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toefl prep

General Information

  • It is made up of Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing sections.
  • It will take you about four hours in total from start to finish.
  • For the Speaking section, you speak into a microphone and your responses are digitally recorded and sent to the ETS Online Scoring Network.
  • For the Writing section, you will type your responses, which are sent to the ETS Online Scoring Network.
  • Human raters, trained and certified by ETS, rate the Speaking and Writing responses.
  • The test is not is not computer adaptive.
  • You can take notes throughout the whole test.

Grammar

  • There is no stand-alone Grammar section.
  • Grammar is tested wholly within the four skill areas.
  • In comparison to previous versions of the TOEFL, the addition of a speaking section and expansion of the writing section requires students to communicate in original English.
  • New integrated-skills questions test ability to learn, to integrate information across multiple tests.
  • They are more difficult and more reflective of actual academic English.

Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing

  • The Reading section consists of about 3–5 passages (About 700 words each), with 12–14 questions each section.
  • There are about fifty questions in the whole section, and it will take you about 60-100 minutes to complete.
  • The Listening section consists of 4–6 lectures with about 6 questions per lecture, as well as 2–3 conversations with 5 questions per conversation.
  • The Speaking section sees you doing two independent tasks and four integrated tasks, two of which are reading/listening/speaking while the other two are just listening/speaking.
  • The Writing section requires you to do one integrated writing task and one independent writing task.

Scoring

  • TOEFL iBT provides five scores: four sections scores for Reading, Listening, Writing, and Speaking and a total score.
  • Each section is on a 0-30 scale.
  • The total score is the sum of the four section scores.
  • The range of total scores could be anywhere from 0-120.
  • It is valid for two years.
  • You may take the TOEFL iBT test only once in any seven-day period, even if you took the test and canceled your scores.
  • The normal fee to take the TOEFL test is US$110. However, it varies based on country.
  • To register for your test, please visit www.ets.org/toefl.

Posted on October 28, 2011 by Manhattan Review

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Similar to count and noncount nouns, definite and indefinite articles can be a trouble spot for ESL learners.  Rules vary from one language to another in regards to the usage of the definite versus indefinite, so some earnest practice with its rules in English would be of great advantage for the TOEFL exam.

In general, when speakers and writers do not have a specific person, place, or thing in mind, the corresponding nouns are known as non-specific and are often preceded with the indefinite article: “a” or “an” in the singular.  Often times, too, a noun is definite when a speaker mentions it the first time and then definite (“the”) from there on out.

Examples:

What a fascinating story you just told!

Yes, the story was very exciting.

In regards to definite articles, we often use “the” when the speaker, listener, or writer knows the specific person, place or thing that’s being discussed.  “The” is used both for noncount nouns and singular and plural nouns that fall under the “definite” category.

Examples:

The chowder we had at noon was fantastic.

The artwork is 100% authentic to the African region.

Definite articles are also used to describe something special, or unique.  Examples of unique nouns would be: the moon, the sun, the Empire State Building, the Big Dipper, etc…

Definite articles have further usages as seen in the following ways:

  • public places: the library, the movies
  • specific names of geographical places: the Great Lakes, the Nile River, the Amazon
  • countries: the U.S., the United Kingdom

Overall, the definite and indefinite articles take some time to get used to in the English language.  My advice would be to memorize well-known definite articles first (countries, places, etc…) and to pay close attention to how indefinite articles and definite articles are used in conversation in both TV and film.

Remember: If you are not a native English speaker, keep in mind that these rules are probably different than in your native language.  Keep these rules close to you so that come test day you are using a, an, some and the correctly on both the speaking and writing section.

 

Posted on September 26, 2011 by Manhattan Review

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The adjective clause is an important aspect of grammar to keep in mind on the TOEFL writing portion.  Unlike the adverbial clause, which is mostly used on the integrated essay for compare/contrast, the adjective clause can be found in both the integrated and independent writing sections.  What do adjective clauses do and when is it important to use them?  (Please note: Adjective clauses can also be referred to as adjectival or relative clauses.)

An adjective clause will contain the following:

·       a subject and a verb

·       a relative pronoun: who, whom, whose, that or which OR

·       a relative adverb: when, where or why

·       also, the adjective clause will ultimately function as an adjective

Adjective clauses are divided into two main categories: identifying and nonidentifying.

Identifying Adjective Clauses give information that is essential to the overall meaning of the sentence.

For example: Men who are willing to work will undoubtedly find a job.

In this sentence, the adjective clause is who are willing to work.  In other words, if we extracted who are willing to work from the sentence it would alter its meaning entirely, making it identifying.

Nonidentifying Adjective Clauses give nonessential information – they serve the purpose of adding extra bits of information that aren’t crucial to the overall meaning of the sentence.

