English language proficiency exams: TOEFL vs IELTS

With globalization, number of students seeking for international education has been soaring. The number of international students in countries like the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia is at its peak. These countries and their universities do not just look for the student’s academic ability to grant them a permission for study in their land. They look for something more: the students’ ability to communicate. The universities generally have English language requirements in order to provide a seat to the students and the countries also look for those requirements to provide residency permission to the students. Lately, the TOEFL, IELTS, and PTE have been the popular English language assessment tests. Among them, Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) has been gaining popularity worldwide, especially among the students planning to study in the US.  Educational Testing Service (ETS), a private non-profit organization, designs and administers the TOEFL. TOEFL here means the TOEFL (iBT)—the internet based test format of TOEFL. The total duration of the TOEFL test is around four and half hours and the minimum being 3 hours 10 minutes.

It is not easy to score high on such a competitive test and the number of the test takers has been increasing. So a high score on TOEFL is important for you if you want to secure a position in the university. Here are a few preparation tips for the test so that you can give your best in the test.

Preparation Tips for TOEFL

So, you have decided taking TOEFL. You might often get questions in your mind, like:

  • Can I get past the test? How difficult is it?
  • How do I prepare for it?
  • How to score high in the test?
  • What are the best resources to prepare for TOEFL?

Having such questions in mind means you have already started brainstorming about making the best out of the test. You are actually asking yourself: How to prepare for TOEFL?

The first thing you should know about TOEFL is that there are four sections—Listening, Reading, Speaking, and Writing which evaluate the basic English communication skills of an aspirant. It is better for you to go through the TOEFL Test pattern before starting to prepare for the test. 

The test pattern of TOEFL 2018

SectionTime LimitQuestionsTasks
Reading60–80 minutes36–56 questionsRead 3 or 4 passages from academic texts and answer questions.
Listening60–90 minutes34–51 questionsListen to lectures, classroom discussions and conversations, answer questions.
Speaking20 minutes6 tasksExpress an opinion on a familiar topic; speak based on reading and listening tasks.
Writing50 minutes2 tasksWrite essay responses based on reading and listening tasks; support an opinion in writing.

We have collected a few tips for the test takers and the tips have been elaborated in relation to the four sections. The knowledge of why the sections are there and what are the objectives of the sections is important for you to score high in those TOEFL sections and thus in the overall TOEFL Test. 

TOEFL Preparation Tips for Listening Section-

In this section, test takers will be asked to listen to lectures, discussions and conversation in English. It tests the ability to understand native English in an academic environment. This component usually covers more than 50 questions. Candidates will first be asked to listen to a recorded conversation, which will be followed up with a series of questions regarding the same.

Points to Remember: TOEFL preparation tips for the Listening section-

A. Listen to Broadcasts: This is the easiest and cheapest way to prepare for this section. You need to develop a habit of comprehending the conversations in English. You can find various talk shows and other programs being broadcasted through the television, radio, or the internet. Developing a habit to listen and watch such contents regularly can help you make yourself comfortable with the English language and the tones that native people use while speaking the language. The best way to prepare for the listening test is to listen and listen more!

B. Make notes: Notes are always important. They help students keep the track of their learning path. Making notes is an important aspect of listening practice as well. Write down whatever you think is important and always make sure that you understand what you write down. You can review the notes later in order to check whether you have been progressing in the listening skill or not.

C. Accent comfort: You might not be comfortable with the accent that English speakers have. Accent is unavoidable for the native speakers since it develops as a part of the societal set up of the place where the speaker grew up. Accents can make it difficult for foreigners to learn the English language. So, you need to be habituated with the common accents in English language. For that you need to habituate yourself by listening to a variety of accents.

TOEFL Preparation Tips for Reading Section-

In the reading section, candidates will be asked to read three to four passages from academic texts and answer questions. The reading exercise will be followed by 30 to 50 questions based on the given excerpts. One of the important skills that will be tested here is the candidate’s ability to observe and analyze the text to present appropriate answers and arguments.

