What is the TOEFL?
Firstly, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the TOEFL. It is one of the most recognised English language proficiency exams and it stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language. The test is graded using the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference), meaning you will be given a level ranging from A1 – C2 which indicates your proficiency and is recognised internationally.
The TOEFL is a very useful exam for non native English speakers to take. If you want to study at an English speaking university you need to prove your English competency by having a B2 level, or if you want to work in an English speaking country, then you need to have a C1 level. A TOEFL qualification proves to employers, universities and governments that your English level is what you say it is. Having a TOEFL qualification opens up a lot of doors to you.
If you want to learn more about the TOEFL, what it is and why you should consider taking it, then you can read our commonly asked questions about the TOEFL here.
How to get a great score on the TOEFL
So you’ve decided you want to take the TOEFL exam? Well hopefully this article will give you some tips and pointers on how you can get a great TOEFL result and set yourself up for success.
Identify which level you’re currently at
The first thing you need to do, and this might seem obvious, is to identify what your TOEFL level currently is. If you’re a beginner you don’t want to be doing a B2 exam or you’re setting yourself up to fail.
Make sure you’re aware of what level you’re currently at and what would be a realistic level for you to aim for. If you need B2 to get into university but you’re currently at an A2 level then I would recommend taking the B1 exam before you take the B2 exam, or studying until you are at the correct level to take the test.
Start revising two months in advance
We’re assuming that if you’re ready to take the exam, you’ve already studied the material once to get you to that level. Now that it’s time to take the exam, you want to give yourself approximately two months time to study and prepare for the exam.
Set yourself a schedule of everything you need to practise and revise within the two months. Then break this down into what you need to do every week, and break it down again into what your daily goals are.
Make sure to keep this schedule realistic. If you’re working a 9 – 5 job, then you’re probably not going to be able to revise for seven hours a day. If you keep your goals realistic and you hit them every day then you’re more likely to stay motivated to keep going.
Practise for the TOEFL
This might seem like an obvious one, but practise, practise and practise some more. You know how the exam is broken down. Make sure you practise those four skills, and make sure you’re practising them every day.
Do past exam papers under timed conditions
Not only should you be practising past exam papers and studying, but you need to practise past TOEFL exam papers under timed conditions. That way you’ll know what to expect on the day and you’ll know how quickly you need to be working.
If you have given yourself two months to prepare for the TOEFL exam, then I would recommend doing a practise exam once a week. This will give you the chance to complete 8 practise papers, which will mean you’re well prepared on the day of the exam. Just make sure you do them under timed conditions so you know exactly what to expect on the day.
If you only do exam papers in your own time, then when it comes to the day of the exam you’re going to be in for a nasty surprise. You need to be doing past papers in the time that you will have on the actual day.
Identify your weakness
It’s very common for people to want to shy away from their weaknesses and practise their strengths because doing something you’re good at makes you feel good.
But if you want to have success with the TOEFL, you need to be honest with yourself. What is your weakness? Is it listening? Is it speaking? Whatever it is, you need to be aware of that and you need to put more time into practising that than any other skill. Your other skills are already strong, so they just need a bit of revision, but you don’t want to get pulled down by something you usually try and ignore.
Try and develop the goal that you’re going to make your weakness your new strength, and see how much that helps you. I guarantee that if you do that then you will enter that exam hall feeling a lot more confident.
Don’t just revise speaking with your teacher. Of course you want to practise speaking with your teacher and in class, and you want to practise talking about the topics that are in each level. But it’s really important that you start trying to speak with native speakers.
The more you speak with native speakers, the more comfortable speaking will be for you. Speaking with natives is different to speaking in the classroom. It’s more difficult and they’re not as patient with you. But this can be a good thing. It helps you start thinking on your feet and it gets you practising asking people to repeat themselves or if they can tell you in a different way. Then when you’re met on the day of the exam with a question or sentence you don’t know, you’ll have a better chance of staying calm and just asking the examiner if they can rephrase the question.
Speaking with natives will also help you get used to accents, so if your TOEFL examiner has an accent you should be able to understand them better.
To help improve your listening skills, try watching English TV. Listening exercises can become boring, but watching English TV is a way to practise your English skills while you enjoy yourself.
It’ll help let you relax a bit from all of the English revision you’ll be doing.
Use a textbook to help you practise
We would recommend using the Official Guide to the TOEFL Test, which you can find on Amazon.
Visit the exam centre before the day of the exam
I would definitely recommend doing a practise run to the exam centre before the day of your test. That way you’ll know exactly where it is and how long it takes to get there. So on the day, you’ll know what time to set off from your house, and you’ll be able to plan for any potential problems you might encounter along the way.
Also make sure to find out if there is somewhere to leave valuables while you take the exam. If there’s lockers at the venue you’ll be able to leave your phone in there while the exam takes place, but if there isn’t, you may want to think about leaving stuff like that at home.
On the day of your exam
- On the day of the exam make sure you get up early after a good nights sleep.
- Eat breakfast or lunch before your exam. Being hungry makes it more difficult to concentrate
- Make sure you have all the materials you will need for the exam
- Aim to get to the exam hall at least an hour before the exam starts, to allow for delays and so you have time to go to the toilet before the exam starts
- Make sure you bring water so you can stay hydrated
We hope these tips on how to get a great TEFL score have been useful to you. We want to wish you the best of luck for your exam, we really hope you do well.
If you’ve had any experience taking the TOEFL, please tell us about it in the comments below. Especially if you have any tips or tricks that you think could help people prepare for the exam.