For example: The movie lasted about three and a half hours, which at times felt somewhat longer, so I made sure to have plenty of soda and popcorn.

The adjective clause which at times felt somewhat longer isn’t exactly necessary in terms of the overall meaning of the sentence.  The main ideas expressed in the sentence are in the beginning and the end, making the middle somewhat additional and nonidentifying.  (Also, with nonidentifying adjective clauses “that” is not used.)

Overall, adjective clauses will pepper your writing and allow your ideas to come across smoother and clearer.  Just make sure when you use them to acknowledge whether you are using identifying or nonidentfying so you have mastery of your own TOEFL writing.

Posted on September 22, 2011 by Manhattan Review

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The adjective clause is an important aspect of grammar to keep in mind on the TOEFL writing portion.  Unlike the adverbial clause, which is mostly used on the integrated essay for compare/contrast, the adjective clause can be found in both the integrated and independent writing sections.  What do adjective clauses do and when is it important to use them?  (Please note: Adjective clauses can also be referred to as adjectival or relative clauses.)

An adjective clause will contain the following:

·       a subject and a verb

·       a relative pronoun: who, whom, whose, that or which OR

·       a relative adverb: when, where or why

·       also, the adjective clause will ultimately function as an adjective

Adjective clauses are divided into two main categories: identifying and nonidentifying.

Identifying Adjective Clauses give information that is essential to the overall meaning of the sentence.

For example: Men who are willing to work will undoubtedly find a job.

In this sentence, the adjective clause is who are willing to work.  In other words, if we extracted who are willing to work from the sentence it would alter its meaning entirely, making it identifying.

Nonidentifying Adjective Clauses give nonessential information – they serve the purpose of adding extra bits of information that aren’t crucial to the overall meaning of the sentence.

For example: The movie lasted about three and a half hours, which at times felt somewhat longer, so I made sure to have plenty of soda and popcorn.

The adjective clause which at times felt somewhat longer isn’t exactly necessary in terms of the overall meaning of the sentence.  The main ideas expressed in the sentence are in the beginning and the end, making the middle somewhat additional and nonidentifying.  (Also, with nonidentifying adjective clauses “that” is not used.)

Overall, adjective clauses will pepper your writing and allow your ideas to come across smoother and clearer.  Just make sure when you use them to acknowledge whether you are using identifying or nonidentfying so you have mastery of your own TOEFL writing.

Posted on September 20, 2011 by Manhattan Review

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We all know the TOEFL writing section can create some widespread anxiety and trigger various questions: Will my writing be good enough?  What exactly are the raters looking for?  How much will grammar and punctuation count for my total score?

In general, grammar and punctuation are important on both the integrated and independent essays. However, minor errors are certainly forgivable, and if you only have a few they won’t be counted towards your total score.  Likewise, a significant knowledge of grammar is crucial for obtaining a high score.  This post will focus on adverbial clauses, which if used correctly might just help your score higher than you think.

Adverbial clauses are basically used to combine two ideas into one sentence.  They ultimately provide variety for the sentence and better transitions, particularly between paragraphs.  Here are some following adverbials, which will be very useful in a compare/contrast essay, which as you know, is the basis for the TOEFL integrated writing.

Contrast Advervials:

·       though/although/even though

Examples:

Though the test was tomorrow, the children failed to study.

Although the weather was cloudy, we continued to enjoy the outdoors.

Janice went to the theatre even though she heard the performances were lousy.

·       while

Example:

While the food wasn’t up to par, the dancing and live music were enormously entertaining.

·       despite the fact that

Example:

We thought the jazz band did a wonderful job despite the fact that the venue was too small.

Comparison Adverbials:

·       in the same way that

Example:

In the same way that Communism effected the global order, so has Capitalism on the modern family.

·       just as

Example: Just as 50 million Americans don’t have health care, 20 million Asians don’t have access to hospitals.

In general, adverbial clauses can help you immensely on the TOEFL writing section and will leave the mark of an advanced writer if used correctly.  Remember – adverbial clauses can come in the beginning or in the middle of a sentence.

Posted on September 13, 2011 by Manhattan Review

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ETS, the maker of the TOEFL exam, has generously released some highly coveted tips for those of you looking to take the TOEFL sometime soon.

Listen to English-language videos and music. When you rent a DVD or VHS from your local video store, challenge yourself by turning off the English subtitles or captions.  Try your best to understand each person speak by watching his or her mouth move; sometimes, you might want to close your eyes and attempt to decipher whatever you can.  It never hurts to challenge yourself.