Points to Remember: TOEFL preparation tips for the Reading Section-

  1. Read English articles: How comfortable are you with reading books in English? Can you read them without an interruption? First find out with the help of these questions how habituated with your English reading. And accordingly start honing your English reading skills. You can start with reading short articles from the newspapers to eventually be able to read long novels. Note that just READING is not important here. You need to be able to comprehend what you have read and that is possible only through the expansion of your knowledge on various fields.

B. Practice grammar: Grammar is important. You are probably learning grammar ever since the beginning of your school education. In order to be able to understand what the writer is trying to convey, knowledge on grammar and usage can play a vital role. You need to be familiar with the rules of using the English language. You can learn the usages form the contemporary writings. You can also refer to various guides on English grammar and usage.

  1. Practice comprehensions: The reading section is loosely based on comprehension, you are required to choose and summarize sentences that best describe the passages and the questions asked. In that case, it helps to practice comprehensions. Practising comprehension will not only help you crack the contents of the exam, it will also make you efficient and fast.  

TOEFL Preparation Tips for Speaking Section-

The speaking section consists of six tasks which involve expressing candidates’ opinion and placing their arguments on a specific topic. What is interesting here is that one also has to present a speech based on the listening and reading parts.

Points to Remember: TOEFL preparation tips for the Speaking test-

A. Practice speaking: English is not your mother tongue, not even your national language. So it is normal for you to not to be able to speak English fluently as the native speakers do. Alongside your reading and listening drills, you need to practice speaking English in your common setting. You can practice speaking by trying to communicate with your friends in English, by asking questions to your teachers and mentors in English. In various other ways, you can bring English to your daily life. Daily life habit is important for you to be able to speak in English fluently. You can also have solo speaking practice.
B. Record: When you are having a solo English speaking practice, you can record your voice so that you can review later how you have spoken. Keeping record of things helps you track your progress, as mentioned earlier. You can listen to those speaking practice lessons and look for flaws in order to work them out in the next practice sessions. Focus on your clarity and sensibleness when you listen to those records. And also ask this important question: Will the native speakers of English understand what I have spoken? 

C. Knowledge: Speaking is important, but speaking sensibly is more. You cannot just blabber about anything you like in the speaking test. You need to make sense through whatever words you are uttering. For that you need to have knowledge about what you are speaking. You won’t be asked to speak about heavy matters in the test. You will be asked to speak about general matters. So general knowledge on various things is important for you to perform well in the speaking test.

TOEFL Preparation tips for Writing Section-

Consisting of two tasks, this section involves writing essay responses based on reading and listening tasks. Besides, the examiner will also propose an idea on which test takers have to form their own opinion and write an argumentative essay.

Points to Remember: TOEFL preparation tips for the Writing test-

A. Read: The first step to be a good writer is to be a good reader. You need to be informed about how other writers use the English language in their writings and for that reading is important. You can read articles or books or anything at all. To be able to write, you need to be able to articulate in English. And that is possible only by habituating yourself with English writings.

B. Make notes: Making notes is a very important aspect of preparing for TOEFL writing test. Make notes while you are reading and even when watching discussions and debates on television. You can especially make valuable notes from debates.

C. Research: Be studious. You cannot just write anything you like. You need to develop the habit of delving into a matter in order to write well about it. Researching on various topics can help you understand a broad range of topics and that can come handy in expressing yourself when you write.

Some additional TOEFL Preparation Tips-

  • Before preparing for TOEFL, candidates need to find the TOEFL score requirements to apply in universities of their choice.
  • Solving several practice tests. One can go online and take as many practise test as possible. The official practice test prepared by ETS renders candidates the experience of taking the real TOEFL iBT test (https://toeflpractice.ets.org). Applicants will be able to review and answer authentic test questions and obtain scores within 24 hours, with performance feedback on all the four skill sets measured on the test day, namely Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing.
  • All the mock tests/practice tests should be timed. One needs to keep a close watch on the time taken to solve the sections.
  • Working on typing skills. Speed is one of the most important aspects of the TOEFL internet Based Test (iBT). You can practice typing with the popular QWERTY keyboard since they will be used in the TOEFL iBT.
  • Keep updating yourself with the official TOEFL website. When there is any doubt or you hear anything unusual about test pattern, dates, rules, and regulations, you can refer to the site for the first hand information.


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