There are many ways to prepare for the TOEFL, some very broad and others very specific. Depending on your current skills and your TOEFL score objectives, you can mix and match your study methods to get the right kinds of TOEFL practice for your specific needs without wasting time.
The broad TOEFL practice strategies are the same as those you’d use to prepare for any English test. These can include anything you do to improve your English. Because the TOEFL tests all four skills, you can focus first on your weakest skills. If you read English well but struggle with writing, then you need to practice writing. If you have no trouble speaking English but struggle to understand particular English accents, then listening practice is your priority. Whichever skills you decide to focus on, regular practice and a structured study plan are key to improving your TOEFL score.
TOEFL practice tests
Taking a TOEFL practice test will give you a sense of your current TOEFL score so that you know what you need to work on. Many people start with a practice test first, without any preparation, then choose their TOEFL preparation methods accordingly. You can buy officially-scored TOEFL practice tests from ETS, the makers of the TOEFL. These are the most authentic, but also the most expensive. You can also take the EF SET English Certificate for free, which will give you an idea of your TOEFL score, or you can buy a test preparation book which has TOEFL practice tests inside that you score yourself.
In every case, it’s important to take your TOEFL practice test in the best possible conditions. Set aside enough time to complete the entire test in one sitting, sit in a quiet place without distractions, and don’t cheat. Keep in mind that TOEFL practice tests aren’t as stressful as the real TOEFL taken in an unfamiliar setting, so you are likely to score better on a practice test than you do on test day.
There are also more specific TOEFL preparation methods if you have an ambitious objective. Many students start by trying to prepare for the TOEFL on their own, maybe with a book and some practice tests, then they take the real TOEFL. Those who are a long way from their objective then decide to sign up for a course when they see their TOEFL score. The TOEFL is a difficult, academically-oriented test, and a specific training program can make a big difference.
A good TOEFL preparation program will include lots of test-specific advice about how to approach various question types, how to pace yourself, note-taking strategies, etc. as well as one or more TOEFL practice tests in realistic environments. Teachers on TOEFL preparation courses have lots of experience with the test and know how to maximize your score.
There are lots of TOEFL preparation course types available. The three main types are TOEFL preparation courses online, TOEFL preparation courses in a school near your home, and TOEFL preparation courses abroad. Keep in mind that most TOEFL preparation courses last at least 2 months, if not longer, and that much time is needed in order for them to be effective in raising your TOEFL score. You’ll need to include this delay in your scheduling when considering university application deadlines.