I have just gotten my TOEFL scores. Got a nice 112 / 120 (30 R, 28 L, 26 S, 28 W).
- Watching series and movies without subs helps A LOT. But don't force yourself if you don't understand. For instance, I started watching House of Cards without subs: a real nightmare as it has a lot of technical politics vocabulary that I couldn't keep up with. Instead, I watched the whole series of "How I met your mother" without subs. It really got me "into the tone" and helped me loads with the speaking part (plus being extremely funny and enjoyable to watch series).
- The hardest thing of listening is to keep up your concentration level. I get easily distracted and there were a couple of questions that I just had to guess because I missed that small detail because of not being able to keep up my concentration. KEEP YOUR FOCUS ON, this is by far the most tedious part (specially with all those ultra boring lectures), but don't miss it. Here is crucial to have a good meal before (candy, fruits, anything high on carbs and glucose). I did an reading / listening rehearsal with an empty stomach and a candy-enhanced brain - the difference in my concentration and focus (in my case) was HUGE.
- Don't waste your time writing all the small details during the listening part. The lectures and conversations are pretty much similar in structure - there is always a problem, a solution, a list of arguements, etc. The best advice here is to practice listening from the official guide - In time you will understand the structure and focus on the important details. "How to crack the TOEFL" has tips about this.
- TOEFL is a LONG test (3 - 4 hours). Have a good meal before with foods rich in glucose to keep up with the brain intensity levels. Because the first two parts (reading and listening) require more concentration than creativity, I would recommend getting any caffeine / energy shot during the break, not before. The second part is much more intense on getting and molding your ideas quickly and clearly. I took a 5 energy shot with an apple during the break and it worked wonderfully, specially on the essays. I am no nutrition expert but for me this formula worked: Candy,glucose and chocolate for Reading / Listening and Coffee / 5 shot energy for Speaking and Writing.
- The speaking part was by far the hardest to rehearse. At first I tried to do those templates shown on those youtube videos, but when I rehearsed with a timer I always couldn't make a proper answer. But then I listened the example audios in the TOEFL guide software and realized you don't have to sound perfect - In fact, I would dare to say that is better to focus on your speaking speed than on pronunciation. I started to speak naturally without worrying too much on the vocabulary. The one thing I did though was to make myself a list of "smart" connectors to use both at speaking and writing (using "For instance" instead of "for example"). Other good ones are "moreover", "although", "however", etc. In my opinion, to throw some of these words show language depth and make you sound like a native. See "Cracking the TOEFL" for more help with this, specially for exposing two different views ("the lecturer doesn't agree with this view", "in contrast, the reading argues", etc, etc, etc).
- The part that in my opinion is most "trainable" is writing. I made several rehearsal essays. Here I noticed it is good to get creative and insightful. Template approaches are fine, but try not to write like a robot ("Argument A is that") The examples on the Official guide are great to understand the tone and see why some essays are crap and why some are great. The key issue, the same as with speaking, are CONNECTORS. With a good depth of these words you just need a decent grammar level (trainable with reading) to get that score.
- The only book I read was "cracking the TOEFL". I strongly recommend specially the writing and speaking sections. For me the reading section was not too helpful as they teach a systematic approach that I personally found it counterproductive, at least in my case. My recommendation to reading is to apply a discard strategy - There is only a reason why ALL the answers but one are wrong. Don't start looking for the "correct" answer but discard answers one by one until you find the one that is flawless.
My final advice - The best approach for me during my prep time (10 days) was to "absorb" english. Try forcing yourself to english situations everywhere. I switched every website and application on my laptop and on my phone to english. I stopped reading spanish newspapers and websites and switched to english sites. Might sound silly, but if you force yourself to get into the english "switch" makes things easier. And don't force yourself to read boring stuff - I started reading those science articles in order to get prepared, but was too boring and couldn't motivate myself properly. Grab a couple of good english books (I read The Great Gatsby and For whom the bell tolls), watch loads of TV and movies, etc. If you like music, try searching for lyrics and sing! At least on my experience, this was by far more helpful than some boring nature or science article (well, there is a reason why I am pursuing an MBA instead of going to Med School).
Best of Luck!