Key “Must Knows” for Success on the TOEFL. And We’re Not Talking English.
As you get ready for the TOEFL (or any other standardized test), there are key “must knows” that aren’t necessarily content related. Here’s a list of strategies that could make the difference between a good score and a great score!
Must Know #1: Know the test format
Before you can begin to study, familiarize yourself with the test format. As you know, the TOEFL is a test of English as a foreign language that assesses the English proficiency of people whose native language is not English. It tests the ability to understand North American English. The TOEFL assesses proficiency by evaluating four skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing. For more details on the TOEFL iBT, visit our blog TOEFL iBT® Basic and Frequently Asked Questions.
Before you begin your preparation, take time to learn and practice the testing formats. Study each section. How many passages? How long? How many questions? What type of questions? What are the direction lines? Is time tracked? Can I take notes? After you learn the format, take several practice tests that simulate the test. Be aware of how you progress through each section. What was confusing? How did you handle the time? Take notes of these difficulties. After the practice test, review the areas of difficulty and develop ways to improve. Then apply your new strategies to the next practice test. When you have a good handle on each section, write yourself a “Don’t forget to...” list. This list is a summary of the changes you made in your test taking skills. Review this list before you take the TOEFL iBT as a reminder of all the good work you’ve done to become a better test taker!
Must Know #2: Know how you’ll be scored
After you get a handle on each test section, you now want to know how you will be scored. What is the score based upon? How are points earned? Are the points converted to a scale? How does the score for each section contribute to the final score? Knowing how each section is scored will help you prepare better and make important decisions during the test.
Must Know #3: Know your target score
Another “must know” is to decide where you want to study or at least have several potential options. Why? Because it helps to know your target score before you take the test. Once you decide upon possible institutions, research the TOEFL score required by each one. That is your target score. For example, to be admitted as an undergraduate at the University of Arizona (U.S), most majors require a minimum score of 70. In contrast, undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh (U.S.) requires a score of 100 or higher with sub-scores of 21 or higher considered competitive. To enter Durham University (UK) for postgraduate study, you need a TOEFL score of 100. Once you know the required score for your desired institution(s), you know your target score. You don’t “pass” or “fail” the TOEFL; you achieve the score required by the institution where you want to study!
Must Know #4: Know your English strengths and weaknesses
Most language learners are stronger in one or two skills and weaker in others. Determine which English skills you are good at and which ones you need to improve. Chances are you know that already. If not, do some specific activities for each skill (or take a couple of TOEFL practice tests) and see how you do. Spend time building the weaker skills, but don’t ignore your other skills. Just balance your time so you work on the weaker skills and maintain your stronger skills.
To build language skills, check out the WeSpeke TOEFL test prep. The WeSpeke Lessons target specific skills while deepening your knowledge of academic topics and vocabulary. Register for free on WeSpeke and look for the Lessons that have a English as the target language. Good luck on the TOEFL!