If you are considering attending a U.S. university, it is important to start preparing for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). The exam will determine how strong your English language skills are. If you follow the instructions below, you should be able to master this exam!
Learn what the test covers. This four-hour exam includes four sections:
• Your reading skills are tested by answering questions about 3-4 passages of academic texts.
• Your listening skills are tested by answering questions about lectures and other spoken word.
• Your speaking skills are tested by having you express your opinion on a familiar topic.
• Your writing skills are tested by having you write an essay about a given topic.
Plan ahead. Be sure to start preparing for the TOEFL at least six months to one year before the test.
Listen to English being spoken. Some good sources include NPR and BBC News. You can also listen to ESLPod, which are podcasts for English learners. It will help you get used to hearing English spoken.
Read up. Some good books to read are:
• “400 Must-Have Words for the TOEFL”
• “100 Words Every High School Freshman Should Know”
• “Mastering the American Accent”
Practice essay writing. Essays follow a basic format:
• An introduction where you clearly express your opinion
• Two to three paragraphs that support this opinion
• A concluding paragraph that summarizes the essay, without being redundant with the introduction
Find common essay questions at the ETS website. Practice writing an essay or two, and ask your tutor, advisor, or one of your teachers to critique it.
Work with a tutor. Consider working with a tutor who is fluent in English. This will help you improve your pronunciation of English. This is important, because you need someone to give you feedback in real time so you know what you are doing right and what you are doing that needs improvement.
Build up your vocabulary. It is important to not just understand English but to understand English terms that you will find in academic texts. To prepare for this, study textbooks and research articles.
Find a mentor. Having a teacher or friend who is a native English speaker will be invaluable for helping you prepare for the TOEFL. See if you can talk with them only in English to become more comfortable with your speaking and listening skills.
Practice. Take a practice test at least a few months ahead of the actual exam. Visit the TOEFL website to find out how you can take the test in person or online.