Beginner Level Students

So you’ve just clicked on the Beginner Level Student’s tab, but you aren’t sure what to expect. This post will act like a study guide for you to help you prepare for the TOEFL exam in the best way possible.

Many of you might mistakenly think that ‘Beginner Level Student’ means you’re a beginner for the TOEFL iBT exam. But that just isn’t true. Regardless of how little or how much you know about the TOEFL iBT, this doesn’t necessarily mean you fall into this group.

What this term actually means is that your level of writing, speaking and comprehension of the English Language is weak compared to the regular TOEFL standards that you’re expected to have. Therefore, you’ll need to work extra hard to get to a satisfactory level of English proficiency (i.e. ability/know-how) so you’ll be able to pass the exam and get into the university of your dreams.

Keep in mind that this article is not intended for absolute beginners who struggle to understand the basics of the English language such as identifying numbers, days, months, colors etc.

If you’re having difficulty understanding complicated subject matter or conveying your ideas in speech or written format, then please rest assured that there are solutions to these problems.

Before we talk about anything else, we want to make sure you belong to this category, and if so, then we want to show you how you can take yourself to the next level so you can pass the TOEFL iBT test as soon as possible!


What does it mean to be a Beginner Level TOEFL iBT Student?

Being a Beginner Level Student means you have basic English language survival abilities. You’re able to understand much of what’s being said to you and can read anything that uses simple language. However, you don’t feel very confident speaking to people or writing something down in English. Beginner Level Students find producing content the most challenging aspect of learning a new language.

If you feel that way, then that’s very normal. Students who are learning English as a second language have always found that their listening and comprehension capabilities are better than their ability to actively produce anything in that new language (these are what we call productive skills).

Understanding that makes a lot of sense, especially when considering the fact that our brain can store more information than it’s able to produce.

Most of what you can produce at your level is quite simple. You can perform well in basic situations such as introducing yourself, asking for information about something, communicating with people when purchasing something, identifying things etc.

However, when you need to use more advanced and complex vocabulary, you tend to stumble a lot. You also find difficulty forming a variety of sentences as your vocabulary is very basic at this point. You make a lot of grammatical errors and use certain words incorrectly, and you’ll often have trouble structuring your sentences correctly.

At this stage, you’ll feel that there are a lot of barriers stopping you from engaging with other English speakers. You might find things such as expressing your opinion or participating in deep discussions about complex topics extremely hard. Again, your problems lie mostly in your productive skills of speaking and writing.

Although you might feel like it’s impossible to pass a somewhat complicated English proficiency test such as the TOEFL iBT, you shouldn’t give up at this point. As long as you have basic understanding of the language such as identifying the topic and main ideas of a subject you read or hear, then that’s a good start.

Before you continue to read this article, here is something that can help give you an idea of how the TOEFL exam is structured. This link provides you with an overview of the TOEFL iBT reading, listening, speaking and writing sections of the exam. 


A guide for Beginner Level Students

This article has been written with the purpose of helping all Beginner Level Students understand what this test is about, the estimated period of preparation involved, the goals you must accomplish to pass, and the resources required to prepare for the TOEFL exam.

In case you’re wondering if there’s a way to confirm that you’re a Beginner Level Student, then the answer is yes.

You’ll be able to know this by doing a sample TOEFL test to help determine where you stand (beginner, intermediate, or advanced) as a TOEFL student, and to be able to plan your test preparation period according to that. Knowing your level of English is one of the most essential factors for passing the TOEFL iBT exam.

In this chart below, you’ll see a range of scores for each section of the exam. This will help give you an idea of which level or category you belong to:


Now that you have an idea of how the TOEFL scoring system works, the first thing you must do is write a TOEFL iBT test. So here’s what you’ll need to do:

  1. Do a TOEFL iBT practice test (scroll down below to see the TOEFL practice test options you have).
  2. Record your score.
  3. Go back to the diagram above to check which level category you belong to.


There are 3 ways to do a TOEFL practice test:

Online Interactive practice test:

This is the most accurate form of recording your grades. All you need to do is purchase a practice test and do the exam online. The four components of the exam will be corrected for you, and you’ll be graded according to how well you answer. The reading and listening section will be corrected by a robot (as they are multiple choice questions), while the speaking and listening passages will be graded by real teachers.

These online interactive tests are a replica of the real TOEFL iBT exam. When doing them, you’ll see the same format and question types that would normally appear on the actual exam. Therefore, this is an excellent way to get a realistic idea of the TOEFL test writing experience in order to overcome any fears you might have of the exam.


