10 TOEFL Exam Tips – Part I -By Kent Kinney

Taking the TOEFL test is one of the most challenging tests you’ll ever take. Here are 10 things to help you achieve the highest score on the IBT TOEFL exam. Fulfill your dreams of studying in an English speaking university.

1. Understanding the TOEFL TEST 

The TOEFL test is designed by ETS evaluates-measures reading, listening, speaking and writing skills and your ability to succeed in an English speaking university. The test has a maximum of 30 points for each section-with 4 sections means a top score of 120points .

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This is the structure of the TOEFL.

Most universities have a specific admission requirement for each section, so it is important to check what score is needed for each section EG 24/30 writing.

There are a lot of online resources –from the ETS website here a few to help get you started:

TOEFL Go Anywhere
Sample TOEFL questions

2. Be Prepared:

Allow yourself adequate study time to prepare- 6 months to one year is normal-especially if it’s your first time taking it.

You don’t want any surprises on test day so READ /LISTEN to as many resources as possible to be prepared for any Speaking , Listening or Writing topics that may be covered on the test. 

Don’t try to prepare for the test alone. Selecting the correct TEXTBOOK is very important and a very good one we use with many students is the Cambridge Preparation for TOEFL Test 4th edition, By Jolene /Robert Gear.


It is important to stress that you must be well read and also listen to a wide variety of topics for the reading, and listening portions of the test. It is important to expand/build your vocabulary. On the TOEFL you will read passages or listen to lectures on everything from Physics to Biology and from US history to psychology!

The TOEFL –ETS has teamed up with a company called Lexile that helps students select books to raise their reading level on specific topics. If you have a low reading score –Lexile This site can help you select books in a specific area to help you enhance your knowledge.

Audio books are a great resource to help build your listening skills.Audio.com (a paid site) has many lectures, books, as well as a variety of university based courses. There are many free sites that sponsor audio books too (https://librivox.org/).

BBC, VOA News, Economist magazine, and NPR are also great free resources you may utilize to listen to fast spoken news dialogues, and provide any excellent DB of articles for reading. 

Here are some more resources to help you get started:

BBC – business
NPR – business
VOA News – Economy and Business
The Economist

Science, Health, and the Environment:
NPR – Science
BBC – Nature
BBC – Science and Environment
BBC – Health
VOA News – Science and Technology
VOA News – Environment
VOA News – Health

Arts, Entertainment, and History:
BBC – Entertainment and Arts
BBC – History
NPR – Arts
VOA News Arts and Entertainment

If you’re a slow at reading /listening try to use these resources below to build up to the ones listed above:

ESLPod – The episodes are short dialogues on a variety of topics. The dialogues include great vocabulary, phrases & idioms.Each episode includes a slow dialogue, a discussion of vocabulary, and a fast dialogue. The transcript is also provided on the website.

VOA Learning English – This section of the website has articles similar to the news section, but they are easier to read and the listening clips are much slower.

Listen a Minute–  If you are still struggling with listening or vocabulary, this website will help you build up your skills.

4. Learn good note taking skills.
We can show you how….at AcademConsult. It is essential you learn to take good notes to succeed on the listening, speaking and writing section of the exam. After admission to the university it will also be a very valuable skill when listening to lecture.

Because on the TOEFL test- listening clips are only played ONCE. So note taking skills are very important. . In the listening section you’ll have to answer questions after only one listening. In the speaking portion you will also have to speak about a topic after listening to a lecture only once.Likewise in the writing section you will have to write on a topic after one listening as well.


Write down and record only essential information-don’t try to write everything down-only the keywords that will help you understand the lecture.

Use symbols or shorthand and abbreviate as much as possible.

Another great resource is TED Talks-it allows you practice taking notes over a 30 minute period. Ted Talks.

Longer segments for noting taking practice include:

NPR and VOA websites.

When you sit down to take the test, you will get 3 sheets of paper. The proctors are supposed to give you 3 sheets of paper when you raise your hand, but this does not always happen.

5.) Make sure your pronunciation is clear.

Speaking with an accent is okay, but speaking clearly and understandably is vital.

You are judged on these three criteria:

  • How well you answer the question and complete the task
  • The grammar and vocabulary you use
  • How you sound

Reviewing these videos about pronunciation/ speaking questions  on theTOEFL will assist you.

(Speaking Task 1 -Inside the TOEFL® Test)

(Speaking task 4 & 6 – Inside the TOEFL® Test: Speaking)


Read next: 10 TOEFL EXAM TIPS – Part II -By Kent Kinney

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