The Complete TOEFL Guide

Why do you Need the Complete TOEFL Guide?

Wouldn’t it be nice to study at some big international university? Taking all your classes in English and getting a degree or certificate to bring back home (or stay there forever)?

Well, as you probably already know in order to study at a university in the US or  Canada you need to get a good score on the TOEFL.

This fact could very well make you nervous.

If you are like me, you do not like studying languages and you hate taking tests.

But I am here to help. I am going to show you what this test is all about, and also try to convince you that there is no need to freak out about the TOEFL.

toefl stress

Don’t freak out

Just like any big challenge, you will be successful if you have a game plan and commit to that game plan.

The best news I can tell you is that the test is based on assessing your overall communication skills. The creators of the test realized real communication skills are what should be evaluated, and not deep grammar knowledge or vocabulary mastery.

So, by doing what you should normally be doing anyway, like tons of listening, reading and speaking practice, you will be able to get a good score on the TOEFL.

Preparation is key, and this guide will help you do just that, prepare.

The more you know about the test the better you will perform.  For this reason I am going to break down each section for you and also give you some tips so you can be as confident as a  rock star when it’s time to take the test.

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What is the TOEFL?

The TOEFL is the Test of English as a Foreign Language, “a standardized test of English language proficiency for non-native English language speakers wishing to enroll in U.S. universities.”

What does that mean to you? It means if you want to study in the US or Canada you will most likely need to take this test.

There are test centers all over the world which makes it pretty easy to find somewhere near you to take the test.

These days they are almost always done online, which is both good and bad.


-There are many places to take the test

-You don’t have to talk to anyone face-to-face (no mean test givers)


-You have to talk to a computer (it probably won’t like you)

-You have to listen to a computer (no body language)

However, before you start preparing for the test, it is important to ascertain the structure of the TOEFL and learn how you will be assessed.

The reading section structure


In this section, you will be given 4 or 5 reading passages from the reading segment followed by comprehension questions relating to the passages. Some of these questions ask you to complete a narrative or complete a table, so be prepared.

Test takers are required to demonstrate that they comprehend what the question asks of them and that they have the skill to analyze the interpretations of the passages.

See an example of the reading section by clicking here

The listening section structure

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This listening section comprises of three or four conversations that occur between two or more speakers. You will be permitted to take notes as you listen. This segment aims at testing your ability to comprehend the speakers’ demeanor and meaning.

This section can be quite challenging. I highly recommend that you learn how to take really good notes and spend as much time as it takes to become confident with this skill.

You can learn more on note taking by clicking here

The writing section structure


This section is made up of two sections.

The first is the reading-listening-writing task. An academic reading will take place followed by a lecture. You will consequently be asked to relate the main points addressed during the lecture to the scholarly reading.

Additionally, there will be another question on a subject you are acquainted with. Here you will be expected to explain your answer using experience and personal knowledge. Test takers who have the ability to write concisely and clearly will score good marks in this segment.

Here’s an example: click this

The speaking section structure


In this segment, test takers need to demonstrate that they do understand the materials provided and have the capacity to make associations and also pass on information which is required. The speech conveyed also ought to be precise and clear with the correct use of grammar.

This section has six parts.

-Two of these parts are focused around topics that you are acquainted with. Like the writing segment, you will be asked to explain and back your answer with personal experience and knowledge. You will do this orally in this particular section.

-The following two questions incorporate both reading and listening materials. The conditions of the first question will be focused around campus, while the other will be focused around an academic classroom. Test takers get the opportunity to use these materials to answer the questions that are given.

-The questions will next be followed by a listening material, comprising of a short conversation or lecture. You’ll be required to outline the key thoughts from the discussions.

Check out the example here


15 Strategies Success Strategies


1. Acquaint yourself with the TOEFL structure

The main reason why individuals experience exam anxiety is on account of not knowing what’s in store before a test. Avoid stress on test day by really getting to know the test format. The absolute best way to do that is to take a practice test.

There are several free and some paid practice versions online, and I highly recommend you try them all. The more practice you have with the actual test, the better.

2.  Research on TOEFL score prerequisites

The TOEFL is needed for all non-native English speakers who want to study at university in the United States or Canada. Before you start studying, get to know the criteria for the schools you have interest in. Keep in mind that the scores for the paper-based test are totally different to the scores for the ibt. Every ibt segment is scored out of 30. Numerous colleges expect that you will attain higher writing aptitudes than speaking abilities. Oh, and TOEFL scores are legitimate for two years.

3. Familiarize yourself with academic English

TOEFL vocabulary

Did you get all that?

TOEFL is different than other ESL tests. How? The TOEFL measures your capacity to succeed in an American school or college. You don’t need to think about the business world as you would do in a TOEIC test. Rather, you ought to focus on studying the language that you would see and hear in the classroom and on campus. Put another way, you ought to read text books, reference books, research articles and journals, as well as watch contemporary TV and films. Being around native speakers is huge, and can really bring you fast progress.  In the event that you have a friend who goes to an English college, go to class with her as frequently as possible. Borrow her books and hang out with her friends.

4. Find good material

As I mentioned in #1, the best way to prepare for the TOEFL is with lots of practice tests. In the event that you are taking a TOEFL class, your instructor will give you a lot of material, but if you are considering studying for the TOEFL  alone, you will need to buy (or download) a couple of essential resources. Get hold of a text book that contains exercises, practice tests, vocabulary, CDs, and illustrative answers. You don’t need to work through a book from front to back. Take a look at the segments that you find generally difficult. Don’t simply depend on one book. Be cautious with the quality of the material, as you may have a book that is much easier and simpler than the official TOEFL. This is where paid resources can be more reliable in regards to being current and up-to-date.

