Six Ways to Prepare for the TOEFL Test

The English language is the medium used in many institutions—with some 380 million native speakers and 700 million EFL learners—and English fluency is a very valuable skill which many learners want to acquire. A person’s English skills can be measured in many ways, but one of the most widely accepted is the TOEFL® test.

The TOEFL test measures proficiency in the English language—particularly in reading, writing, listening, and speaking at the college or university level. Passing the TOEFL test matters a lot because it is required or accepted by more than 9,000 institutions in 130 different countries around the globe. Getting a good score on the TOEFL test is important for college admission tests, visa applications, scholarship grants, and many more. In this post, we will give you six ways to prepare for your TOEFL test.


1. Be ready to have your four skills assessed.

The TOEFL test gauges your proficiency in the four major skills—reading, writing, listening, and speaking. The Reading section of the TOEFL test mainly focuses on your critical reading skill, which is your ability to understand a text or passage that may cover various fields of study from literature to humanities to science. The Writing section requires a greater flair for language than the Reading section does, as it requires you to write two short essays on two different tasks. These two tasks are the integrated writing task and the independent writing task. Both the Reading and Writing sections of the TOEFL test require 80 minutes and 50 minutes, respectively.

The Listening section can be a challenge to learners whose native language is not English. This portion of the test requires that the learner not only hear but also understand the spoken words. During the Listening test, you will need to understand spoken lectures and answer between 30 and 50 related questions in 60 to 90 minutes. Lastly, the Speaking exam is designed to gauge spoken English ability by requiring you to accomplish speaking tasks in 20 minutes. The speaking tasks cover both casual conversations and formal academic responses.

2. Keep a daily or weekly journal.

Keeping a journal in English will not only help you prepare for the Writing tasks in the TOEFL test. It will also help you get your thoughts more organized. Journal writing can help build confidence, allow the educator to learn insights from the learner (for student-teacher interactions), be a haven for beginning writers, act as an indirect source of improvement for grammar and mechanics, help students deal with issues, and become a fun way to practice writing. All these can help you become more prepared for the TOEFL test.

3. Be QWERTY-savvy, or practice your handwriting.

If you’re planning to take the TOEFL test, then you probably know by now that the test comes in two different versions: TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT. The TOEFL iBT is the test delivered via the Internet, which means the learner will have to take the test using a computer. Taking the test via computer means that you will have to use a QWERTY keyboard, so you better start practicing if you are not yet familiar with its layout. Keep in mind that the TOEFL test is under time pressure, so the faster you type, the better.

The other version of the TOEFL test is the TOELF PBT (Paper-based Test), which is administered in paper-and-pencil format for those states and areas where the Internet is not readily accessible. In July 2017, however, the TOEFL PBT test was replaced by the revised TOEFL Paper-delivered Test, which aligns more closely to the TOEFL iBT test, but it’s still in a paper-and-pencil format. That means that you will have to be comfortable with writing on paper and, needless to say, your handwriting must be legible.

4. Know TOEFL score requirements.

TOEFL scores can range from 0 to 30 for each section, for a total of 120 overall. Score reports also contain a summary of the learner's capabilities based on test scores. Scores appear online around 10 to 12 days after the test is taken. The ETS will report these scores for about 2 years after the test date. According to ETS, “There is no passing or failing TOEFL® score; individual higher education institutions and agencies set their own score requirements.” But generally, a safe score would be 90 and up, depending on the institution or agency.

5. Plan ahead for test day.

Anyone taking a test, especially if the test needs to be taken on a testing site, should plan ahead. This includes planning the trip to make sure you arrive 30 minutes before the test, knowing identification requirements and restrictions for electronic devices and food, and making sure to finish the test within the given 4 hours.

6. Master academic English.

Since TOEFL is generally geared toward educational institutions, it would be very advantageous for you to concentrate on academic English. Reading textbooks, encyclopedias, journals, and research articles will help you enhance your mastery of academic English. Enrolling in a good ESL school—such as the ESL Global Institute—can also help sharpen your academic English skills so you can be better prepared for the TOEFL test.

About ESL Global Institute

ESL Global Institute (ESLGI) is an English Language Institute where classes are taught by professionals with diverse expertise from different fields such as business and the academe. ESLGI believes that communication is integral to the immigrant’s journey into the United States and offers English classes for beginners, intermediate, and advanced adult students. ESLGI helps its students gain more confidence in the English language so they can perform better at school or in the workplace.

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