Listen to a book on tape in English. There are many books on tape of various subjects nowadays.  In fact, you can rent books on tape from your local library for free.  This is a great way to practice your listening abilities by listening to a topic of your interest.  Also, podcasts are a great way (and often times free) to test your listening skills.  Podcasts are available online and can easily be transferred from your computer to your mp3 player or i-pod.

Listen to English-language recordings that come with transcripts. ETS recommends you listen to each recording three times.  The first time, take notes about the main ideas you hear.  Then, the second time, read the transcript and listen for the ideas you might have written down the first time.  Then, on the third, listen specifically for any words or phrases you don’t know and look them up.  Transcripts are often available online of popular recordings or even come with the recording itself.

It should be noted that ETS also recommends you attend educational lectures in English whenever possible.  Now, this might not be easy to do, but many colleges or universities might allow you to sit in on a class, if you can arrange it well in advance.  Also, if you have a friend enrolled in an English-speaking class you might be able to tag along and listen to the professor, should there be a lecture given that day.  Regardless, when you do go, it might be a good idea to bring a tape recorder with you so you can play the recording over and over again later on for further practice.

Remember: when you listen to lectures, pay close attention to facts, details, opinions and overall structure.  Challenge yourself, even – if science lectures are difficult for you, try your best to attend a lecture in a science class.

Want more TOEFL test tips from ETS?  Go to www.ets.org.

Posted on August 24, 2010 by Manhattan Review

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ETS has thankfully released some very valuable tips for the writing section on the TOEFL exam.  It seems to be that most of the tips are for the integrated writing section, so for these purposes we will save independent writing suggestions for another time.

In terms of writing practice for the integrated writing section, ETS recommends you practice combining information you have read or watched into a written summary.  This is comparable to the TOEFL in that for the integrated writing section, you are asked to write a 150-225-word essay, combining information from both a reading and a listening passage.  How do you go about practicing?  Here are the following tips from the makers of the TOEFL:

-                   Read an article in the news and then listen to an article online or on TV on the same topic. Perhaps you are able to find an article written about the recent summit concerning global warming.  Take that article, make any necessary notes in relation to all its important information and then listen to a radio or TV show on the same topic.  Listen carefully to the similarities and differences in how both articles were presented.  Were there different supporting details?  Was there a different opinion reflected in the articles?  Listen carefully with an ear for comparison and contrasting.

-                   Watch a speech on TV or listen to it online. A lot of times, important speeches, particularly political, are often aired again and again on TV.  Try your best to only listen to the speech once and take notes on all the important points.  Then, write a summary of what you heard, listing all of the major points.  (Feel free to then check yourself by listening to the speech one more time with your notes in front of you.) A lot of times, famous political speeches are available as podcasts, so check online to see what might be available.  While there aren’t “political” speeches, per say, on the TOEFL, there are certainly lectures that deal with socio-political issues, so the vocabulary and syntax is bound to come in handy.

-            Read a newspaper article on a controversial topic. Make any necessary notes about the topic and the newspaper article as you see fit.  Then, interview your friends and ask them about this controversial topic.  More than likely, you will see a difference of opinion throughout your various interviews.  Make note of these in your notes and later on, sit down at your computer and type up a summary of all the different views accumulated.  Make sure to note who said what, making it clear when there is either a similarity or a difference of opinion.

Want more TOEFL test tips from ETS?  Go to www.ets.org.

Posted on August 17, 2010 by Manhattan Review

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While advice from TOEFL instructors and tutors can certainly be highly valued, there’s no looking past suggestions from the makers of the TOEFL itself – ETS.

ETS has released several various articles with suggestions on how to prepare for the TOEFL.  This article, in particular, will highlight some of ETS’ suggestions in how to prepare for the reading section of the TOEFL test.

OUTLINING

ETS encourages a particular eye for outline reading passages, as the actual process of outlining can save you time on the TOEFL when getting through dense and complex reading articles.  Keep in mind you have 20 minutes for each reading section on the TOEFL, which includes reading a one-page academic passage in addition to answering 12-14 corresponding questions.

Practice outlining, in particular, by reading academic texts or newspaper articles and writing one sentence for each paragraph, summarizing the paragraph’s main idea.  Also, look for the ways in which main ideas in one paragraph might relate to the main ideas in the other paragraphs; drawing connections between paragraphs while outlining is no doubt useful.  Also, you might find during your outlining process that some paragraphs actually address the same concept; take note of them while also paying close attention to the transitional words between all the sentences.

In general, writing one short summary of an entire passage, be it an academic article or an article from a well-established newspaper, can really help your outlining abilities.

CONNECTING WORDS

While connecting words are often encouraged in your writing for the TOEFL, when you train your eye to pay attention to them in reading it can bring you one step closer to having a greater understanding of a reading passage.

