TOEFL iBT Tips
published by Murad Al-Masser
There are some specific tips and strategies that can be very helpful while you are planning to take Toefl. Two candidates with the same knowledge may not necessarily receive the same score on a Toefl test. This is because only one of them knows how to do well on the exam. These strategies are concerned with how you approach the language, how you use the language, and how Toefl is usually constructed.
These tips should only be used as an adjunct mechanism for preparing to take the TOEFL and obtain the best possible score. Candidates should also practice speaking, listening, reading and writing in English.
Understanding the test directions
Understand the basic information regarding the Toefl format. Familiarize yourself with the test directions. Once you learn how to do the questions, you won't have to read the directions during the real TOEFL exam.
Knowing Toefl score requirement
Before you begin studying, find out what the requirements are for the school, college or university you are interested in going to. Remember that the scores for the paper based test are different than the scores for the iBT. The average minimum score required is approximately 550 (paper test) or 70 (iBT). A prestigious university such as Harvard has much higher expectations. Some schools will look at your scores from different sections. Many universities expect you to achieve higher writing skills than speaking skills. TOEFL scores are only valid for two years.
Use practice tests
The best way to prepare for the TOEFL is to practice doing the Toefl tests.
Build up your stamina
The TOEFL iBT test takes about 4 hours. You can expect to be at the computer during all that time. Generally, many students have an attention span of about two hours. This is the maximum length of most classes. After this amount of time performance starts to weaken. If you keep your study sessions to one or two hours, your brain will not be prepared to work for four. Start off with short study sessions, and work up to longer ones. Remind yourself that it is a long test a few days before test day.
Night before the test
You must have a good dinner and go to bed at your normal time not too early and not too late, as you do not want to disrupt your sleep pattern if possible. Have everything ready that you need to take with you to the test so you can simply pick it up in the morning. Check before the exam exactly what articles you need. Set your alarm clock the night before or arrange a wake-up call.
On the morning of the test
Eat a good breakfast. You will have several hours of concentration ahead of you and you will need food and drink in the morning. If possible, wear a watch in case you cannot see the clock in the exam room. It is essential that you keep track of time. Wear clothing in which you feel comfortable during the test.
If you arrive at the test centre with all of the things you need, you will feel calm and ready. When you are nervous, your memory does not work as well. Make sure you know exactly how to get to the test centre. It is also important that your identification looks valid. If you have had problems with your ID before, make sure to bring a backup photo. Don't forget any paper work that ETS sends you to prove that you have registered.
During the Test
Click 'Help' when absolutely necessary
Click Help to review the directions only when absolutely necessary; because the clock does not stop when the Help function is being used.
Do not panic
Concentrate exclusively on the current question only. Do not think about how you answered other questions. (This is a habit that can be learned through practice.)
Avoid spending too much time on any one question
If you have given the question some thought and you still don't know the answer, eliminate as many choices as possible and then select the best choice. Although responses can be reviewed in the Reading section by clicking on View, it is best that test takers do this only after answering all the questions in a Reading subsection. Once test takers leave a subsection, they are not allowed to return to it.
Pace yourself so you have enough time to answer every question. Be aware of the time limit for each section and budget enough time for each question so you do not have to rush at the end. You can hide the time clock if you wish, but it is a good idea to check the clock periodically to monitor progress. The clock will automatically alert you when five minutes remain in the Listening and Reading sections, and in the independent and integrated tasks in the Writing section. Wear a watch. This is especially important if you are taking the paper based test.
Guidelines for Reading section
Just like in the structure section, it is not important that you know every word in the reading section. Concentrate on the areas that the questions pertain to. Skim through the passage, read the questions, then read for more detail. The questions usually come in the order they appear in the passage. Anticipate the type of questions you will be asked in this section. At least 60 percent of the readings will have a main idea question. You will be asked at least two vocabulary questions from each reading. You will also be asked some detailed questions and some inference questions. You will not have time to reread a whole passage.
The TOEFL iBT uses reading passages from university-level textbooks that introduce a discipline or topic. The excerpts are changed as little as possible so the TOEFL iBT can measure how well students can read academic material.
The passages cover a variety of different subjects. Test takers should not be concerned if they are unfamiliar with a topic. The passage contains all the information needed to answer the questions.
All passages are classified into three basic categories:
*Exposition (Material that provides an explanation of a topic)
*Argumentation (Material that presents a point of view about a topic and provides evidence to support it)
Often, passages present information about the topic from more than one perspective or point of view. This is something test takers should note as they read. Usually, they are asked at least one question that allows them to demonstrate that they understood the general organization of the passage. Common organization types that test takers should be able to recognize are:
Test takers must read through or scroll to the end of each passage before receiving questions on that passage. Once the questions appear, the passage appears on the right side of the computer screen. The questions are on the left.
