL preparation strategies that can help you in drafting the right study plan to acquire a high score in this exam:

  • Understand the Format First: Even if you speak English fluently, the format of the TOEFL exam still has the potential to confuse you. Visit the official TOEFL website to learn more about how it operates and to gather any information you require. Be aware that there are two test-taking options available to you: an online test (also known as an iBT) and a paper-based test. The former is presumably the one you’ll perform because it is currently much more in demand. Here is how each is organised, just in case.
  • The internet-based test has the following structure:
    • Reading (20 questions; 35 minutes)
    • Listening (28 questions; 36 minutes)
    • Speaking (4 tasks; 16 minutes)
    • Writing (2 tasks; 29 minutes)
  • The paper-based exam is structured as follows:
    • Listening (28 questions; 36 minutes)
    • Writing (2 questions; 29 minutes)
    • Reading (20 questions; 35 minutes)
    • Test of Written English (2 tasks; 29 minutes)
  • Grab a study guide: Obtaining a study guide is a great approach to further your TOEFL preparation. An excellent TOEFL book will guide you through each area, including helpful tips, hints for strategies, sample questions, and answers. There are many excellent TOEFL books available, as well as many subpar ones. Fortunately for you, we’ve covered the top ones in this article.
  • Set a TOEFL Score You Want to Achieve: This is of utmost importance because if you have a specified target to reach, you can effectively identify your strong and weak points and then curate the right TOEFL preparation strategy accordingly. You must decide upon a target score that meets the requirements of the academic institution(s) you are applying for.
  • Put Aside Enough Time for Preparation: Generally, 2 months is advised to be the recommended time period for TOEFL preparation but if you feel like honing your English skills by starting with the basics of the language then you need to set aside 3-6 months to carry out your preparation.
  • Select an Early Exam Date: Opt for a test date around 6-10 weeks (or according to the admission intake deadline of your chosen academic institution) before you need to submit them for your application since you will get your TOEFL results by then and can provide them afterwards.
  • Learn to Take Notes: This is one of the important TOEFL preparation tips since missing out on key details throughout the different exam sections can result in losing valuable marks. Train yourself to take notes by putting down pointers especially during the listening, speaking and writing sections.
  • Practice tests consistently: I can’t emphasise this enough. Set up some time to finish a full practice test rather than just practice questions once every week or two, or even more frequently. Once more, do this to become more accustomed to the test environment and to improve your technique and competence. The best preparation is actually practice. By the time your test actually occurs, you will be so accustomed to the experience that nothing will frighten you about it.
  • Don’t Skip Any Question: As there is no negative marking in this exam, you must always answer every question with the best possible option or use the process of elimination to find the correct one.

TOEFL Reading Tips

The reading section requires you to read a given passage and understand its central idea in order to answer the questions. As per the new guidelines, the test taker has to go through 2 reading passages and answer 10 questions for each within 35 minutes. Here are some TOEFL preparation tips you can follow to solve so many questions within the stipulated time.  

  • Quick Reading
    You need to be a quick reader. Quick reading doesn’t mean that you just finish reading the passage in one go, but skimming through the paragraph while understanding the crux of it is important. You need not go through minute details but you should have surface-level knowledge to answer the questions.
  • Skim and Scan
    Make a habit of scanning articles quickly and try to write down points about what you understood.
  • Stick to the Passage
    You need to answer the questions with regard to what has been written in the passage and not with respect to your opinion on it.
  • Read from Various Sources
    Apart from the texts provided in practice papers and books, you should also go through new paper articles in order to develop worldwide knowledge. Having prior knowledge of a subject will help you comprehend the passage easily.
  • Skim through the Questions
    Not restricted to only above mentioned TOEFL preparation tips, you can also go through the questions first and then read the passage. This way, you would know what answer you exactly are looking for.  

Quick Read: TOEFL Study Material

TOEFL Listening Tips

This section of the TOEFL syllabus requires your undivided attention during the test. Unlike reading, you can’t go back to a portion which you missed. According to new guidelines the test taker has to listen to 2 lectures and answer questions based on them. Furthermore, one also has to listen to 3 conversations and answer questions based on each conversation. In total, this section has 28 questions and all of this has to be done in a time limit of 36 minutes. TOEFL preparation tips for the Listening Section have been given a rundown below:

  • Practice in a Similar Environment
    Your TOEFL preparation for the Listening Section should be done in an environment similar to the testing condition. This will ensure that you don’t get distracted by anything.
  • Prepare from Other Sources
    This section is not just about listening. You need to process the lecture and the conversation. Along with listening, you also need to memorize what is being said. So, listen to news debates, broadcasts, English movies and documentaries. 
  • Listen to Podcasts
    Understanding the tone and the thought process of the speaker is very essential. Along with practice tests and material, you can also listen to various podcasts to develop a habit of understanding an audio clip without any visuals.

TOEFL Speaking Tips

This section not only tests your fluency in speaking English but also assesses the determinants of personality and responsive skills too. You’ll be given one independent and three integrated tasks which you need to complete in the span of 16 minutes. Here are some important TOEFL Speaking tips that you should consider. 

