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AzETA 10th International ELT Conference English beyond the Classroom Walls 22-23 June 2013

Learn English
Teaching English

February 2016


20 fundamental TOEFL tips your students need to know

For those wishing to enter English-speaking universities, TOEFL is a must. Accepted by many academic institutes, this test measures the English language knowledge of non-native speakers, and your primary duty is to help your students prepare for TOEFL, as well as help them pass it successfully.

Make sure to share these TOEFL tips with your students and, therefore, improve their chances of hitting the exam.

1) Refer them to the right website

With so many online publications on TOEFL, it's easy to get lost in tons of information available. Refer your students to the official TOEFL website where they can find necessary information and download essay writing samples. It answers all questions, announces test updates, and provides the list of resources to check when preparing for the test.

2) Tell them about the TOEFL format

Do your students know about two formats of TOEFL: the Internet-based (iBT) and paper-based (PBT) variants? Check if your country offers iBT, and make sure your students know which format they will take. It will help to prepare better and avoid stress during the test.

3) Tell them about score requirements

Find out what college or university your students are going to attend. The thing is, different educational institutes might have different TOEFL score requirements for enrollees; so, before starting the preparation, your student should know what to expect and what level of knowledge to achieve.

It's significant to understand that the scores for iBT differ from those for PBT. Plus, institutes look at scores for different sections: some expect higher writing skills rather than reading or speaking. This nuance needs to be taken into consideration, too.

4) Help them find a mentor. Or become one

It's a big challenge to prepare for TOEFL by textbooks only, and your students will need a mentor to support, answer questions, and encourage them. The best variant would be a native English teacher who knows everything about the test, and if you are one of such teachers – good for you: you can become your students' mentor. If not, help them find one.

Other students who have already passed TOEFL might help, too. You can search Twitter to network with TOEFL teachers and students or encourage your students to join some TOEFL communities online where members share their experience, tips, and tricks on studying for the test.

5) Practice tests with them

Theory goes hand in hand with practice. Help students prepare for TOEFL by practicing different tests with them. Use free samples from the Internet, textbooks with explanatory answers, CDs, vocabulary tests, etc. Explain to students they can't rely on one book only, as it can be easier than official TOEFL. Try different resources, levels of exercising, up-to-date tasks, and questions types.

Practice a lot!

6) Teach academic English to them

Since TOEFL checks an ability to succeed in English-speaking college, help your students learn the language they would hear in classrooms and campuses:

  • read research articles at your lessons;
  • assign different essay types;
  • ask them to do presentations in English;
  • watch movies at the lessons, etc.

7) Teach them to take notes

Taking notes is among the skills your students will need when at universities, so help them develop and make it a habit. Ask them to note what they read, hear, or see in movies, and discuss it at your lessons.

Reading and Listening sections of TOEFL allow students to take notes, so this skill is a good practice.

8) Practice long study sessions with them

Make sure your students understand that TOEFL takes about 2.5 hours when paper-based or 4 hours when Internet-based. Help them build up a stamina by practicing study sessions longer than two hours, as it will prepare their brains to support a necessary attention span during the test.

9) Help them improve typing skills

It would be unfair if your students failed TOEFL because of poor typing skills. When passing iBT, they have to type essays and fill out their answers on the computer, and it takes time, too. So, check if your students are confident typists by suggesting several resources or exercises that would help them practice the skill. Also, recommend them to practice on different keyboards for better results.

10) Teach them how to answer questions

When preparing your students for TOEFL, teach them not to leave any question unanswered. Tell them how to make an educated guess by eliminating the answers they know are wrong, and teach them to concentrate on tasks at hand: once students finish a section, they are better to put it out of their mind.

11) Tell them about tiny but crucial details to remember

Tutoring your students before TOEFL, share these tips to help them avoid excess stress and anxiety:

  • before arriving at the test center, they should know how to get there and where to park;
  • if writing PBT, they are better to have several pencils, erasers, and pencil sharpeners with them;
  • they might want to check their ID and registration papers again to make sure they look valid.

12) Make sure to strengthen all four skills

Check if your students aren't in a hurry to take TOEFL. They might be good at reading and listening, but their writing and speaking still need work. One section of the test impacts the final result and might lead to retaking the entire test. Are your students ready to take the whole test?

13) Prepare them for Reading

Tell students what they should expect in the Reading section of TOEFL:

  • To answer questions, they don't need to know every word from the text. General understanding will be enough.
  • Suggest them to start with reading questions first and the text afterward. It will help to get the idea on what details to concentrate.
  • Reveal the types of questions students will have to answer: the main idea question, vocabulary questions, detailed questions, and inference questions.

Prepare them for Listening

During TOEFL, students listen to the tape only once. Prepare them for that when practicing this skill at your lessons by teaching your students to hear main ideas and key details at once.

15) Prepare them for Speaking

Your students should understand they will lose marks for poor pronunciation and improper use of vocabulary. Teach them how to use idioms and suggest to avoid big words if they are not sure they say them properly.

16) Prepare them for Writing

Students won't have a chance to spell check their writing during the test, so suggest them to keep it clear by using vocabulary and punctuation they know for sure. Ask students to plan essays before writing and suggest to choose an essay format which works best for them. Practice this format at your lessons and learn hooks for essays with your students, as well as questions types to use in conclusions.

17) Advise them to wear a watch

This tip would be useful for those taking a paper-based test because some exam rooms don't have clocks, which makes it difficult for students to pace themselves.

They won't have a break between Reading and Listening sections, and they will have little time to write essays; so, it's significant to watch time without spending too much on difficult questions.

18) Share tips on food

Ask students to make sure they eat well before the test. Avoiding coffee and sugar would be a wise decision. No one allows to bring food and drinks to the exam room, so taking enough water before the test would be a good practice, too.

19) Share tips on clothing

Comfortable clothes would be the best choice this day. Suggest students to wear their favorite shirts or dresses and avoid tight clothing, as they will have to sit in one place for a long time.

A bonus one:

No matter how well your students did on TOEFL, they deserve a reward. They put time and effort into learning English, so let them know you are proud of them by suggesting to treat them to a gift or exciting pastime after they've taken the test.

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