Exams Know-how

TOEFL Preparation: Learn the Best Tips & Strategies for TOEFL Preparation


TOEFL is one of the most popular and widely accepted English language assessment tests in the realm of foreign education. It helps to demonstrate that you have the essential English language skills to succeed in programs at international universities.

We can agree that the journey to succeeding at TOEFL may be a stressful experience. But if you are well prepared, then you can go about the test with confidence and achieve your target TOEFL score.

Developing a strategic study plan and using effective techniques would help add fuel to your TOEFL preparation. Through this article you will learn some helpful preparation strategies, tips, and how to incorporate them in your study plan to achieve the desired result.

When should you begin your TOEFL Preparation?

The answer to this depends on your existing level of aptitude in the English language. It is recommended to take a TOEFL mock test and to gauge how far you stand from the target score. And thus, plan your preparation time accordingly.

If you are already well-versed with the technicalities and usage of the language such as having sound knowledge of grammar, vocabulary, listening attentively and speaking fluently, then you have a good head start. In that instance a diligent preparation for a month or bit more can be sufficient to prepare.

Whereas, if you are someone who needs to gain hold on the basics of language and subsequently get to the advanced aspects. Then it is recommended that you start your preparation well in advance. The sooner you start your practice, the better the results will be.

Ideally, one should start their TOEFL preparation at least 2 to 3 months before the test. Considering this as the average preparation time required by many students.  

Suggested: 114/120 In TOEFL with a 4 day preparation

Preparation Strategies for the TOEFL Exam

“The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.”

Taking inspiration from the aforementioned saying, one must prepare in the right way for the TOEFL with the best techniques. Following are some excellent preparation strategies for you to ace the TOEFL with a high score.

Study the Test Pattern:

This is the first thing you must do - familiarizing yourself with the TOEFL test pattern & syllabus. Do not rush, take your time while carefully studying the pattern, syllabus and marking scheme. Since this will serve as the basis of your preparation, make sure to study well.   

Make Your Unique Study Plan:

Determine your target TOEFL score and follow an effective study plan to achieve that. The right kind of study plan is a must and will help you progress efficiently. Keep in mind the following points while drafting your study plan.

  • Begin with planning how much time you would require to study for each section. It might happen that out of four, one or two sections need less time and the other two more. So plan your time accordingly.

  • Now that you know the time you need to study each section, develop a study schedule. Plan out on which days you would study a particular section.

  • Stick to your study schedule and follow it consistently. Remember to keep it a balanced schedule, including time for other activities as well.

  • Evaluate your study plan time-to-time. It should be all about helping you be more productive. Hence, make changes or adjust as needed.

Take Ample Practice Tests:

TOEFL practice tests give you the opportunity to know the actual exam-like questions that appear in the exam. They will also help you understand your weaker areas and where you need more improvement. By solving a decent number of practice tests, you will be able to work upon and strengthen those areas. Plus, you will understand the difficulty level of the exam as well.

Since these practice tests include all the essential concepts covered in the exam, it is a great way to revise what you’ve learnt so far. And by taking the tests regularly, you will also be able to check your progress from time to time.

Build up your Reading Speed:

While you practice reading, time yourself to analyze your current reading speed and improve accordingly. Avoid spending a lot of time reading and understanding every single word and sentence. Just quickly skim through the passages in order to understand the main ideas. This will spare you enough time to answer the questions asked after every Reading passage.

Strengthen your Weaker Areas:

After taking practice tests and mock tests, you will get an idea about your weaker areas. Master those areas with the right techniques and an effective study plan.

  • Make a note of question types or skills where you think you need more improvement.

  • Spare an hour everyday and work on those points while using some useful techniques to master them.

  • Every time you come across a doubt, ensure that you get them cleared as soon as possible.

Become a Good Note Taker:

Developing note-taking skills is essential for solving the TOEFL test. Follow these tips in order to improve the same.

  • When you practice reading, underline the main ideas and take notes on a piece of paper. 

  • Write down notes while you're listening to any English language Podcast, E-book or any English audio recording.    

  • Avoid writing full sentences, as it will consume more of your time. Just note down relevant chunks of the information to get clarity on the main idea.

  • Practice remembering the important details as well as writing fast in English.

TOEFL Preparation Strategies

Develop an Extensive Vocabulary:

Expanding your vocabulary is one of the best ways to ace the TOEFL exam. You can do this by following the tips below:

  • Read voraciously. Especially about Sciences, Social sciences, Business and Arts. As these are the key subjects covered in the TOEFL exam.

  • While reading, whenever you come across new words, underline them. Look up their meanings and write them down. Make sure that you use these words in sentences throughout the day while conversing.

  • Also, use the new words during your speaking and writing practice. This will improve your vocabulary and language as well.

  • You can also make flashcards for memorizing new words and go through them regularly to improve vocabulary.

Sharpen your Listening Skills:

You can develop your listening skills by keeping in mind the following tips -

  • Listen to a variety of topics. Begin with listening to familiar topics and gradually move to new topics.  

