An ‘A’ To ‘Z’ of TOEFL Tips and Strategies

A Is For “Ask”

If you are not sure exactly what is the question during the TOEFL speaking section, then be sure to ask the examiner to repeat/rephrase the question - if you do not, you risk answering a different question. Try to use polite formal expressions, such as “Excuse me, please could you rephrase the question, I did not manage to catch it?”

B Is For “Brevity”

Be careful to not answer with brevity during the TOEFL speaking exam. Remember that the IELTS speaking examiner wants to see your level. So, rather than answering the question “Tell me about your city.”, with “It is quite large.”, try to increase the sentence, such as with: “Regarding the place that I live, I can say that...”.

C Is For “Calculate”

Calculate the number of marks correct that you would approximately need in order to get your goal for the TOEFL reading and listening sections. During the exam, you might be concerned that you are not answering the questions easily, however remember that you only need a certain percentage correct, not all of them.

D Is For “Dyslexia”

Some TOEFL applicants have extra TOEFL challenges, such as dyslexia. People with learning educational challenges however may also be entitled to extra help when taking the exam, such as extra time. Please note that you might have to give advanced warning about that to get these benefits.

E Is For “Energy”

The TOEFL exam may require a surprising amount of energy. For instance, if you need to concentrate and write a lot in 60 minutes for the TOEFL writing section, you may need to be very focused. Therefore, think about helpful snacks to eat before the exam, such as an orange that you can get sufficient energy for doing your best.

F Is For “Fresh”

Make sure to be fresh for the exam, if at all possible. Try not to arrive with insufficient sleep or in a hurry. Therefore, plan how to arrive with a reasonable amount of time to spare and also that you will be able to be relaxed and ready for the exam.

G Is For “Grammar”

Whilst for work purposes correct grammar, although maybe important, may not be always necessary for functioning well, in the IELTS exam the examiners are trained to focus on mistakes. How is your level? If you are not sure, then be sure to get a native-level English teacher to evaluate your writing and speaking.

H Is For “Handwriting”

Having clear handwriting may be very important for the TOEFL exam. Remember that if the examiner cannot read what you wrote, it might be much harder for you to pass. Make every letter legible and clearly cross out any unwanted letters/words, if using a pen.

I Is For “Ideas”

For the TOEFL writing and speaking good ideas are important, however do not spend too much time trying to think of them. For sure, you need to answer the question correctly, however remember that the examiner is focused on your English knowledge, rather than what you know about nature, or whatever the question is about.

J Is For “Jot Down”

For the speaking task 2 you will have 1 minute to jot down some notes – try to make perhaps 15 bullet points to be able to use these for greater fluency. Then you can focus more on your English, rather than also what needs to be said.

K Is For “Kangaroo”

If you are planning on moving to Australia, maybe you would hope to see a kangaroo. Perhaps you could try to print a photo, to remind yourself and others of your goal. The TOEFL can be hard work and sometimes disappointing – keep focused on the reason(s) for you taking it.

L Is For “Listening”

During the listening exam, try to read ahead for future questions, so that you can anticipate the types of answers that may be required. For instance, if you see that the question is asking about what country someone is from, you may be able to even guess it from the speaker's accent, before it is confirmed by something they say.

M Is For “Manage”

Manage your preparation of the TOEFL exam. If you are balancing work and family commitments, you will need to think about how much time you can realistically invest in preparation for the exam. If in doubt, consider delaying the exam to allow more time to prepare.

N Is For “Never”

Try to never write under the amount of words required for the TOEFL writing sections – better is to be “safe than sorry”.

O Is For “Options”

When you are answering the TOEFL speaking and writing exams, you may have some options sometimes for the examples that you will use. For example, if you are asked to talk about a hobby you like, then use one that you know a reasonable amount of vocabulary about and are able to speak more easily regarding it.

P Is For “Practice”

Make sure that you do enough practice. Although you might know some high-level English speakers who passed with ease, unless you are in that category you may need to “put in the hours”. Therefore, prepare properly and practise the four different sections of the exam.

Q Is For “Questions”

Try to become familiar with the different types of questions that can be asked in the exam. For instance, for the writing TOEFL exam, think of the various types that might be asked, such as “agree/disagree” or “cause/effect” etc.. Equally look through the other sections to know what you might be required to answer.

R Is For “Reading”

For the TOEFL reading exam, try to think about strategies that may be useful. For instance, you can think about underlining key words in the text and making a very brief summary next to areas of text, so that you can reference what they are about quickly again. Also, think about your schedule, such as a few minutes to read the questions, then formatting the text for 6 minutes, then answering for 8 minutes and some more minutes for checking and final checking.

S Is For “Speaking”

In the TOEFL speaking, try to answer at a regular speed – many native speakers may not speak particularly fast. Also, be careful of any grammar mistakes and focus on a clear accent. Think before your answer to try and avoid too much hesitation.

T Is For “Time”

The TOEFL exam is very much about time. Make sure not to run out of it for the IELTS writing exam, so that you are able to complete both tasks. Equally, for the reading exam, you need to complete as many questions as possible and clearly, preferably all.

U Is For “Utilize”

Utilize all possible resources. For instance maybe you could ask successful candidates about their advice for how to pass. However, “work smart”, so that you are focusing on resources that will most assist your weak areas, rather than mostly strengthening already strong areas and neglecting weaker ones.

V Is For “Value”

Think about the “value” of words that you are using for the TOEFL speaking and writing. For instance, “accurate” is going to be a higher level than “good”. Of course, any words you use should be appropriate for the context of what you are writing.

W Is For “Writing”

For the TOEFL writing, try to make synonyms for the task question – that might take a few minutes. If you seem to be just repeating some/many of the words that are on the exam paper, the examiner will not be impressed by that.

X Is For “Xerox”

Be careful not to appear to be writing a “xerox” copy of a previously answered task– if the examiner thinks that you are using a template, you risk losing marks – of course, there is a balance here as many phrases can be used by different candidates: make each task “your own”.

Y Is For “Years”

Some TOEFL candidates have taken the exam for years. Doubtless you would not likely want this to be you (or if it is you, for that to continue much longer). Have a clear strategy for how you would improve and evaluate your progress regularly.

Z Is For “Zigzagging”

Careful not to be “zigzagging” in your speaking/writing answers – for the TOEFL speaking, answer the questions directly and after that you can perhaps expand more for any further related points – for the TOEFL writing section, if you are asked to write about healthy food, try to not to “zigzag” away to hobbies, then come back to food and then move to telephones, etc..

2 Responses to “An ‘A’ To ‘Z’ of TOEFL Tips and Strategies”

    • toefladmin

      Hi Ahmedshah,
      Please indicate your question in as much detail as possible and I will help you further. I look forward to hearing from you.

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