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How International Students Can Prepare for TOEFL

Despite the goofy acronym that makes the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) seem harmless, don’t be fooled. This is a grueling exam that lasts four-and-a-half hours to gauge how proficient you are in the English language. The results may make the difference between getting an admission or rejection from your dream school. However, with good TOEFL preparation, you can easily improve your chances of a good score.

Don’t Cram

Maybe you can memorize the entire periodic table in a single night, but language cannot be mastered in such a short time frame. TOEFL involves testing all language aspects – listening, reading, writing and speaking – which is too much information to memorize in 12 to 24 hours.


If you are uncertain about the test’s format, you are more likely to be anxious on test day, however, Google search will easily calm you nerves. The internet is full of practice tests that you can do online to get a taste of what to expect when you step in to the exam room, all at no fee.

Internet-based tests begin with a 60 to 80-minute reading section followed by a 60 to 90-minute listening section. Once you get the 10-minute breather, relax and go to the bathroom. The speaking section lasts 20 minutes, followed by 50 minutes for writing. At this point, you are likely to feel exhaustion creeping in, but keep it together. It is worth all the effort.

Learning is Doing

You don’t have the option of cramming, so your next course of action is advance preparation for the TOEFL. Inject some creativity into making your study time more pleasant, rather than crouching over hundreds of books.

The best way to learn a language is to speak it. Make a conscious effort to speak a bit of English daily, whether it is with work colleagues, siblings, parents, friends or even your pet. Any type of practice is good practice.

When it comes to reading, consider the Internet your best friend. Read everything from scientific articles to biographies. Spend time on websites you don’t usually spend time on. To practice your listening skills, watch TV shows and movies without subtitles. Alternatively, download and listen to podcasts. If unsure about your writing, practice by writing against a statement. Write your answer in the first paragraph, supporting arguments in the paragraphs that follow and finish with a concluding paragraph.

When your first language is not English, the TOEFL is an unavoidable step towards gaining a United States college education. Follow the tips above, and you are likely to realize great results from your efforts.