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TOEFL Corner

Quick Tips to Increase Your Score Fast
by Joe Vatanasombut

The first practical step toward studying in the U.S. is to study for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) exam. A high TOEFL score is required for admission into the top universities. Many students lived out a nightmare, trying to get a satisfactory TOEFL score by taking the exams over and over again. Yet, luck was not on their side.

Studying hard is not the only factor for success. Studying smart also play an important role. Let's take a look at some "shortcuts" that can help improve your score quickly. Please note that reading these tips alone won't get you a high score. You have to do the work on your side by studying hard as well. Remember, success comes with sweat!

Try free tests

Of course, practicing taking the test is not a bad thing if you don't have to pay for it. Well, you really don't have to pay for it when you go to these web sites. They are TOEFL preparation centers that put out sample TOEFL test questions and let you practice online for free.

1. Okanagan University College
Because it requires you to install a Shockwave plug-in, the interface ("look and feel") of the test looks really nice. The TOEFL prep. gives you about 760 free test questions in three sections: Grammar, Reading, and Listening. The program also times you while you take the test.

2. TestMagic
This web site provide 3 services:

The nice thing about this site is that you can submit your essay to an instructor, who will estimate your essay score and give you some feedback. The essay that you submit belongs to TestMagic, and they may publish it on their site. The downside of this site is that its interface is quite simple and the information could have been organized better.

3. StuffMedia
This site provides 20 free TOEFL questions with a Shockwave plug in. The interface is less friendly but the download time is short.

Apart from free practice tests, here are some general and section-specific tips that can help you get a higher score. If you find these tips are useful, tell your friends about them as well!

General Tips:

  1. Listening and Reading Comprehension are relatively harder to improve within a short period. If you want to improve your score quickly, focus on the Grammar section.

  2. There is no penalty for wrong answers on the TOEFL. Even if you are not sure what the correct answer is, try to select the answer that you think is best, and fill in the corresponding circle on your answer sheet. If you have no idea which answer is correct, guess. Remember that responses (B) and (C) are most often correct.

  3. Read all four choices before you make your final decision.

  4. Don't spend all your time on the harder questions. Do the easier ones first until you complete the whole section, and get back to the unanswered questions later.

  5. Practice with as many previous real tests as possible to learn the rules and the most frequently asked types of questions.

Tips for the Listening Comprehension section:

  1. When working with the listening comprehension tasks, you should try to figure out what the next listening question will be about. As soon as you answer one question, quickly skim through the multiple choice answers for the next question. You will have up to 4-5 seconds to skim the questions. Once the tape starts the conversation again, stop looking at the test and concentrate on listening.

  2. For long dialogues in the Listening Comprehension section, you will need to use your knowledge of idioms, as well as your ability to infer (figure out) meanings that are not directly stated. For example, you may need to infer the relationship between the two people by listening to their conversation.

  3. Concentrate on the numbers, places, and comparisons used in a dialogue.

  4. Don't get discouraged or nervous if you can't understand the first few sentences. Sometime, by listening to the later parts, you can guess what had been said earlier.

Tips for the Structure and Written Expression sections:

  1. In TOEFL exams, the same types of sentence structure are tested over and over again. For example, Gerund, Participle, and Infinitive, like "running is fun, the running dog won the competition, to run everyday is my dream." Try to catch the pattern of sentence structures from your practice tests. Once you are familiar with these sentence structure errors, this section should be easy for you.

  2. Though having a larger vocabulary will definitely add to your score, you don't really need to understand every word in the questions in the grammar section. Knowing the pattern of errors will allow you to guess the right answer without understanding the whole sentence.

Tips for Reading Comprehension

  1. To help you understand the passage better, read the questions first, before you read the passage.

  2. If a question asks about the main idea, point, purpose, or best title, you may want to answer this question last. Once you read through the whole passage and answer other questions, you will have a better idea what the point of the passage was.

  3. Usually, the order of questions in the reading comprehension section follows the order in which the information is presented in the passage. Once you find the answers from the begining portion of the passage, you probably won't need to waste your time going back and looking for answers in the same portion of the passage again.

Tips for the Written English section:

  1. Try to write at least a 200-300 word essay. (This is about the length of a double-spaced typed or printed page.) An essay of fewer than 100 words is not likely to receive a high score.

  2. Organization of your writing is important. However, an essay with many grammatical errors will not receive a high score, even if it is well organized.

  3. State your position early in your essay. This is important since, in some cultures, it is considered inappropriate or impolite to state your position up-front. However, you are expected to be up-front and direct in writing English essays for the TOEFL.

  4. You might make more errors when you write longer sentences. So, write your essay with shorter sentences and make sure each sentence contains no mistakes.

  5. Try not to support more than two or three main points.

  6. The worst mistake that you can make is to discuss something that doesn't relate to your topic.

  7. Try to support your point with your own ideas. Don't support it with general knowledge or common sense argument, like "I think every kid in my country should have access to the Internet because kids in other countries have access to the Internet".

I hope that we have provided you with enough tips on studying for the TOEFL. Please come back and check this site regularly for upcoming tips. If you have any tips, interesting stories, or anecdotes about the TOEFL exam, please share them with other students by e-mailing me. See you next time.

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