You’re preparing to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) to prove that you have mastered the English language. Its results are accepted at over 9,000 colleges and universities in 130 countries around the globe.

While the test is offered 50 times each year, taking it is still a high-stakes endeavor. You can retest as many times as you like, but most students would prefer to pass the exam the first time they take it. Here are some key steps that will help you to succeed.

  1. It is important to have a clear picture of what your strengths and weaknesses are. For example, if you know that you have strong reading comprehension but struggle with pronunciation, you can focus your prep time on improving your accent.
  2. The Educational Testing Service (ETS) website has many free materials that may help you prepare for the test. You can find the free material here, including practice tests.
  3. Give yourself between six and twelve months to prepare for the test. Even people who have studied English for years may struggle with certain aspects of the test.
  4. If you can, work with a native English speaker to master your accent as well as the rules of English grammar. English can be a complicated language to write and speak and a native speaker will be able to help you.
  5. Familiarize yourself with all sections of the test and practice as much as you can. One of the key reasons that students perform poorly on the TOEFL is that they are unfamiliar with the test format. Taking practice tests will help you manage your nerves and focus on the areas where you need to improve.
  6. Listen to and read as much English as you can, and focus on academic texts and lectures. The purpose of the TOEFL is to prepare you to study at an English-speaking university. Make sure to seek out a variety of topics to learn new vocabulary and ideas.
  7. Practice taking notes in English. Just as you would in a university class, you will be permitted to take notes. Since much of the TOEFL involves listening, and you will only be able to listen to each passage or lecture once, it is essential that you learn to take good notes so that you can refer back to them.
  8. When you are practicing for the listening sections, test yourself by listening to the passages only once. That way you will be ready to listen once during the examination.
  9. Work on your typing skills. The TOEFL iBT is an internet-based test. If you type very slowly you may find yourself running out of time. You should also make sure to familiarize yourself with the QWERTY keyboard, especially if you are accustomed to a different keyboard.
  10. Increase your academic stamina. The TOEFL iBT is a four hour test. That’s a long time to sit still and concentrate, and you need to remain alert throughout the test if you want to do well.
  11. Record yourself speaking English and then play back the recordings to improve your accent. The people who score the TOEFL won’t expect you to have a perfect accent, but since your answers will be recorded, you must make yourself understood.
  12. Study the rules of writing essays. In general, one paragraph should contain a single thought. The written passages in the exam are short, but they must be well-organized if you want to get a high score.

Make sure that when the day of the test arrives, you dress comfortably in layers to allow for changes in temperature, bring extra pencils, and give yourself time to get to the testing location. If you follow these tips, you will be in the best possible position to get the score you need.

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