The Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL, is a requirement for some students. If your first language is something other than English and you want to attend an English-speaking college or university, then you have to take the TOEFL. Each college or university sets its own parameters for what scores are necessary to gain admission. For that reason, it is necessary for each student to prepare for the TOEFL.

Prepare for TOEFL by Section

The TOEFL test is designed to test a student’s ability to function in an English-speaking environment. Doing college-level course work requires a level of fluency in English that may be difficult to achieve, particularly if you live in a country where you have few opportunities to speak English or listen to it being spoken.

There are four sections to the TOEFL test. In each case, there are things you can and should do to prepare for the TOEFL by section. The more preparation you do, the more likely it is that you will be ready and able to achieve the score you need when the time comes to take the test.

Section 1: Reading

The first section of the TOEFL you need to prepare for is the reading comprehension section. In this section, you’ll be asked to read between four and six academic passages in English and answer questions about them.

There are two things you can do to prepare for this section of the test:

  1. Read as much English as you can. While the test focuses on academic texts – which makes sense for students planning to attend college – the more you read in English, the better prepared you will be for this part of the test. Read books, newspapers, magazines, websites, and anything else you can find. Reading will help build your vocabulary. It will also help you cut the amount of time it takes you to read so you don’t have to worry about going over time when you sit for the test. This article will give you a list of free resources that will help you when studying for the TOEFL exam.
  2. Seek out scholarly articles and academic texts and read them regularly. These passages are likely to be more challenging to read than a newspaper or magazine. However, the passages you read on the test will be drawn from academic writing.

Any time you can find during the day to read will be time well spent.

Section 2: Listening

Preparing for the TOEFL test listening sections can be a challenge for students who live in countries where little English is spoken. It’s especially tricky because the passages you listen to for the test will feature students with a variety of accents because you are likely to encounter many accents when you attend school.

Here are two things that can help you prepare for the listening section of the TOEFL:

  1. Seek out and join an English practice group in your area. Even if you live someplace where little English is spoken, you can probably find a group of people who meet up and practice speaking English. Some places that might have such a group include local schools and colleges, community centers, and online bulletin boards and social media. If you can, choose a group whose members speak at a slightly more fluent level than you do to challenge yourself.
  2. Watch videos in English. The benefit of doing this is that you will be exposed to a variety of accents and situations. When an accent is difficult, turn on the English subtitles function (available on YouTube) and repeatedly listen to the speech or conversation until you can make out the words on your own.

Listening is often a real challenge as students prepare for the TOEFL, so make sure to do as much of it as possible as you prepare for the test.

Section 3: Speaking

In many ways, preparing for the speaking part of the exam is similar to what you would do to prepare for listening, but there are a few differences.

  1. When you attend an English practice group, make sure that you offer your opinion on the subjects that come up. You must be able to articulate an opinion and support it with arguments on the TOEFL. If you find that you have a hard time making yourself understood, it may indicate that you need to spend some time working on your accent or vocabulary.
  2. Record yourself speaking English and then play it back. We often sound different than we think we do, and listening to yourself can help you refine your accent and pronunciation.

Here again, the key is to do as much speaking as you can as you prepare for the TOEFL.

Section 4: Writing

The final section of the TOEFL is the writing section. Reading passages in English will help you learn about sentence structure, but here are some other things you can do:

  1. Keep a journal in English and write in it every day. You should plan on getting as comfortable as you can with expressing yourself in written English. The more you write, the easier it will get for you to choose the right words and express yourself clearly.
  2. Read what you write out loud. This is a good way to catch repeated words or awkward phrasing. You can combine this step with recording yourself for the speaking section.

To test your aptitude in all four areas, make sure to seek out and take TOEFL practice exams online. Also, purchasing a TOEFL course will definitely increase your chances of getting the score you need for the TOEFL exam. The more familiar you are with the test format, the more likely it is that you’ll get the score you need.

Read More