As a requirement to attend an Australian, US, or Canadian business school for my 2nd year of Master, I had to take the TOEFL, and get at least 90 or 100, depending on the schools. However, having lived in English-speaking countries for a long time, my goal was to get more than 110. I just checked my TOEFL account, and saw my score: 112
. I'm supper happy !
The details are:
- Reading: 29
- Listening: 25
- Speaking: 28
- Writing: 30
I'm currently in my gap year, and working a time-consuming job in the ad industry in Paris. So I didn't have a lot of time to study the TOEFL. I booked my place on the test for Nov 17 one month in advance, so I had exactly one month to prepare.Preparation
The first thing I did was to read the whole TOEFL official guide
, and copy the advice or comprehensive examples part into a Word document to review for later.
I also did the exercices at the end of each chapter as I read the guide.
The second thing I did was to look for TOEFL videos. The best I found were from NoteFull (posted on this forum, in the sticky post)
I took notes and used the suggested answer structures in my practice and actual test.
I also downloaded all the questions, answers, and transcripts from the Eng1on1 site.
I put the audio-only questions on my iPod so I could listen to them when I'm stuck on the Parisian metro.
You can find other free practice material and Youtube videos if you look a bit, I don't have the link any longer. However, the aforementionned ressources should be enough if you're decent enough in English.Planning
After getting the Official Guide and Answers structure down, it was time to seriously practice.
With 2 weeks left to go, I did all the Reading and Listening tests I could find, until I was sure I could consistently get a high score. I also wrote 1 essay which I posted on this forum for review (I had written hundreds of essays in school, so I didn't feel the need to practice that much more).
With 6 days left to go, I took the full official practice test I had bought from ETS, and got a 108. Still not good enough.
During the 6 days left, I practiced the Speaking part a bit every day, which was my biggest weakness. The hardest thing for the Speaking questions for me was to think about something to say with only 15/30 preparation time, and to say it correctly (there are no second chances here !).
I mainly went over the questions I had previously downloaded (see my Preparation parts), using the answer structures from NoteFull. One thing he mentionned by the way, is to practice your answer to the same questions several times until you get it perfectly right. I found this helped a lot to get into the habits of answering correctly and efficiently. I would do one or two questions from each of the 6 types each morning for these last 6 days.
The last day before the test, I did the full Practice test 2 at the end of the TOEFL Official Guide
, just to get back into the groove.
On the D Day, Saturday November 27th, I was off.Test day
I had to show up for the test at 11:30AM, and the test was supposed to start at noon. I showed up on time and found myself in a queue of students in the stairs of an old building where the test was taking place. Students entered 2 by 2 through a wooden door, and it was really slow. Because there were a lot of people, because there were only 3 supervisors for 100+ students, and because some computers didn't worked, I has to wait until 1:00PM to start the test, one hour late !
So if you plan on getting out on time, I would suggest you arrive 1 hour early instead of 30 minutes early like I did.Reading
My strategy is to read the entire text quickly in 2/3 minutes. Then read the corresponding paragraph for each question more attentively.
In practice, I was able to complete each set of Reading questions in 15 minutes, but in the real thing, I actually took the full 20 minutes. I might have a been a bit slow at time, but the texts were a bit harder than I expected. Still, I got a 28, about the same as when practicing at home.Listening
Damn, this was far harder than at home ! I talked to a girl during the break, and she felt the same way as I did: although you can feel pretty confident at home on the Listening questions and answer quickly, the real thing is much more difficult !
My main mistake was strategy: I took notes during the talks/conversations, and because I have a tendency to write a lot of information, I sometimes found myself writing about something that was said 5 seconds ago while not listening to what was being currently said. This led to gaps in my understanding of the lectures/talks/conversations, and I sometimes answered haphazardly.
I had an extra listening set (which I supposed was not graded, since there will usually be an extra "experimental" set in the Reading or iLstening section) and decided to try a different strategy (that I had already successfully tried at home): not taking notes.
The reality is, you're more likely to remember a 1-4min talk if you just concentrate all your brain power on one activity: listening. I found out that I could answer questions more easily afterwards. I asked my mother what she thought about the two strategies, and she also thought just concentrating on listening was better.Speaking
There was the big test for me; I got a 28 so I'm happy to say I succeeded at it (my goal was to get at least 24/25)
Using the structure of NoteFull, the answers came pretty easily. I was lucky enough to get some convenient questions that I liked.
I feel an important element of success in the Speaking session is momentum: if you can get the first one or two questions right, you're likely to be in the right groove for the remaining 4 or 5 questions.
My 3 biggest pieces of advice are:
- get the answer structures right; adapt the ones you find on the Internet if you feel the need to
- practice, practice, practice
- speak slowly; it is worth it if you take a 2 sec pause to think about a nice word or English expression; it will impress the corrector and the pause will make your speech more riveting, provided you keep a good rythm throughout the whole 45 sec/1 min.Writing
This part went quite smoothly, as I expected, and I got a 30.
I like to write a lot (as this debrief shows), and for both essays I wrote 600+ words.
I wrote all my ideas directly in an organized way, so I don't loose time coming up with an outline.
I usually right the body first, and spend the last 5/8 minutes to write my introduction and conclusion.
However, everyone's different, so do it the way you feel most comfortable with.
With all that being said, I wish you all good luck for the TOEFL ! Practice and you will reap the rewards.