Test takers do not need any special background knowledge to answer the questions in the Reading section correctly, but the defi nition of diffi cult words or phrases in the passage may be provided. If test takers click on the word, a defi nition appears in the lower left part of the screen.
The 60 to 100 minutes allotted for this section include time for reading the passages and answering the questions.
Reading Question Formats
There are three question formats in the Reading section:
*questions with four choices and a single answer in traditional multiple-choice format
*questions with four choices and a single answer that ask test takers to *“insert a sentence” where it fi ts best in a passage
new “reading to learn” questions with more than four choices and more than one possible correct answer.
Guidelines for Listening section
During listening section you will listen to recorded information. While you're listening, you'll see pictures of the speakers, or other images, on your computer screen. If you don't understand a spoken dialogue on a listening section, do not worry about it and do not get involve in an inner dialogue; What did he say? I didn't understand that word! etc. This inner dialogue causes you to concentrate on what is going on your mind, and you miss out on what is happening in the conversation. Be very careful. It is important to train yourself to stay relaxed in this situation (easer said than done!).
Test takers can take notes on any listening material throughout the entire test. When you are practicing for the listening sections, don't play the tape or CD more than once. On the real test you will only hear everything once. You have to train your ears to listen right the first time.
In some questions, a portion of the lecture or conversation is replayed so test takers do not need to rely on memory of what was said. In the replay format, test takers listen to part of the conversation or lecture again and then answer a question. Sometimes the question repeats a portion of the listening material again, as indicated by the headphones icon.
After the listening material is played, test takers both see and hear each question before they see the answer choices. This encourages them to listen for main ideas.
There are four question formats in the Listening section:
*Traditional multiple-choice questions with four answer choices and a single correct answer
*Multiple-choice questions with more than one answer (e.g., two answers out of four or more choices)
*Questions that require test takers to order events or steps in a process
questions that require test takers to match objects or text to categories in a chart
Guidelines for Speaking section
The entire section is new because there is no Speaking section on the paper-based or computer-based TOEFL test. The Speaking section is approximately 20 minutes long and includes six tasks.
The first two tasks are independent speaking tasks (i.e. personal choice from a given category— of important people, places, events or activities that the test taker enjoys and to make and defend a personal choice between two contrasting behaviors or courses of action.) on topics familiar to test takers. They ask test takers to draw upon their own ideas, opinions, and experiences when responding. (However, test takers can respond with any idea, opinion, or experience relevant to completing the task.)
A single question that appears on the screen is read aloud by the narrator. Test takers have 15 seconds to prepare an answer, and have 45 seconds to respond. A clock shows the remaining time for preparation and response.
The remaining four tasks are integrated tasks(Read/Listen/Speak) where test takers must use more than one skill when responding. Test takers first read and listen, and then speak in response. They can take notes and use those notes when responding to the speaking tasks. At least one requires test takers to relate the information from the reading and the listening material.
Test takers read a passage on a given topic and then listen to a speaker talk about the same topic. A question appears on the screen and is read aloud by the narrator. Test takers have 30 seconds to prepare their response. They have 60 seconds to respond by synthesizing and summarizing the information they have read and heard.
Like all the other sections of the TOEFL iBT, the Speaking section is delivered via computer. For all speaking tasks, test takers use headsets with a microphone. Test takers speak into the microphone to record their responses. Responses are digitally recorded and sent to ETS’s Online Scoring Network where they are scored by certified raters.
Guidelines for Writing section
The total time for the Writing section is 50 minutes. Test takers write their responses to two writing tasks:
*Integrated writing In this type of writing, students must:
-Take notes on what they hear and read, and use them to organize information before writing
_Summarize, paraphrase, and cite information from the source material accurately
_Write about the ways the information they heard relates to the information they read
For example, in an academic course, a student might be asked to compare and contrast the points of view expressed by the professor in class with those expressed by an author in the assigned reading material. The student must successfully draw information from each source to explain the contrast. Responses are typed into the computer and sent to ETS’s Online Scoring Network where they are scored by certifi ed raters.
*Independent writing In this type students express an opinion and support it based on their own knowledge and experience. For example, students may be asked to write an essay about a controversial issue. The students use past, personal experience to support their position.
In all types of writing, it is helpful for students to:
*Identify one main idea and some major points that support it
*Plan how to organize the essay (e.g., with an outline)
*Develop the essay by using reasons, examples, and detail
*Express information in an organized manner
*Use effective linking words (transitional phrases) to connect ideas and help the reader
*Understand the flow of ideas
*Use a range of grammar and vocabulary for effective expression
*Use grammar and vocabulary accurately; use idiomatic expressions appropriately
*Follow the conventions of spelling, punctuation, and layout
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