Top Tips to Triumph in the TOEFL iBT

Rest well and take an energy boost

All exams are somewhat nerve-racking but there are some steps you can take before the TOEFL iBT to reduce stress. Good preparation and practice are key to ensuring that normal nervousness – which can actually aid performance – does not become debilitating.

Some general advice holds true as much for the TOEFL as it does for all exams. Eat and sleep well beforehand and drink a glass of something like lemonade before the test. Don’t overdo the consumption of fluids, however, because the test is over four hours’ duration and any period away from the computer – apart from the mandatory 10-minute break – is time out for which you will not be compensated.

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No last minute studying

As with most other tests, last minute cramming of information is unlikely to reap dividends. If you haven’t learnt the required standard of English by the eve of exam then staying up all night trying to catch up is unlikely to make a difference. A good sleep will be more beneficial than anything else. Arriving early on the day is always advisable.

Fit for a four-hour fight

Bear in mind the length of the TOEFL iBT and prepare psychologically. In an era when attention spans seem to be diminishing, four hours can seem intimidating. The only way is to simulate a similar test under timed conditions. You can also familiarise yourself with the kinds of questions you can expect through practice materials.

Learn the layout of the land

Acquaint yourself with the test conditions as well as the standard QWERTY keyboard if, for some reason, you are not used to one. You can get a realistic idea of what to expect on the day itself by looking at the following video.

Prepare, rehearse and succeed

The test is divided into four parts: reading, listening, speaking and writing. Prepare for each section as well as you can. Don’t think that just because, for example, you write well, this will be your passport to success. You need to perform competently in all areas.

The TOEFL iBT involves you talking to a computer – not a real person – while other examinees mill around and talk in the background. You will use headphones for the listening and speaking parts of the test but you can wear them throughout if you wish. Even so, it’s best to get used to a slightly noisy atmosphere by sitting some timed, computerised exercises in a communal working environment beforehand.

The reading section appraises your ability to understand some academic vocabulary. So make sure you read some formal texts beforehand, noting new words as you go along. It would also be advisable to get a friend to probe your understanding of the material. It may be helpful to read some text on a screen while taking notes so that the material sinks in.

The more you read in English, the less daunting academic-style writing will seem. Take an interest in what you read, do so regularly and you will learn to catch key points. Practised readers can scan a newspaper article quickly while taking on board salient themes and facts.

For the listening section you could enlist a friend to read a piece to you and then test you on your comprehension. Get used to various English accents and see how quickly you can take notes. If you have some kind of deep-seated psychological aversion to a computerised voice, then the TOEFL iBT is not for you and you should consider the IELTS.

The speaking section is again one you can practise beforehand by recording yourself. If you have a speech disability – or indeed any disability that may impair your performance – you should convey this beforehand. A good way to overcome nerves at speaking is to concentrate on the content. If you can feel enthused about a topic, this will often come across.

Writing is the fourth component of the test. You will have to learn to write when you get into business school so it is an essential skill to master. Read plenty of quality English-language media and magazines. You could practise writing about a subject close to your heart and then get a native speaker to evaluate its quality.

As with so many other things in life, practice before the TOEFL does indeed make the journey to perfection much smoother.

This article is kindly provided by our partners PrepAdviser – the global preparation network for MBA and Master’s applicants.

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