There are two types of knowledge that will lead to high TOEFL scores:
• A knowledge of the tactics used by good test takers and of the "tricks" of the test (which you will learn by using this Guide)
• A general command of English (which must be built up over a long period)
1: Increase your general knowledge of English.
The best way to increase your general knowledge of English is simply to use English as much as possible. Classes in English will be useful, and so will opportunities to speak, read, write, or listen to English.
Some people who are preparing for TOEFL think that conversation classes and practice are a waste of time because speaking skills are not tested on the exam. In fact, one of the best ways to get ready for the exam is to converse in English whenever you can. Not only will you improve your ability to listen to everyday English, but you'll also learn to think in English. If you are living in an English-speaking country, don't spend all your time with people from your own country. If you are living in your home country, try to arrange opportunities for conversations in English.
You can improve your listening comprehension skills by going to English-language lectures and movies. Listening to news and informational broadcasts on the radio is especially useful. Reading books, magazines, and newspapers in English can help you prepare for the Reading Comprehension part of the test.
One of your most important jobs is to systematically improve your vocabulary. Vocabulary build-ing will help you, not just in the Reading test, but throughout the exam. You may want to keep a personal vocabulary list. When you come across an unfamiliar word, look it up in a dictionary and
write the word and its definition in your personal vocabulary list. Keep this list with you and study it when riding buses, eating lunch, taking coffee breaks, or whenever else you have a free moment.
2: Make the most of your preparation time.
You need to train for TOEFL just as you would train for any important competitive event. Obviously, the sooner you can start training, the better, but no matter when you begin, you need to get the most out of your preparation time. Make a time-management chart. Draw up an hour-by-hour schedule of your week's activities.
Block out those hours when you are busy with classes, work, social activities, and other responsibili-ties. Then pencil in times for TOEFL preparation. You will remember more of what you study if you schedule a few hours every day or several times weekly instead of scheduling all your study time in
large blocks on weekends. After following this schedule for a week, make whatever adjustments are necessary. After that, try to keep to this schedule until the week before the testing date. During that last week, reduce your study time and begin to relax. If possible, reserve a special place where you do nothing but work on TOEFL preparation, sepa-rate from where you do your regular homework or other work. This place should be as free of dis-tractions as possible.
A good method of studying for TOEFL is the "30-5-5" method:
• Study for thirty minutes.
• Take a five-minute break-leave your desk and do something completely different.
• When you return, take five minutes to review what you studied before the break and preview what you are going to study next.
Incidentally, it's an excellent idea to meet regularly with a small group of people who are also
preparing for TOEFL. Research has shown that this study-group approach to test preparation is very
3: Be in good physical condition when you take the exam.
When you make out your time-management schedule, don't forget to leave time for physical activities-sports, aerobics, jogging, bicycling, or whatever else you prefer. The most important physical concern is that you not become exhausted during your preparation time. If you aren't getting enough sleep, you'll need to reduce your study time or another activity. This is especially important in the last few days before the exam.
4: Choose your test date carefully.
If you require PBT scores for admission to a university, you need to plan ahead. Most students at North American universities enter their programs in the fall term, with late classes beginning in August or September. The deadline for applying for the fall term is usually December of the previous year or January of that year. Therefore, you should take the test sometime in the spring or summer of the previous year. If your score on the test is not satisfactory, you will then have time to take the test again.
Of course, if you are taking a TOEFL preparation program, you should wait until you have completed or almost completed that course before you take the test so that the tactics and skills you have learned will be fresh in your mind.
5: Be familiar with the format and directions.
You should have a clear map of the TOEFL test in your mind. Then, as you're taking the exam, you'll know exactly where you are and what's coming next. The directions for each part of the TOEFL test are always the same; even the same examples are used. If you are familiar with the directions, you won't have to waste time reading them during the test.
6: Organize your pre-exam time.
You shouldn't try to "cram" (study intensively) during the last few days before the exam. Last-minute studying can leave you exhausted, and you need to be alert for the test. The night before the exam, don't study at all. Gtt together the materials you'll need in the morning, then go to a movie, take a long walk, or do something else to take your mind off the test. Go to bed when you usually do.
If the exam is in the morning, have breakfast before you leave. Wear comfortable clothes because you'll be sitting in the same position for a long time. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the test site, keeping in mind traffic, weather, and parking problems. If you have to rush, that will only add
to your stress.
7: Use time wisely during the test.
TOEFL would be a far easier test if you could spend an unlimited amount of time working on it. However, there are strict time limits. Doing well on TOEFL means that you must find a balance between speed and accuracy. You don't want to rush through any section, but you do want to finish
each section before time is called. The ideal is to finish Sections 2 and 3 with a few minutes remain-ing so that you can go back to questions that you found difficult. (The timing on Section 1 is con-trolled by the audio and you can't go back and check your answers after completing this section.)
The questions on TOEFL are not equally difficult. Items can be classified as easy, medium, and difficult. The approximate distribution of items on a typical TOEFL are as follows: easy-30%; medium-40%; difficult-30%.
Easy items are usually found at the beginning of each part of the test, medium items are usually found in the middle of each part, and difficult items are usually found at the end of each part. You may be tempted to rush through the easy items to save time for the difficult ones at the end of each
part. This is not a good strategy. Your goal is to get as many right answers as possible. Therefore, you want to concentrate on the items that give you the best chance of a correct answer-in other words, the easiest ones.
Hint: Remember, you don't get any extra points for answering difficult questions.