Connecting words can often be placed into categories.  ETS does a wonderful job of this on its website.  Here are several categories and their corresponding connecting words:

  • Connecting words that show RESULTS: as a result, so, therefore
  • Connecting words that show COMPARISONS: in contrast, on the other hand
  • Connecting words that show STEPS: first, second, next finally

Want more TOEFL test tips from ETS?  Go to www.ets.org.

Posted on August 10, 2010 by Manhattan Review

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Next to studying all four TOEFL test prep skills (reading, listening, speaking & writing), there are other aspects of the test and what to expect on test day you should keep in mind.  While the following suggestions may be somewhat alternative for test-takers, keep in mind these elements are not to be ignored when taking in mind your TOEFL test prep.

1)   IMPROVE TYPING SKILLS: While this may be a surprising suggestion, your typing capabilities are not to be overlooked.  Most people take the TOEFL iBT which is solely Internet-based; your typing skills are insurmountably important for achieving a high score on the writing section, in particular.  Did you know the TOEFL independent essay should be a minimum of 300 words?  Were you aware the integrated essay has a minimum of 150?  Many students might feel frustrated they are not able to get their ideas on the computer screen as fast as they’d like and it can ultimately end up hurting their score.  Practice typing for so many hours as week, particularly if you have the luxury of studying for the TOEFL 2-3 months.  Practicing typing might prove to be a welcomed break from studying the four skills!

2)   WEAR COMFORTABLE CLOTHING: When it comes to test day, make sure you are dressed comfortably.  After all, no one performs his best when wearing constricting clothing.  While the TOEFL certainly tests your speaking ability, keep in mind it does not test your appearance, so wear whatever you like so long as you are comfortable sitting down for the duration of the 4-hour exam.  It might be a good idea to layer, as you never know if a room will be too hot or too cold.

3)   EAT BEFORE THE TEST: Most TOEFL exams are given in the morning or by 12 PM.  Make sure you eat something filling so you won’t be distracted during the test thinking about what you’re going to eat afterwards.  It might be a good idea to bring a very light snack for your ten minute break in between the listening and speaking sections.  Many brain researchers say fruit is the number one food that will get your mind working – so an apple a day will not only keep a doctor away, but it might help your TOEFL score, too!

4)   REWARD YOURSELF: After the test, make sure you do something nice for yourself.  After all, you have just prepared for a very difficult exam and deserve to enjoy yourself afterwards.  Treat yourself to a night out or dinner with friends – your hard work will certainly pay off!

Posted on August 3, 2010 by Manhattan Review

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Fretting over the TOEFL speaking section?  No need to worry – here are five practical tips to help keep you grounded:

1) Remember – it doesn’t have to be immaculately perfect. Each speaking question is graded on a scale of 0 – 4, with a 4 being the highest possible score.  Even with the highest possible score, it is still acceptable to have minor pronunciation errors.  In other words, the TOEFL graders are well aware you are speaking into a microphone in a room full of others, who are also doing the same and they take into account both your situation during the test and the stressful impact of the time.  Aim for the best you can possibly do but remember – a few minor mistakes won’t rule out a score of a 4. 

2)    Don’t take risks. The TOEFL speaking section is not the time or the place to experiment with new vocabulary words and/or complex pronunciations that might confuse the grader.  Try to expand your horizons with moderate-level adjectives but, as a whole, play it safe with your choice of vocabulary and particularly your choice of topics on independent questions.

3)    Don’t go over the time allotted. Keep in mind that for all independent speaking questions you have 45 seconds to respond, and for all integrated speaking questions you have 60 seconds to respond.  It’s important to give concise responses that do not exceed the allotted speaking time.  If you get 7 or 10 seconds until the end of your response time and you aren’t finished, it’s best to complete the thought and/or sentence you’re currently responding to or go to a conclusion right away.

4) Take notes. Some students do not take notes on the speaking section of the TOEFL and this is a major mistake.  Taking notes is crucial not only for the factual information you need for the integrated speaking but also to serve as a “guide” for your response.  With the stress of having to speak into a microphone with a room full of other people doing the same, it’s easy to get lost in your response or stop speaking altogether.  Take notes not only to help you deliver a complete response, but also provide you with keywords from the lecture and conversation to impress the graders.

5) Make the grader’s life easier. Last but not least, you should always keep in mind your job is to make the grader’s life easier.  Graders have to listen to many responses within the time span of one hour and if they have to replay part or all of your response because they happen to question what you were saying, it can only count against you.  Speak clearly, concisely and comfortably in order to make their job of giving you a high score easier than they anticipated.

All in all, the best way to improve your speaking is to practice, practice, practice!  Hopefully these hints will help you as you tackle what some students say is the most challenging part of the TOEFL examination.

Posted on July 27, 2010 by Manhattan Review

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