  • Also, deploy more time in listening to a variety of E-books, podcasts and other helpful listening materials.

  • While you listen to an audio clip, think about the purpose of the lecture or conversation. Then connect and synthesize the main ideas. Once done listening to the audio clip, sum up what you’ve learned from the excerpts and pen it down. 

  • Try understanding different English accents. In addition to the North American accent, you might hear native-speaker accents from the United Kingdom, New Zealand or Australia as well. So practice listening to audio in different accents to adjust to all kinds.

Practice Timed Writing:

The TOEFL Writing section involves English essays that demand clear and well-organized presentation of ideas. And to achieve that skill, thoughtful practice is needed. Also, studying a variety of essays is essential to learn how effective essays are composed.

Make a list of general topics and write essays on them.

The topics for the writing essays are usually related to the following subjects -

  • Education, technology, media, family, social media, the impact of human activity on the environment, traveling to new places, etc.

  • Please note that these are not the only topic subjects, there could be other topics as well. So it is suggested that you go through past years’ question papers to get an understanding of the essay topics. 

  • Time yourself while you write. To understand the difference between time taken by you and ideal time to write.

  • Thus, pace yourself accordingly and upgrade your skills with every essay you write during your preparation days.

Master your Speech:

Developing a hold on your speaking skills will help you crack the TOEFL Speaking Section with a good score. Follow these tips to achieve command over your skills.

  • Practice speaking at a normal, steady pace that would make you sound confident while you speak.

  • Improve your grammar and pronunciations. As this will largely affect your scores.

  • Take ample practice tests. It is important to practice answering actual speaking questions.

  • Expand your English vocabulary and include more new words in your responses, this will help boost your score.

Make sure that you take care of these small yet important points and you are almost there, cracking the TOEFL with your target score!

Additionally, check out this video with meticulous information on the required skills and tips to score high in the TOEFL exam.

What should I do Day before the Test?

The day before the test you must rest well, relax and hit the bed early with at least 6 hours of sleep. As TOEFL is not a test which you can revise the night before. Plus, you have spent weeks practicing rigorously for the test and sharpening your skills. Have faith in your hardwork and give yourself a break the day before your TOEFL exam and wake up fresh on D-Day.

Do not forget to read about the Test Day policies and procedures outlined in the Registration Bulletin.

What should I do on TOEFL Test Day?

On the day of the Test, you must arrive at the test center on time. At least 30 minutes before the scheduled start of the exam to allow time for check in. Be sure to carry all the necessary documents to the center including your valid, acceptable ID. And do not carry anything electronic, metallic and edible foodstuff inside the testing center as it is not allowed.

Carefully read all instructions on the screen before the test starts. You will be provided with a paper and pencil to take down notes while answering the questions. Also, check your microphone whether it's working fine and ensure all things are in order. While attempting the test, concentrate on the current question on your screen without rushing or stressing. Don’t panic, don’t lose your cool, just work calmly. If you be confident enough that you can crack the TOEFL with outstanding scores then ultimately you will be able to do that! 

Best Resources for TOEFL Preparation 

Listed below are some of the most useful TOEFL Resources and Books which you must refer to during your preparation days.

ETS Free Resources

Best Books for TOEFL Preparation

One must invest in a good Study Guide for TOEFL for productive results. You can refer to the official ETS Guide or other books from well-known authors as well. A few best ones are listed here:

To know the result of your practice and to check your progress, take mock tests or practice tests from time-to-time. Make sure that you choose reliable sources in order to practice for the exam. Above all, make yourself well-prepared and aim at delivering your best. Good Luck on your TOEFL!

Frequently Asked Question by Students on TOEFL Preparation (FAQs)

Q1. Can I prepare for TOEFL in 15 days?

Yes, with good study material and an effective study plan, you can prepare for TOEFL in 15 days or two weeks. Schedule your daily studies according to your time goal and stick to it. Follow it consistently while focusing on your weaker areas and strengthen them. Practice well and keep yourself determined, you will definitely be able to achieve your target. 

Q2. How much time do you need to prepare for TOEFL?

Average time you would need to prepare for the TOEFL exam is around 2 to 3 months. However, it is suggested that you start your preparation well in advance. Some might take a few weeks to prepare while others would require more time. It all depends on your learning speed and how good a hold you have on the English language communication skills.     

Q3. How can I prepare for TOEFL for free?

There are ample TOEFL resources and practice tests out there. It is suggested that you should refer to the official ETS free practice tests. These practice tests are accurate and include exact questions types that appear in the exam.        

Q4. What is the best TOEFL preparation online?

It is always suggested going for the official prep materials and resources. ETS provides ample practice tests and free resources, such as - TOEFL Planner, TOEFL Talks, TOEFL Go! app, etc. Consider these official ones rather than random online websites.

Q5. Can I prepare for TOEFL at home?

Yes, one can prepare for TOEFL at home. Follow all the preparation strategies shared in this article as well as make your own. Also, learn from test takers’ experiences and understand in which area you must spend more time practicing. Create your study plan accordingly and make your practice top-notch.

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