  • It’s the most accurate form of grading as the exam will be corrected by real teachers.
  • You’ll get feedback on the areas you need to improve on.
  • After writing the exam, you’ll be given a list of the questions that you’ve answered incorrectly. They’ll give you the correct answer along with an explanation of why you should have chosen that answer.
  • Most or all packages provide you with more than one practice test.
  • Online practice tests are a replica of the actual exam, so you essentially get to experience the real thing.
  • They time the test for you, making the experience more realistic, structured and organized.
  • Some practice test services provide extra training along with the practice test sets.
  • Some even offer you a free demo to help you get a feel of what you’ll be buying.


  • They aren’t free apart from some that offer you a free demo to try out
  • Not ideal for students who are on a tight budget 

Final word:

Those who are able to afford a real online interactive test should seriously consider doing so, as these replica tests are clearly superior to the free interactive tests. They’ll give you a very clear idea of what level you belong to right from the very beginning.

So if you clearly know your level and then carefully follow the study program outlined on uMasterexam, you should score with flying colors.


Free online interactive tests

Unfortunately, there is not very much one can say about a free online interactive test. There are some websites on the internet that have volunteered to integrate a basic system with multiple choice questions, reading passages, and listening excerpts onto their sites.

Free online interactive tests are worth considering if you ever run out of practice tests or you’re just waiting for your textbooks to arrive.


  • Ideal for students who are really don’t have the money to purchase an online interactive practice test
  • Somewhat acceptable (though not advised) for advanced students who already feel very confident about the exam
  • Good if you’re trying to look for extra practice and can’t afford to buy additional practice books and online tests


  • Must have your own timer
  • It’s a non-graded test so the robot corrects only the reading and listening section of the exam
  • Doing the writing or speaking section is pretty useless because there will be no one to correct it for you
  • Most of these tests must be corrected manually
  • You receive no feedback about your overall performance
  • Most of the websites that offer free online tests have very poorly automated systems


Buying a practice test textbook

If you decide to buy an online practice test, it’s highly recommended to first practice using a textbook. Most of us feel more comfortable using pen and paper because that’s what we’ve been using at school.

It’s a must to have a guidebook of some sort to help explain all the different sections of the TOEFL test. The good thing is that generally speaking, all practice textbooks offer help regarding the structure of the TOEFL test, along with tips and strategies that’ll help you pass the exam. In addition to that, you’ll get plenty of practice tests that you can take during your TOEFL preparation period.


  • Most practice test textbooks provide you with help for the different sections of the TOEFL iBT such as the questions you’ll see on the exam, skills and strategies required for the test, and much more.
  • It’s an excellent solution for those who have tutors, because after completing a practice test, they can receive immediate feedback about their performance and the areas in which they could improve.
  • A practice test book has an answer sheet at the back with sample answers for the four sections of the TOEFL exam.
  • Using a practice test book first might be better for students who aren’t familiar with the format of the exam. They might prefer to take the test in a relaxed manner, spending as many hours as they need to complete a test.
  • When practicing, you can easily go back to the previous pages if you need assistance while solving the practice tests. It’s put together for you in one single book! It’s a practical solution for students who haven’t yet learned about the different types of questions and the skills they will need during the exam.


  • It’s not free of course, but it’s still available at affordable prices.
  • Doing practice tests on paper doesn’t offer you the same experience as an online interactive test, so ideally, you’ll move on to doing the interactive test.
  • Most of these textbooks contain four to seven practice tests, which in most cases isn’t sufficient for a Beginner or Intermediate Level Student. If you need more tests, we recommend that you buy the official TOEFL iBT tests Vol. 1 and 2.
  • You must have a lot of motivation and discipline to finish all the practice tests. Online interactive tests can be more encouraging for students because everything is done in a timed and structured manner.


Good News & Bad News

At this point, we have to tell you that we’ve got some good news and bad news to tell you. Which would you like first?

Perhaps we’ll start with the bad news.

The bad news is that you have a relatively long journey ahead of you. Meaning, as a beginner, you won’t be able to start with the standard (i.e. regular) TOEFL preparation material from the beginning. That will only confuse you at this stage and make it more challenging for you.

In short, you can’t start studying for this TOEFL test with the standard material (the regular TOEFL textbooks) that TOEFL students normally use. You must set about acquiring sufficient proficiency (i.e. know-how) of the English language in order to give yourself a good base. Only then will you be able to really approach the standard study material.

It’s not us that’s saying that; it’s the ETS people themselves.

Unfortunately, the TOEFL iBT exam and material is not aimed for beginners. The ETS Company expects that its test writers already have a good grasp of the English Language.

Keep in mind that the purpose of this exam is to test the student’s level of English at an academic or university level. Most of the test takers use this exam for university entrance (admission) purposes.

All students at university are expected to already be able to write, understand, and speak in advanced English. Therefore, if you’re a beginner and find difficulty communicating in the English language, remember that they are testing to see whether or not you can survive in an English university environment. This is key for you to understand. 

However, try to at least familiarize yourself with the TOEFL iBT exam structure. Here is an overview of the TOEFL iBT exam.


How long will it take me to study for the TOEFL test?