5. Find a reliable TOEFL trainer

An experienced local English trainer who knows a ton about the TOEFL is among the most important resources you can have. You will have numerous questions that your course book cannot find answers for, and knowing which areas you need to improve on is extremely important. Frustrated learners frequently surrender. It is vital that you have somebody who will answer your questions and give you encouragement when feeling down. A good trainer will also keep you focused and on track.

6. Arrive prepared

Feeling calm and confident on test day is also very important. When you are anxious, your memory does not function as well, and when science is involved you better obey. Try to get good sleep the night before. Eat well before the test. Be certain you know precisely how to get to the test location and where to park. Bring the right amount of cash for parking. Arrive early. It is vital that your ID looks legitimate. On the off chance that you’ve had issues with your ID some time recently, make a point of bringing a backup photograph . Remember to carry any paperwork that ETS sends you to show that you have enlisted.

7. Enhance your typing skills


Learn how to type fast

You will need to type your essay and fill up your answers on the computer. If you depend on a couple of fingers to type, consider enhancing your typing abilities before doing the TOEFL test. Try to be confident and comfortable typing on a QWERTY keyboard. If you are not, look up online typing drill practices. Click here for a great site for typing practice Regardless of the fact that your typing skills might be strong, have a go at doing practice tests on other different computers. A few students get so accustomed to their own particular machine that they get anxious when they have to work on another keyboard or utilize an alternate mouse on the test day.

8. Be an expert at taking notes

You will be allowed to take notes in every section as you sit your TOEFL iBT.   Note taking is permitted in light of the fact that it is an essential skill needed for taking college or university courses. There are some strategies on how to take better notes. Make sure you give yourself ample time to practice these techniques. This is something you should spend a lot of time on. I wrote a post about it, which you should read by clicking here

9. Answer each question

Don’t ever leave a question blank. Take out all the answers you know aren’t right then come up with an educated guess. You have a 25% possibility of getting the right answer. When you complete a question or section, try to keep it out of your mind. Whether you are listening, reading or answering a question, put all your focus on the task at hand. It doesn’t help to worry about mistakes (free life lesson).

10. Do not focus on grammar, but do review basic concepts

-The ibt doesn’t test for grammar independently, as past TOEFL tests did, however you still need to demonstrate that you have a good grasp of grammar use in the writing and speaking areas. Make sure you review basis grammar, and check out the English Grammar in Use Book and do the practice test in the back of the book. This will show you areas you need to work on.

11. Acquaint yourself with main academic vocabulary

There are many helpful course books for this purpose. Make sure you know what academic vocabulary is and search the internet for good lists. Here is an example.

12. Work on reading without a dictionary nearby

Thinking critically about words you might not know is a very valuable skill. Try developing this technique by forcing yourself to figure out the meaning of words without immediately referring to a dictionary.

13. Strategic Reading 

Read quickly through the passages, read the questions, then read again for more detail. Also, the questions typically come in the order they show up in the section. Anticipate the kind of questions you will get from this section.

14. Do not repeat listening sections

When practicing for the listening segments do not play the CD or tape more than once. During the real test you will just hear everything once. You need to train your ears to listen keenly during the first run through.

15. Do not second guess yourself

TOEFL test

Don’t second guess yourself

During the real exam, don’t rethink a listening question after you have chosen an answer. Why? Because you can’t change it.

16. Use your time wisely

During the listening section, the clock won’t begin running until you begin to answer the questions.

17. Listen for keywords

Learn to listen for presentation, key ideas (contrast/compare etc.) and also be careful with “transitional” words that can quickly change the context. Read more on that right here.  

18. Speak Simply

Don’t try to use too many idioms and phrasal verbs! Not only is it difficult to use them correctly, it really makes it seem like you’re overdoing it. You will likewise lose marks for poor use of idioms and vocabulary. Verify you know how to use a certain expression correctly before you attempt to use it on the test. You will lose marks for poor elocution, so don’t attempt to use big words that you cannot pronounce properly.

13. Write Simply

The most essential thing is to make sure your writing is clear and simple. You won’t have access to a spelling checker, so do not get too courageous. 🙁

20. Use commas sparingly

comma use

Avoid evil commas

Do not use punctuation and vocabulary that you are uncertain about. Learn the basics of English pronunciation. Believe me, it’s different from your language. Learn how to use commas properly, right here.

21. Develop strong outline skills

Spend some time thinking about your essay before you begin it. Your outline will spare you time over the long haul. Here is a resource on writing a good outline. When you practice for the essay, find a format that you are comfortable using and use it always. For instance, your theory may often be the third sentence of your presentation. You may often end your conclusion with a question.

22. Learn How to Support Your Writing with Examples

Make a point of using loads of samples to support your essay.

23. Visit the official TOEFL site

The official TOEFL site has various helpful things that you can download at no cost. They will provide you with a list of the topics to be written on the essay. You can likewise find vital information about the test updates and the test centers. Most of the questions you might have will be answered here.

Are you ready?

The key to success on the TOEFL is preparation. The best thing you can do is take practice tests to know which areas are the most difficult for you. Then find someone to help you work on these specific problem areas and do a lot of training. Also, don’t stop doing all the fun things in English you should already be doing. Watch as much television and films as possible with the intention of growing your vocabulary and improving. Be patient. Wait until the right time. Don’t take the test as soon as possible. Be patient and wait until you feel confident to walk into the testing room with confidence.  

More questions?

Did I miss something? Let me know if you have any more questions or know of any good resources that you could share in the comments below.      

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