How To-57: "How to Study for the TOEFL"

How to Study for the TOEFL

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The TOEFL, or Test of English as a Foreign Language, is an exam designed to measure fluency in English. There are four sections to the test: reading, listening, speaking and writing.


  1. Give yourself plenty of time to prepare. Learning a language takes a long time.
  2. Think in English. Do so all the time, while you walk, while you plan your day, while you eat. It will become easier as you practice more.
  3. Practice listening abilities as much as you can.
    • The best way is to put your skills to use, having conversations with native speakers. There are many sites on the Internet offering pen pals and conversation partners. You can meet face to face or use Skype or other services. You may even meet an English-speaker who wants to learn your language, if you’re willing to return the favor.
    • You can also listen to radio, television, and even podcasts in English.
  4. Learn English grammar. Grammar alone will not assure you a good score in the grammar section, but it is important to know
  5. Learn to recognize the parts of speech in English. Nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, pronouns, conjunctions, prepositions, and interjections are the primary ones. There are also phrases that function as nouns, verbs, and so on.
  6. Learn some idioms. Try Wiktionary for a list of idioms with definitions.
  7. Read as much as you can in English. Magazines, newspapers, and short articles are a good start, but try to work up to reading books. The reading section will be hardest if you don’t understand the main idea.
  8. Write as much as you can in English. Don’t worry if your writing isn’t perfect. Just work on putting together good paragraphs of about 5-6 sentences each. Practice pre-writing, or organizing your writing using an outline or other technique. You will find it easier to write a good piece if you have a plan.
  9. Take a practice test. You can find TOEFL practice online or purchase a test preparation book such as Barron’s TOEFL.
    • Time yourself during your practice so that you learn how long each section takes.
    • Practice each section of the test and become familiar with it, so that you understand how each section works.
    • Learn what sort of questions have been asked before, what sort of essay topics have been assigned, and what sort of subjects have been on the test before.
    • Find out which sections and concepts are difficult and work on getting more practice in those areas.


  • Don’t sit near your friends because you will lose your concentration in the exam.
  • For listening, read the items quickly because you don’t have enough time to read them twice.
  • Practice good test-taking habits.
  • Learn how quickly you can work without making too many mistakes.
  • If you’re not sure about an answer on a multiple choice question, eliminate as many possibilities as you can and make your best guess from the others.
  • If any one question is taking too long it may be best to guess or skip that question rather than waste time on something you don’t know.


  • Find out if your exam is a paper based or a computer based exam. That’s very important.
  • Don’t expect to pass with a good mark at the first attempt.

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