I've used this forum in preparation of my TOEFL test on the 15th of september 2012, so I consider it a must to contribute to the future users.
I scored a 117/120 ( took the Ibt) with the following structure: Reading 30;Listening 29;Speaking 28; Writing 30Preparation
As mentioned before, I took the test 15th of sept at Brussels ( Belgium). I had some spare time in September, looked up the first test date in Brussels and just went for it. I started preparing 24hrs in advance. I'm not a native speaker, but the Belgian school system puts an emphasis on English, I had around 2 hrs of English classes every week throughout highschool and a couple of english spoken courses at University. Furthermore I'm subscribed to the Economist which is a great way to read some well written English.So what did I do during those 24hrs?
Even though I was quite confident in my reading and my listening abilities, I took the mock test that was given when I subscribed to take the TOEFL... I had about two mistakes in the reading and just one while listening, so I knew I was able to pull this off.
I moved on to check my speaking skills ( which I was confident about), I took a mock exercise and timed/ recorded myself and failed horribly. I didn't know what to say, said "erm" constantly, struggled to find my words and failed to construct sentences which I had used time and time again during conversations/presentations at university. The pressure of being recorded and watching the countdown timer just got the best of me. I learnt an important advise at that time: Try timing yourself and record your answer. In my opinion this is really crucial, you should try and try untill you feel that you deliver a good, fluent answer.
When you struggle enhancing your fluency or structuring your reply I recommend you use Notefull (the link is allready posted on one of these forums, so I didn't repost here). Their movies will tell you exactly what you need to know on how to answer the speaking questions succesfully. Then, depending on how fluent you are, it's just practising really... Keep timing yourself and use some of the structures ( or comparable structures) notefull taught you. I used them too, for two reasons: Find out what the TOEFL graders expect and to know beforehand what types of questions I could expect, so that I'd have more time when I was taking the actual test. It is safe to say that I spent most my preparation time on speaking practise.
I didn't spend much time on the writing preparations. Again, I watched the notefull video on the writing questions so I knew what to expect and just figured I'd be OK. I should mention that I have a thing for writing, throughout my education I was always top of the class when it came to essays.
Remember, test centers use a querty keyboard while the belgian standard is azerty... It isn't that hard to switch but if you happen to have a querty keyboard lying around, I recommend you take a look at it.
Another issue which I'd like to bring up here is to visit the test center location before your actual test( if this is possible offcourse). I believe it is good to know where you need to be and how far the test center is from the train/tram/metro/bus station in advance.
Test day itself
I was quite nervous when I woke up that morning, had an English breakfast ( I really was in the English mood at that time
) and took off to the station.
The test was scheduled at 9am and reporting time was 8:30. I took the train to Brussels, where I would arrive at 7:35, and the test center is 15 minutes from the trainstation. Due to delays, however, I arrived at 8:20 at the station, leaving me 10 minutes. I just ran for it and arrived precisely at 8:30 breathless and sweaty but also relaxed ( figured that if I could run this fast a test wouldn't be a problem). The next half hour was spent on registration, checking ID's, filling out papers... Staff wasn't friendly at all and very ill informed.
Either ways, the testsite was nice and quiet... Earplugs were at your disposal.The actual test
: The reading was pretty straightforward, no surprises here. Listening wasn't that hard either, I got lucky with the subjects of the conversations, because most of them were familiar to me. It doesn't help answerwise, but it helps to remember certain things from the lecture or to cross out some improbable answers.
Speaking went worse compared to reading and listening in my opinion; Fluency was oke and I was also able to give a lot of details but I had problems with timing. Only once I managed to finish my complete response in the given amount of time and I feared this would lead to a score below 25. Biggest advise I can give you in hindsight: Practise on timing but do not worry about it too much. Try to get your point across in a fluent and well spoken reply, but don't worry if you couldn't finish the last sentence of an example or the conclusion. Try, however, to get the main point and an elaborate example across in the given time.
Writing was easypeasy... Wrote 600 words on the first question and I still had 5 minutes to check for spelling and grammar mistakes. My reply to the second question was a whopping 980 words eassay and I had 3 minutes left to check for spelling and grammar mistakes. Best advise I can give? Make sure to write good, coherent and strong sentences from the first try. Don't worry about timing too much , just make sure that everything you write is well written and well structured from your first attempt. It takes way more time to rewrite whole phrases than to correct a typo or a grammar mistake. Second and this applies to question 2 mostly: Make sure to apply the rules of written text... Use topic sentences, work with a good introductory paragraph, state a clear conclusion or preferance, do not give a reason without supporting arguments. Small adjustments on these points really improve the quality of your essay without putting on a lot of extra workload.
I took the test in 3 hrs and 20 minutes... Won a lot of time during the reading and listening part and used all the time given during writing and speaking.Overall satisfaction
I'm happy with my result. I think the test is straightforward and not that hard if you prepare for it or have a good basic understanding of the English language. To sum it up: use Notefull, practise the speaking and just go for it... Don't worry too much on the level of the test, just believe in your own capabilities.
Hope it helped