TOEFL Preparation Tips
  • Jot Down Important Points
    While listening, focus on what is being said, and make brief notes of the same.
  • Take Help from English Natives
    One can’t pick up a style or accent in a day. You need to persistently practice in order to make it a habit. For those who are in touch with English natives can practice speaking with them in order to develop fluency. For those who don’t have this option can go through lectures and talks relevant to the TOEFL topics and try to observe how they speak.
  • Record and Listen
    This is one of the best TOEFL preparation tips for the Speaking Section. While reading a newspaper article or practising TOEFL speaking topics, record your voice on the phone or a recorder. This will not only help you identify your mistakes but will also help you in improving your enunciation and speed.
  • Relax and Speak
    Getting nervous while appearing for competitive exams like TOEFL is evident. However, keeping cool while speaking is important. Perform breathing exercises before you begin the test.

TOEFL Writing Tips

This section will require you to write two passages, one writing for an academic discussion and one integrated. Since you’ll be given only 29 minutes to complete the two tasks, it is important to enhance your speed. Here are a few TOEFL preparation tips for the Writing section. 

  • Practice Reading
    One of the essential TOEFL preparation tips to ace the Writing section is to read from as many sources as possible. This will help you gain more knowledge and will thus improve your answer quality. Moreover, reading will also boost your vocabulary and improve your English Grammar!
  • Structure the Answer Well
    A well-documented and structured passage is bound to score a higher grade. Since the evaluation is done based on critical analysis, one should mention the key details in a concise way.
  • Time Management
    Read, draft an outline, and write. This is a general step-by-step process that one must follow. However, this skill will only come with practice.  

Take Our Exclusive TOEFL Sample Test!

TOEFL Exam Structure

There are some new changes introduced by ETS for the TOEFL iBT format which is the commonly preferred exam format for this exam. Take a look at the updated version of the new TOEFL iBT pattern:

Tips to Score Above 90 in TOEFL

Best Books for TOEFL Preparation

Books Author Buy Here
ETS Official Guide to the TOEFL Test (4th Edition) ETSBuy Here 
Cracking the TOEFL iBTPrinceton Review Buy Here
Official TOEFL iBT Test Volume 2ETSBuy Here
Kaplan TOEFL iBT Premier with 4 Practice Tests Kaplan Test PrepBuy Here
The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need: A One-Stop
Source for Every Writing Assignment 
Susan Thurman Buy Here
Essential Words for the  TOEFL, 6th Edition (Barron’s Essential
Words for the TOEFL )
Steven J. MatthiesenBuy Here
Practice Exercises for the TOEFL with MP3 CD Pamela J. Sharpe Buy Here
TOEFL Grammar Guide: 23 Grammar Rules You Must Know To
Guarantee Your Success On The TOEFL Exam 
Timothy Dickeson Buy Here
240 Speaking Topics: With Sample Answers (Volume 2) LIKE Test PrepBuy Here
240 Writing Topics: with Sample Essays LIKE Test PrepBuy Here

Exam Day Tips for TOEFL

On the examination day there are several things that candidates should take care of. For example, applicants have to be at least half an hour early for the TOEFL exam. These tips can help the student to avoid any last minute problems. Below we have provided some of the exam day tips for the TOEFL exam.

  • Practice sample TOEFL exam papers before giving the actual exam. It will give the student a sense of familiarity with the paper.
  • On the exam day, it is important to take a minute to compose yourself before starting the reading section
  • It is best not to study on the examination day as it won’t be of any benefit
  • The writing section is only allocated 20 minutes. Hence, it is important to write the answers within the time frame.
  • Complete concentration is required to answer the listening and speaking questions. The headphones available in the test center do not have noise cancellation. Hence, it is important to listen carefully.

Also Read: TOEFL vs IELTS vs PTE


How should I start preparing for TOEFL?

The most important TOEFL preparation tips you must keep in mind if you are just starting out is that you must primarily understand the structure and syllabus of TOEFL. Then, draft your own study plan by meticulously devising a strategy focusing on your strong and weak points. To ace each section of TOEFL, you can refer to the aforementioned useful tips that will assist in sailing smoothly through your preparation schedule.

How can I prepare for TOEFL in 7 days?

The minimum time recommended for TOEFL preparation is one month and one can only prepare for TOEFL in 7 days if they have intermediate-level proficiency in English. You should begin by going through the TOEFL exam pattern and comprehending the topics or sections on which you need to practice and the ones you need to revise. This will help you in drafting the right strategy for TOEFL.

How long does it take to prepare for TOEFL?

Generally, the minimum preparation time suggested for TOEFL is one month for those adhering to a strict and tight study schedule. But, if you need to extensively work on each section then two months are quite adequate to carry out your TOEFL preparation.

Even though you can follow a multitude of TOEFL preparation tips, practising is the ultimate key to success!

Candidates who want to prepare for TOEFL or any other language proficiency test, can Build a plan with Leverage Edu‘s Leverage Live classes and our top trainers and strengthen your English score as well as your application so that you can secure your spot in your dream college.

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