Work steadily. Never spend too much time on anyone problem. If you are unable to decide on an answer, guess and go on. Answer each question as you come to it, even if you are not sure of the answer. You can mark difficult items on your answer sheet with check marks Then, if you have time at the end of the section, you can return to these problems. Sometimes when you come back to an item, you will find it easier. (Be sure to erase all of these check marks before you hand in your answer sheet.) The most important tool for timing yourself is a watch, preferably one with a "count down" fea-ture that you can set at the beginning of Sections 2 and 3. (Watches with alarms are not permitted.)
8: Know how to mark your answer sheet.
One of the worst surprises you can have during a test is to suddenly discover that the number of the item that you are working on doesn't correspond to the number of the answer you are marking for that item. You have to go back to find where you first got off track, then change all the answers
after that number. You can avoid this problem by using the test book itself as a marker. Cover all the unanswered items in each column on your answer sheet. Then uncover one item at a time as you advance. Every five items or so, quickly glance at the number of the question that you are working on and the number of the answer to make sure they are the same.
Always be sure you have filled in a circle completely and have filled in only one answer per item. If you have to erase an answer, erase it completely.
Notice the check marks by numbers 4 and 6. The test taker found these items difficult. He or she guessed at the answers, and then used the marks as a reminder to come back to these items if the time allowed. These marks should be erased before the end of the test. Incidentally, if you mark the same answer four times in a row, you'll know one of those four answers is wrong. The same correct answer will occur at most three times in a row on TOEFL.
Hint: Don't sharpen your pencils too much before the exam. You can fill in circles more
9: Improve your concentration.
The ability to focus your attention on each item is an important factor in scoring high. Two and a half hours or more after all is a long time to spend in deep concentration. However, if your concentration is broken, it could cost you points. When an outside concern comes into your mind, just say to yourself, "I'll think about this after the test." Like any skill, the ability to concentrate can be improved with practice.quickly if your pencil is not too sharp.
10: Use the process of elimination to make the best guess.
Unlike some standardized exams, TOEFL has no penalty for guessing. In other words, incorrect answers aren't subtracted from your total score. Even if you are not sure which answer is correct, you should always, always, always guess. But you want to make an educated guess, not a blind guess. To do so, use the process of elimination,
To understand the process of elimination, it may be helpful to look at the basic structure of a multiple-choice item. On TOEFL, multiple choice items consist of a stem and four answer choices, (The stem in the Listening section is spoken; in the other two sections, it is written.) One answer choice, called the key, is correct. The three incorrect choices are called distractors because their function is to distract (take away) your attention from the right answer.
STEM .............. .
The three distractors, however, are usually not equally attractive. One is usually "almost correct." This choice is called the main distractor. Most people who answer an item incorrectly will chose this answer.
STEM ......... .
(D) main distractor
To see how this works in practice, look at this simple Structure item:
Winter wheat ____ planted in the fall.
If you are sure of the answer, you should mark your choice immediately and go on. If not, you should use the process of elimination. In this item, choices (A) and (C) are fairly easy to eliminate. Because this sentence consists of a single clause, connecting words such as because and which are not needed. It may be a little more difficult to choose between choices (B) and (D) because both form correct verb phrases. Even if you are unable to decide between these two choices, you have a 50% chance of guessing correctly. That's twice as good as the 25% chance you would have if you had guessed blindly. (Choice (B) is the key, of course; a passive verb, not a present perfect verb, is required to complete the sentence correctly.) Choice (D) is the main distractor.
What if you eliminate one or two answers but can't decide which of the remaining choices is cor-rect? If you have a "hunch" (an intuitive feeling) that one choice is better that the others, choose it. If not, just pick any remaining answer and go on. If you have no idea which of the four answers is correct, it's better to use a standard "guess letter," such as (C), than to guess at random. You should NEVER leave any items unanswered. Even if you don't have time to read an item, you have a 25% chance of guessing the key. If you are unable to finish a section, fill in all the unanswered
ovals on your answer sheet with your guess letter in the last few seconds before time is called. Remember: Use the same guess letter all the time so that you can fill in the ovals quickly.
11: Learn to control test anxiety.
A little nervousness before an important test is normal. After all, these tests can have an important effect on your plans for your education and career. If you were going to participate in a big athletic contest or give an important business presentation, you would feel the same way. There is an expression in English that describes this feeling quite well: "butterflies in the stomach." These "butterflies" will mostly disappear once the test starts. And a little nervousness can actually help by making you more alert and focused. However, too much nervousness can slow you down and cause you to make mistakes.
You may become anxious during the test because it seems very hard and it seems that you are making many mistakes. Try not to panic. The test seems hard because it is hard. You can miss quite a few items and still get a high score. One way to avoid stress on the day of the test is to give yourself plenty to time to get to the test center. If you have to rush, you'll be even more nervous during the exam. If you begin to feel extremely anxious during the test, try taking a short break-a "ten-second vacation." Close your eyes and put down your pencil. Take a few deep breaths, shake out your hands, roll your head on your neck, relax-then go back to work.
Of course, you can't take a break during the Listening Comprehension section when the items are being read. However, if you're familiar with the directions, you can relax during the times when directions are being read. A positive, confident attitude toward the exam can help you overcome anxiety. Think of TOEFL not as a test of your knowledge or of you as a person but as an intellectual challenge, a series of puzzles to be solved.
12: Learn from taking practice test and official TOEFL exams.
One of the most important steps in preparing for TOEFL is taking realistic, complete practice tests. In addition, you may take the official TOEFL test several times. Each time you take a test, either a practice test or a real one, you should learn from it. Immediately after the exam, write down your reactions: Which section seemed difficult? Did you have problems finishing any sections? When you look at your results, is the score for one section Significantly lower of higher than the scores for the other two sections? You can use this information to focus your studies for the next time you take the test.
Whenever you take a practice test, pretend that you are taking an actual TOEFL exam. Whenever you take an actual exam, pretend you are taking a practice test.