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16 Ways to Improve your TOEFL Score

Here are some general, yet helpful tips you can use to improve your TOEFL®iBT score:

1) Familiarize yourself with the TOEFL format

One reason people experience exam stress is because they haven’t prepared sufficiently and don’t know what to expect before a test. One way to prevent stress on exam day is by studying the format of the test in detail.

With our TOEFL®iBT Introductory Course and our TOEFL®iBT Preparation Course you will learn how the exam is structured, helpful strategies for taking each section of the exam, and other general tips that will boost your score a few points.  We will practice hundreds of exam questions and you will take multiple practice tests.  After taking our TOEFL courses, you will feel extremely prepared on exam day.

2) Research TOEFL Score Requirements

It’s important to research the minimum requirements for the university or institution you are interested in going to so that you know how many points you need to increase your score. We then can have an estimate of how many hours of our TOEFL®iBT Introductory and/or Preparation Courses you will need.  If you’re interested in studying in the USA, please check out our Admissions TOEFL score requirement list.

During our first meeting we will talk about what you can currently score on the TOEFL, what score you need to get into your top schools and which TOEFL program can help you to achieve these scores. Remember that the scores for the paper based test are different than the scores for the iBT.  Also, scores achieved on practice exams are normally a few points higher than you will achieve on the actual exam.

3) Learn Academic English

TOEFL is used for a different purpose than other ESL tests. The TOEFL specifically measures your ability to succeed in an American university or college.

You should concentrate on studying language that you would hear and see on campus and in the classroom by reading textbooks, encyclopedias, journals and research articles. This will help you to become familiar with the presentation and language used in academic material.

4) Practice, Practice, Practice…using Practice Tests!

One of best ways to prepare for the TOEFL is to practice taking the test. If you are taking one of our TOEFL class, AES will provide you with plenty of study material that you will not have to purchase on your own.  We will be drilling you with exercises the cover the 4 key TOEFL sections: reading, writing, speaking and listening, as well as boosting your vocabulary and taking full-length practice exams.  We use a variety of books and pick the best sections from each book to maximize their effectiveness and create the perfect study package.

A key to benefiting from taking the practice exams is to review your exam and to understand what you did well and what you did poorly.  AES will examine your performance on the exam and adjust your program accordingly- spending more time improving your weak areas and less time on your strengths.

In addition, our students will have access to our database of our online study material which can reinforce and supplement our in class material.

Note* Full length exams taken during class hours will be charged at a reduced hourly rate.

5) Find a Mentor

A reliable native English teacher who knows a lot about the TOEFL is one of the best resources a student can have. The teachers at American Exam Services have the answers to your questions that your textbook can’t answer for you.  We give you excellent hints and help you with “complicated” grammar questions.  This increases students’ understanding and reduces frustration.  Additionally, we call on other students in the class to answer questions as teaching is a great way to learn and re-enforces what one already knows.

6) Be Prepared on Test Day

If you have taken our TOEFL®iBT course(s) and arrive at the test center with all of the things you need, you will feel calm and ready. This is extremely important because when you are nervous, your memory does not work as well.  Make sure to leave well ahead of schedule and aim to be at the test center 30 minutes ahead of time.

To finish off your last course with AES, we will watch an informational ETS® video that explains the rules and requirements of the exam, as well as what you should and should not bring to the exam.

7) Pace Yourself

During the exam, monitor your time and pacing of the test very closely.  Many students do poorly on the TOEFL because they spend too much time on difficult questions.  You should dedicate a certain amount of time to each section of the exam and it is important not to exceed that limit.

As a part of our TOEFL courses, we will talk about how much time should be spent on each section and how to prevent having to rush the last section(s) of the exam.  We will teach you about how the different sections are broken up, how to maximize the time you have for writing the essay, as well as other time-saving strategies.  These alone can help improve your TOEFL score dramatically!

8 ) Become an Expert Note Taker

You will be able to take notes in each section as you take the TOEFL iBT. Note taking is allowed because it is an important skill you need to excel at the university level. We will practice taking notes on the main idea of what you read and hear as well as on the main details. We recommend you do this throughout your day as you listen to news reports, read websites and watch TV. Create your own shorthand for frequently used words and phrases.

9) Answer Every Question

Never leave a question blank. Eliminate all of the answers you know are wrong and then make an educated guess. Even if you can’t eliminate an answer, you have a 25% chance of getting the correct answer.

10) Secrets for the Reading Section

  • Familiarize yourself with key academic vocabulary
  • Practice reading without using a dictionary.  This will help you improve your reading comprehension without the need to understand every word.
  • Concentrate on the areas in the passage that the questions pertain to.  Skim the passage, read the questions, then read again for more details.
  • You will usually be asked a main idea question, at least two vocabulary questions, some detailed question and inference questions.
  • You will not have the time to re-read a whole passage in detail.

11) Secrets for the Listening Section

  • Simulate a real testing environment- when practicing for the listening section, only play the CD once.  This will train your ears to listen fully the first time.
  • During the real exam do not look  back at listening questions you have already answered.
  • Learn to listen for main ideas, presentation and key details.

12) Secrets for the Speaking Section

  • Although it is best use much of the time as possible with you oral response, it is okay to hesitate a moment or two before giving your response.
  • Sum things up in the end with a short conclusion.
  • Try to only use words that you feel comfortable pronouncing- you will lose points for poor pronunciations.
  • Do not use vocabulary or idioms that you do not fully understand as you will lose points for their improper use.

13) Secrets for the Writing Section

  • Memorize phrases from practice tests that show you how to make connections in the first part of the writing section.
  • Keep your writing simple and clear.
  • Only use vocabulary and punctuation you are sure of.
  • Spend time planning your essay before you write it.  This will save you time in the long run!
  • While practicing for the essay section, find a format you are comfortable with and use that format every time.
  • Use lots of supporting examples
  • Make your writing easier to read by using transitions (memorize a list of them).
  • Leave time at the end to check over your essay.

14) Strengthen all 4 Communication Skills

It is essential to do well in all four areas: reading, writing, speaking and listening.  With the help of AES we will determine exactly which areas you need the most help in. Perhaps your reading, listening, and writing skills are ready, but your speaking skills still need work.  If you do very poorly on one section of the test, you will have to retake the entire test. You can’t redo just one section. Make sure that you are ready to take the whole test when you register.

15) Dress in comfortable clothing

You should dress in comfortable layers on test day because you never know whether or not the test room will be cold or warm. Wear your favorite shirt or bring something that has a special meaning to you. When you feel good and comfortable you perform better

16) Make sure to eat before the test

You will not be allowed to bring any food or drinks into the test room with you. Eat a light meal before you take the test as four hours is a long time to go without eating.  Avoid too much caffeine as it can sometimes increase anxiety and actually decrease ones focus. Don’t consume large amounts of sugar right before the test. And make sure that you have had plenty of water.