It all depends on the level you’re currently at and the hours you’re willing to put in per week.

On this chart below, we’ll give you an idea of how long it should take you as a Beginner Level Student to succeed in the TOEFL exam, such that you would be able to be accepted into a typical university.


The numbers shouldn’t scare you. Keep fighting any negative thoughts and focus on your ultimate goal. Remember that your goal is to get admission into an English university, right?

And try to look at it from another perspective. You’re still a beginner, and you won’t be able to survive at an English university without being able to write, speak, and understand at an academic level.

Therefore, you must work hard to pass the TOEFL exam so that you’ll be accepted in the university of your choice, and also, so that you’ll be able to function in a university environment.

Enough of the bad news. The good news is that we have done our best to make this journey as easy as possible for you. You’ll find lots of resources and articles on this website that will help guide you through the various steps of the TOEFL exam.

We’ve included all the essential things you’ll need for this journey on the uMasterExam website such as a comprehensive list of textbooks, a collection of the best courses and practice tests, and we also have many articles containing helpful tips and strategies. Likewise, you’ll find a list of online tutors, and much, much more.The whole point is that we set you on the right track.

So now you must turn all the negatives into positives. And the way to do that is to take all the bad news I spoke about previously and turn it around, and use these ‘negative’ points as something to work towards – always doing so with a very positive mindset.

The main point we mentioned above was that at this level, you’re facing a lot of obstacles. Your main obstacle is that your level of English is not yet sufficient to be studying at an English university (or write the language proficiency exam to allow you into the university).

But please, let’s put emphasis on the word ‘yet’, and immediately start creating a positive mindset that with some hard work, it won’t take too long to reach our shared objective of getting you into the university of your choice!

So here’s how you’ll do it…



Set your goals


Goal #1

Have a basic comprehension of the English language

  • Understand basic grammar and vocabulary
  • Be able to understand most of what you hear or read
  • Be able to communicate and produce sentences, whether in written or spoken form

If you think you have that already, and you’re pretty confident that you have a good basic grasp of the English Language, then it would be better for you to start with the second goal.

Here we go!

Goal #2

Improve your English Skills. That might seem like an overly general statement to make, but it’s actually quite a serious point. In fact, this could be the most serious advice you’ve been given for a while.

So how do you set about doing that? The answer is; expand your existing vocabulary, and expose yourself to the language by reading and listening to native speakers on a regular basis. Also, you must make regular efforts to talk to people and write in English.

In short, reading and listening is the best form of learning, while speaking and writing is the best form of practice. So here, we need to differentiate somewhat between learning and practice, even if the two are obviously interrelated.

To access listening material, go to the following websites: Eslpod, EnglishAcrossThePond, NRP, Culips

To access reading material, go to the following websites: Rong Chang, readingesl, eslreadinglessons

Goal #3

Once you feel you’re getting a better feel of the English language, I would recommend that you start to experiment with the standard TOEFL material. Start by buying a TOEFL practice textbook that will guide you through the structure and question types in the test.

However, keep in mind that at this stage, you shouldn’t put too much focus on using the standard TOEFL material because the language level is pretty advanced. Do a little bit of the easy stuff on the side. Here are some TOEFL textbooks that were written for beginners:

Basic Skills for the TOEFL iBT by Compass Tests:









Building Skills for the TOEFL iBT by Compass Tests:








TOEFL iBT Pattern by Kallis:








TOEFL iBT Essay Writing for beginners by Compass tests:









Goal #4

Your fourth goal will be to move from being a Beginner to an Intermediate Level Student. Since you’re presently a beginner, you might be able to understand certain basics of the English language, but find a lot of obstacles that stop you from communicating and writing effectively in English. This means that your productive skills are still weak at this point. In contrast to this, intermediate level students have the advantage of being able to communicate complex ideas and use relatively advanced vocabulary in writing and speech.

Now your goal is to do be able to do the same. You’re almost there.

If you want to pass the TOEFL test, you must at least be at an intermediate level. Once you reach an intermediate level, you’ll be able to use the standard TOEFL material we previously spoke about. Therefore, keep working hard, follow the tips mentioned earlier, and you’ll be an intermediate level student before you even know it.


Free things you can do that will help you accomplish your goal

  1. Browse the internet for free TOEFL resources that you can use
  2. Go to a nearby library and borrow as many English books as you can
  3. Watch a lot of videos in English so you can hear native speakers talk

Check out our free resources program page.

Summary of what you must stay focused on for now:

checked Getting the right textbooks for your level

checked Finding a tutor to help you

checked Purchasing a TOEFL course once you become more familiar with the TOEFL material

checked Brushing up on the basics of the English language; maybe even doing a language course if necessary

checked Purchasing an online interactive practice test to see where you stand

checked Engaging with other students and learning from their experiences


Want to score 100+ on the TOEFL? Here’s how…