Advice from my TOEFL Experience

Evgenia is from Russia and she recently took the TOEFL test for the first time. She scored 100! Here, she offers advice on how to prepare for the TOEFL.

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is a stressful experience for any person who wants to enter an English-language university. Unfortunately, there is no magic trick or method to make preparation easier. The main points are consistency and hard work. It is important to develop helpful habits which can make your preparation more efficient. I want to offer several tips and pieces of advice for mastering the skills that you need to be successful on the TOEFL.

Daily Practice

To begin with, you should practice every day. Some skills you can practice even during your everyday routine. You should watch movies and TV shows in English, and follow English-language bloggers, or have some TV shows turned on in the background while doing your household chores, walking, cooking, etc. There are also informative and useful resources such as TEDx Talks and TED-Ed. You can find short educational and inspirational videos there, which can help you increase your knowledge in different spheres of life. These activities help your ears get used to hearing English speech. At first, it will be difficult and even annoying, but perseverance will bring you huge progress. Based on my own experience, after a while you will start to understand speech automatically without noticing. An additional method I used was listening to old songs that I liked to try to catch the meaning of the lyrics.

Reading and Vocabulary

To improve your reading skills, you need to read as much as possible because this skill is a major key to success. To do well on the TOEFL requires advanced vocabulary, and the only way to achieve advanced vocabulary is through a lot of reading. Use any opportunity to read: while traveling on the train or bus, while waiting in a line, and so forth. However, no matter what you do, you should enjoy it. Otherwise, you will get bored fast and lose any interest.

Writing and Speaking

For writing and speaking, I do recommend that you get the assistance of a qualified teacher. You simply cannot evaluate your answers or correct your own mistakes. And I am glad that I found one. Lessons with a professional teacher helped me become better acquainted with the structure of these two sections, as it is a standardized exam with typical tasks.


Practicing writing essays on a large variety of academic topics can help you prepare not only for the exam, but also for future student assignments at a university. My progress with the guidance of my teacher was significant because I was able to notice my grammar gaps and weak areas that I needed to pay more attention to.


The speaking part is usually the most stressful section due to a lack of practice. Even if you cannot afford to go to a language school abroad to improve your speaking, it does not mean you cannot succeed in developing this language skill. It is possible to practice speaking by talking to yourself. For instance, you can pretend you are having a dispute or debate about different topics and give several arguments to support or oppose this idea or suggestion. By using this approach, along with the pieces of advice my teacher gave me, I managed to get a high score in this section even though I was the least confident in my speaking abilities. I kept in my mind how to respond, what details I should include, and what useful constructions and phrases are good to use. All in all, it is crucial to find a reliable and knowledgeable teacher because this definitely can boost your skills to a higher level.

Time Management

Further, you should practice managing your time. The most stressful aspect of the TOEFL is the restricted amount of time. That is why you should take as many practice tests as possible. You can find them at different websites or in special guidance books (I used a great book called Cambridge Preparation for theTOEFL Test). And do not forget about an informative dictionary, such as the Cambridge Dictionary. The biggest advantage of this resource is the detailed explanations of meanings and a lot of examples.


In conclusion, I would like to tell you that there is nothing impossible in the world. If you are ready to devote a lot of time and energy for preparation, you will definitely succeed on this exam. But you will never know if you do not give it a shot!

Your Turn

Are you preparing for the TOEFL test? Have you taken the TOEFL? What advice do you have for others on how to prepare for this exam? Please share in the comments below!

Matthew Huseby, M.A.
My Language Success LLC

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