Use Good Test-Taking Strategies

Here are some good test-taking strategies recommended by ETS.

Carefully follow the directions in each section to avoid wasting time.

Click Help to review the directions only when absolutely necessary because the test clock will not stop when the Help function is being used.

Do NOT panic. Concentrate on the current question only, and do not think about how you answered other questions. This is a habit that can be learned through practice.

Avoid spending too much time on one question. If you have given the question some thought and you still don't know the answer, eliminate as many answer choices as possible and then select the best choice. You can review your responses in the Reading section by clicking View. However, it is best to do this only after all the questions have been answered so you can stay focused and save time.

Pace yourself so you have enough time to answer every question. Be aware of the time limit for each section and task, and budget enough time for each question/task so you don't have to rush at the end. You can hide the clock if you wish, but it is a good idea to check the clock periodically to monitor progress. The clock will automatically alert you when five minutes remain in the Listening and Reading sections, as well as the independent and integrated tasks in the Writing Section.

The Week Before The Test

You should allow yourself about 4 - 6 weeks to prepare before you take the TOEFL. You cannot "cram" for the TOEFL, but there are some things you can do in the final week before the test:

  • Review strategies: Look back over the strategies — make sure you are comfortable with them.
  • Review tasks: Before the test, review the 4 different tasks on the TOEFL — familiarize yourself with the format and the question types you'll see on the day.
  • Know the directions: Don't waste time on test day reading directions for each task — learn them ahead of time.
  • Warm-up questions: Look back at the questions you've completed. Review how you approach each one. Note any trap answers and any question types that were particularly difficult for you.
  • Have a plan: Make sure you know the format for your speaking and writing tasks — review the structure your responses should take.

Tips For The Day Of The Test:

  • Remember that taking notes on the reading and listening material in the integrated Speaking tasks on the TOEFL iBT test is allowed.
  • Listen to the item directions carefully to understand exactly what you are being asked to do.
  • Use your preparation time as effectively as possible. Plan your response by thinking about the important ideas you want to convey in a simple, organized fashion.
  • Do not begin speaking until you are told to do so.
  • Answer each question as completely as possible in the time allowed.
  • Make sure to adjust your microphone and volume carefully.
  • Speak into the microphone at the appropriate volume. Do not put your mouth directly onto the microphone. If you touch your mouth to the microphone, raters may find it difficult to understand what you are saying.
  • Avoid whispering. If you whisper, raters may find it difficult to understand what you are saying.

Test Day

On the night before the test, put your practice material aside and give yourself a break.

  • Make sure you know where the test center is, and plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before the scheduled test time.
  • Be sure to dress comfortably and bring a valid photo ID - such as a passport - to the test center.
  • You should also bring 2 pencils to take notes — although the center may provide pencils.
  • You may not take anything into the test center — food, bags, laptops, etc.

Strategies for Raising Your TOEFL Speaking Score

Listen carefully to each of your recorded responses.

Create a set of guideline questions to help you evaluate your performance.

Here are some examples of the kinds of questions you may want to include:

  1. Did I complete the task?
  2. Did I speak clearly?
  3. Did I make grammatical errors?
  4. Did I use words correctly?
  5. Did I organize my ideas clearly and appropriately?
  6. Did I provide a complete response?
  7. Did I use the time effectively?
  8. Did I speak too fast / too slowly?
  9. Did I pause too often?
  • Once you have completed your evaluation, decide what changes you want to make to your response. Then try again, making a new recording.
  • Compare the two recordings and determine if any further revisions are necessary.
  • Try to analyze your strengths and weaknesses — try to understand what you are and not able to do well and why.