Seven ways to prepare yourself more effectively for TOEFL
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Knowing what is expected of you on TOEFL is an essential step toward reaching outstanding results. When I first did the test a few years ago, getting myself up to speed with a few details about it definitely helped me to achieve above average results; I scored 111/120.
Below are a few tips on what you can do in order to achieve your best results:
1. Choose online classes
The photo above gives you a good picture of what the test rooms of TOEFL are like: busy computer labs with candidates interacting with computers. If you have never studied online before, or if you find it hard, I definitely recommend giving the format a try. An online course might be an excellent way to pivot into how the test works. After all, you are going to be doing an examinerless test: everything, including the speaking section is done on a computer.
2. Don't get "conversation classes" to prepare for the Speaking
One of the most frequent causes of anxiety amongst examinees, especially the ones who feel their English is a little rusty, is the speaking test. Bearing that in mind, a lot of people reach out to teachers and/or conversation partners so as to feel more confident and ready to discuss general topics. Well, that might not work for TOEFL. The speaking section is rigid and you are graded on how well you answer the questions in the time limit provided, which means you are expected to have trained yourself to abide by the time constraints. A very good thing you can do is record your answers on WhatsApp, so that you get the feel of how much time is enough. Answering questions partially or leaving a substantial amount of time in a question will penalize you. Therefore, learn the time/content patterns for each peaking question and be ready to follow it. If you want to boost your understanding, I also recommend learning every day university-life vocabulary.
3. Learn to take well organized notes
Do not let the test section names fool you: as much as we have Reading, Listening, Speaking e Writing sections, a lot of the time what you get is integrated skills tasks. Therefore, prepare yourself for multitasking. One of the things I personally recommend is training yourself to take notes on what you are reading/listening to, or to prepare what you will say in the speaking test. Here are a few examples:
- dialogs (listening, speaking 3 and 5)
- lectures (such as the integrated writing, speaking 4 and 6)
4. Choose an adequate place to study
Normally, when we think of studying, we look for a quiet, noiseless place, where no-one is going to turn up and interrupt us, right? WRONG! Studying in quiet places is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Here's why: a you have probably seen on our first picture, on the day of your test you will have several other people doing different sections of the exam at the same time. Some candidates are purposely placed on different time slots, which means when you arrive there may be people doing the test, and others may arrive and leave whilst you are doing yours. Therefore, you need to prepare yourself to read while someone else talks, to listen while someone is reading next to you and to write while someone else is speaking and to speak to a computer in the room full of people. Therefore, pick a noisy place to study: your university's cafeteria, a café near your home or even your Sunday lunch family table. Teach yourself how to overcome shyness and concentrate in places like that. This can make A LOT of difference.
5. Hire a teacher who's taken the test before
There are excellent teachers who can prepare you for TOEFL, regardless of them having taken it before. However, because this is such an unconventional exam, I recommend you hire a teacher who has done it before.
6. Acquaint yourself with the types of question:
If you take a look at tests from the last couple of years, you will see they follow a pattern. One thing that has helped me a lot is reading all questions from different tests, just to get an idea of what sort of information they usually want, and what questions they ask. I have done that and it has helped me a lot!
7. Use programs instead of hard copies
You know those huge books you can buy? Well, they are great, but they can be counterproductive. My advice is to prioritize the use of the CD-roms that some with them I especially like the Barron's one, which features 10 full tests you can take as mock tests (with a time limit) and as practice exercises. That's great because it allows you to see and feel the test before actually taking it.
That's it! I think with these tips you are off to a pretty good start!
Best of luck,
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