Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Preparing for the TOEFL exam

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (hereinafter TOEFL) is the English proficiency exam most commonly required and accepted by universities in the United States. The test itself is made and administered by an organization called Educational Testing Service (ETS).

Why take the TOEFL?

Preparing for the TOEFL exam is important because it is required by most universities in the United States and it’s obligatory for people who hope to study there. Furthermore, some non-educational institutions also require the TOEFL. These include the US government and many companies in the private sector. Before planning to study in the United States, it is important to find out if you need to take the TOEFL exam. If so, it is always best to start preparing early, not 2 weeks before submitting your application.

What is the best way to prepare for the TOEFL?

Since TOEFL tests your English proficiency, it might seem like preparing for the exam is simply a matter of learning more English. This is certainly a reasonable conclusion, and while there is no substitute for actually learning English thoroughly, most people who aspire to study in the United States don’t have time to master the language. Consequently, it is necessary to study for the TOEFL exam itself.

The 4 sections of the exam

The TOEFL exam is divided into 4 sections. These test your abilities in the 4 key language skills: reading, speaking, writing, and listening. Depending on your own personal strengths and background, it might not be necessary to devote an equal amount of time to each section. There are many students who frequently read internet articles, books, and newspapers in English. These people tend to have strong reading skills, but they don’t necessarily have strong skills in the other 3 areas. At the same time, a strong reader might still have to study for the reading section anyway. This is because much of the content in the reading section is academic in nature. If you spend 5 hours a day reading perfume blogs, you might not be very familiar with the vocabulary used in more academic texts.

TOEFL doesn’t just test academic English

Although the TOEFL is usually required by academic institutions, it is not limited to academic English. Students have to be able to function on campus, so ETS also includes sections that test your communication skills in more mundane situations. This could be something as simple as buying a parking sticker or checking out books at the library.

Know your enemy
It might serve the purpose to see TOEFL exam as your enemy and to learn every possible fact about it. In all 4 sections of the exam, there are certain types of questions that frequently come up. A lot of your preparation time will therefore be spent in familiarizing yourself with these questions. This is in fact so important that even a native speaker might get questions wrong if he or she isn’t familiar with these recurring question types. This is also an area where you can boost your score without actually improving your English. By simply knowing more about the test—including when the bathroom break is—you can improve your score dramatically. This also helps because you won’t be as intimidated once the exam’s mystique is no longer a factor. You will see that the exam is made by humans for humans; it is definitely beatable.

A few remarks about the speaking section

The TOEFL speaking section, like all sections of the exam, involves recurring question types. It also involves pronunciation. You could have a PhD in English, but without good pronunciation, you might not sound very fluent. TOEFL examiners are of course trained not to focus too much on accents; as long as they can understand you, an accent shouldn’t matter. However, they are human too, and if you seem to speak with ease, an examiner might be influenced by this and give you a higher score than you would otherwise get. It is therefore essential that you improve pronunciation skills before taking the exam.

Where to take the TOEFL in India

The ETS website lists all the locations of TOEFL testing centres around the world. Refer to the following link for that information:

Are there TOEFL books available?

Yes. ETS makes TOEFL preparation books. There are also plenty of other companies that do so, such as Kaplan. I would recommend using at least 2 different books.

Author Bio:
Jennifer Collins is an English language instructor currently developing curriculum for a new software program for learning American English pronunciation


Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...