Every year tens of thousands of students appear for the TOEFL. Most of these students study on their own, while a small percentage of them take coaching classes and tutorials. Here are some tips for studying for TOEFL.
Familiarize yourself with the three TOEFL formats
TOEFL has two formats: paper based, and internet based. Make sure you find out which test you will be taking before you start studying for the TOEFL. If your country uses the iBT you have to take this test.
Research TOEFL score requirements
TOEFL is a source of anxiety for most international students who are not educated in English. But remember that it is almost unavoidable. Required TOEFL scores vary by institution, usually, the more prestigious the university, the higher the required TOEFL score. So contact your selected university or college to determine their score requirements. On the TOEFL Web site at www.ets.org/toefl/ibt/codelists.html you’ll find a list of 6,000 institutions that accept TOEFL scores. You can also view a list of score requirements for some representative universities.
Remember that the scores for the paper based test are different than the scores for the CBT and iBT. The average minimum score required is approximately 550 (paper test) or 215 (CBT) or 70 (iBT). Some schools will look at your scores from different sections. Many universities expect you to have better writing skills than speaking skills. TOEFL scores are only valid for two years.
Learn academic English
The TOEFL measures your ability to succeed in an American university or college. So your focus must be on studying language that you would hear on campus and terms that you would hear in the classroom. Read textbooks, newspapers, encyclopedias, journals and research articles.
Use practice tests
Take practice tests. If you attend a TOEFL class, your teacher should be able to provide you with plenty of study material. If you are studying for the TOEFL on your own, you will have to purchase a few key resources. Find a textbook that has grammar exercises, vocabulary, practice tests, and explanatory answers. Work on the sections that you find most challenging. Don’t just rely on one book. Also make good use of the ESL resources available online.
Find a mentor
You will have many questions that your textbook can’t answer for you. It is, therefore, important that you have someone who will answer your questions and encourage you when you feel down. If you cannot afford a tutor, find a student who has studied for the test before.
Build up your stamina
The TOEFL test takes a long time to write. If you are appearing for the iBT, you can expect to be at the computer for 4 hours. Therefore, students who have a short attention span must work on building up their stamina. Start off with short study sessions, and work up to longer ones. It is absolutely necessary that you get a good night’s sleep before this test. You cannot afford to be tired.
Arrive on time
Arrive on time with all of the things you need. If you are writing the paper based test you should have a number of pencils, a pencil sharpener, and a few erasers that don’t smudge. You will also need a pen to write the essay on the CBT if you choose not to type it. Don’t forget any papers that ETS sends you to prove that you have registered.
Never spend longer than a minute on one question. You will only have 30 minutes to write the essay at the end of the iBT. Spend at least 5 minutes planning your essay. Save at least 5 minutes to check your work.
Use the tutorials
On the iBT there are tutorials to help you understand how to answer the questions properly. Don’t skip the tutorials. You get extra time to use them. They will help you to feel comfortable.
Learn about the CAT (computer adaptive testing)
The first two sections of the CBT are computer adaptive. That means that you will be given a few questions that are of medium difficulty. After you answer those questions, the computer will determine which questions to give you next. The first 10-15 questions in each part are extremely important. If you answer these correctly, your score will be much higher. The questions that come later are important, but do not count as much towards your score. Don’t give wrong answer in order to get easier questions!
Answer every question
Never skip a question. If you don’t know the correct answer, make an educated guess. On the CBT, you cannot skip a question and go back to it. You have to answer a question and confirm that you are happy with your answer. You cannot change your answers, so double check to be sure. The reading section is not computer adaptive. You can skip or change questions, but only if you have extra time. You can always go back on the paper test, but students rarely find time to do this.
Make your corrections clear
If you are taking the paper test, remember that a machine will be marking your test. Only one circle must be filled in. Fill it in all the way using a sharp dark pencil. Do not use pen! If you erase something, make sure it is completely erased. Many students lose points for being sloppy with their pencils and erasers.