Strategies for taking the TOEFL
One of the most useful tools in language instruction is the concept of immersion, in which the student uses only the language being studied to communicate for a specific period of time (usually an entire class). TOEFL preparation can accommodate this strategy with respect to all four areas of the test. Watching films in English can be helpful for the listening section of the TOEFL, while reading newspapers in English can help with TOEFL reading skills (both of these strategies allow students to infer a great deal of information from context). For TOEFL speaking, test-takers can get together with other students and hold conversations only in English. Everyday activities can be used to practice TOEFL writing, such as emails, shopping lists, birthday cards, or other personal communication. It is a good idea to devote some time each day to immersion in the English language, which will help build the exact functional English capabilities that are evaluated on the TOEFL. Research shows that learning is best accomplished in small increments, since this approach allows the brain to process and consolidate new knowledge. When taking the test itself, it is important to manage time effectively. Do not agonize over the answer to any single question, because this can be a waste of time that will harm scores far more than one incorrect answer. Adequate rest and nutrition in the days leading up to the test will help ensure that students are not distracted by physical discomfort.
Students who perform well on the TOEFL iBT reading section have a large vocabulary, understand conventions of English grammar and punctuation, and have a strong command of the structure of written texts in terms of the organization of ideas. The development of these skills requires reading many different types of texts, especially those that relate to the academic subjects commonly studied at the undergraduate level (e.g. science, history, or literature). Some tutors suggest the use of vocabulary flash cards to build knowledge of English words. While reading, students should practice separating factual information from arguments or assertions, and they should try to understand how evidence supports claims. It may also be helpful to write down important facts included in reading passages, which will also help reinforce writing skills.
The most important skills for the TOEFL iBT listening section include understanding connections between different pieces of information, recognizing the role of tone of voice and intonation in spoken communication, being able to rank the relative importance of spoken ideas, and synthesizing all aspects of spoken lectures or conversations. Audio or video recordings of almost any type are helpful for practice, such as videos on websites, radio or TV programs, commercials, or lecture recordings. Students should attempt to engage with a variety of spoken material that concerns the major subjects included in university general education requirements.
For many students, correct pronunciation presents the most significant obstacle to strong performance on the TOEFL iBT speaking section. This is a crucial skill, because pronunciation can easily be the difference between clear communication and incomprehensibility. Most test-takers find it helpful to repeat lines aloud when listening to audio or watching video in English, paying special attention to issues such as word emphasis and tone of voice. It is also essential to practice conversations with English speakers who are either native or fluent. Choose topics that require the expression of personal experiences and opinions, such as the events of the day, favorite subjects, or descriptions of family members.
Test-takers who succeed on the TOEFL iBT writing section are capable of writing essays with strong ideas, coherent organization, and standard use of English grammar. Practice writing commentary on reading passages that includes important facts and main points. After becoming more skilled at writing in English, students can practice writing their own opinion essays on political issues, historical events, their favorite subjects, or their own experiences. Focus on using evidence to support opinions, because this is an important skill for TOEFL writing. Student efforts in the other TOEFL areas will be helpful to writing skills. This is intentional on the part of the test's creators, who wish to help students demonstrate the ability to combine and synthesize English-language abilities.
All of the approaches listed above are helpful for both the iBT and the PBT. Although there is no speaking section on the PBT, students are strongly encouraged not to neglect this aspect of their English study. The ultimate goal of both tests is to produce English speakers who are able to complete their college coursework and able to negotiate the many other activities associated with university life.