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TOEFL: 10 tips to take you to the top

March 15, 2010 10:51 IST
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The TOEFL test is the most widely accepted English-language assessment used at more than 7,300 institutions in 130 countries including the UK, US and Canada. The test is divided into four sections -- Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking.

Here are some pointers and resources to help you get on your way to score well for the test.

Find something interesting to read and listen to, then practice speaking and writing about it.
Listen to Podcasts, recorded lectures -- check the website of your favourite university. Go to news websites. Read up on your favourite subjects on popular websites such as Tell a friend or family member about what you learned.

Work with a speaking partner, preferably with a native speaker of English or try an online video chat! The more opportunity you have to speak the language, the more familiar you will become.

Take on the role of a great journalist: Take good notes and use them to make summaries.

Make vocabulary flash cards and pretend you are a contestant on a vocabulary quiz show. Carry the flash cards with you. They are a great way to make a bus ride go by quickly.

Visit TOEFL-TV ( for resources and tips from English-language instructors and students that have taken the TOEFL test.

Reading tips
Practice summarising and paraphrasing texts. Use charts and outlines to organise the ideas in a text. Practice speed reading techniques. Practice reading (and answering questions) on a computer screen. Expand your vocabulary with daily-use vocabulary cards.

Listening tips
i. Listen for basic information -- did you comprehend the main idea, major points and important details?

ii. Listen for "pragmatic" understanding -- can you recognise a speaker's attitude? What is the purpose of the speech? What is their role? Are they an authority or are they a passive part of the conversation?

iii. Listen for connecting and synthesising -- can you understand the relationship between ideas? Compare and contrast. Determine the cause and effect.

Speaking tips
Read aloud a short article from a newspaper, campus newspaper, magazine, textbook, or the internet. Write down 2-3 questions about the article.

With a speaking partner, answer the questions. Outline the main points of the article. Give a one-minute oral summary of the article. Express your opinion about it. If there is a problem discussed, give the solution.

More tips:

  • Work on your pronunciation
  • Speak in s-l-o-w motion. You could imitate American or British intonation and rhythm patterns. You could also work on problematic sounds, such as:
    • [ t ] and [ d ] - uncurl your tongue
    • [ p ], [ t ], and [ k ] - add some air!
    • [ p ] and [ b] - close your lips
    • [ f ] and [ v ] - lower lip to teeth
  • Find an accent reduction coach
  • Your pronunciation doesn't have to be perfect, but native speakers should be able to understand you.

Writing tips
Find a writing buddy who can give you feedback. Read an article and find listening material on the same topic. Write a summary of each. Explain the ways they are similar and the ways they are different.

Combine all your skills!
Find listening and reading materials on the same topic from the library or internet (eg news websites). Take notes or create outlines on each. Give a one-minute oral summary of each.

Explain how the two relate in a short written response (150-225 words). Take notes or create outlines on each. Give a one-minute speech about the same.

Use free resources:, download TOEFL iBT Tipswatch video clips highlighting study practices, download sample questions, join communities on SMS GupShup for free updates.

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