When taking the Reading Section of the test, your purpose is simple. It is not to enjoy or even understand the reading perfectly. You don't need to comprehend every word or every detail. Your goal is simply to correctly answer as many questions as you possibly can.
There are usually only three passages on the TOEFL iBT. Each passage is from 600 to 700 words long. If you read and work at an average speed, you should have no trouble finishing within the sixty-minute time limit. There is a countdown clock on the screen that tells you how much time remains in which to finish this section.
Remember: there is no penalty for incorrect guesses. However, when possible, you should not guess blindly.
TACTICS FOR TOEFL READING
• As with all sections of the test, be familiar with the directions. When the directions appear, click on the Dismiss Directions button.
• First, look at the title and quickly scroll through the passage to get an idea of what the passage is generally about. Look over the passage quickly, then look over the questions about the passage (not the answer choices, just the questions). Try to hold these questions in your mind or take some quick notes as you look them over.
• Read the passage at a comfortable rate, looking especially for information that the questions ask about. If it is helpful, take notes as you read. Word-by-word reading slows you down and interferes with your comprehension. Try to read in units of thought, phrase by phrase rather than word by word.
• Answer the questions, referring back to the passage as necessary.
• Skip questions that you find difficult. Go back to these by means of the review feature after answering the last question on the test.
Important: It's better to leave difficult questions blank than to answer them immediately because the review feature only tells you if you answered the question or not. It doesn't tell you that you had trouble with a question. When answering any multiple-choice question on the test (in the Reading and Listening sections), you should use the process of elimination to ensure that you make the best guess.
• If there are some questions that you think you can answer correctly, but you still have some doubts about them, keep track of the numbers of these questions on your notepaper. If you have enough time, go back to these questions after you've answered the questions that you skipped.
• Don't spend too much time on any one question or passage.
• Leave yourself time to use the review feature at the end of this section.
• If you haven't finished when only a few minutes remain, skim quickly though any part of the passages that you haven't read. Then answer any vocabulary or reference questions that you haven't completed yet. After that, read the remaining questions. If you can't find the answer in the passage quickly, pick the answer choice that seems most logical to you.
• When there is only about a minute left, make sure that you have answered all the questions even if you have to guess.
• Even if you finish all the questions and checked the ones you found difficult, don't stop working on this section before the time runs out. Keep checking your work until the sixty minutes are up.
TACTICS FOR TOEFL LISTENING
• As with all sections of the test, be familiar with the directions. When the directions appear, click on the Dismiss Directions button and begin the Listening section right away.
• Take notes and use your notes when you answer the questions. Try to record as much information as possible in your notes.
• Time management is important. Remember, you have as long as you like to answer each question, but you must complete the section within the time limit. Keep your eye on the clock and on the icon that tells you which question number you are working on.
• Always answer promptly after the answer choices appear, not only to save time but also to keep the listening material fresh in your mind. Refer to your notes as necessary to help you answer the questions.
• Don't spend too much time on any one question.
• Use your "power of prediction." As you are listening to the conversation or lecture, try to guess what questions will be asked.
• If you are not sure of an answer, try to eliminate unlikely choices. If you have no idea which answer is correct, guess and then go on to the next question.
• Concentration is very important in this part of the test. Once you have answered a question, don't think about it anymore—start thinking about the next question. Focus your attention on the voices you hear and the words on the screen.
TACTICS FOR TOEFL SPEAKING
The third section of the TOEFL iBT tests your ability to speak clearly and intelligibly. The entire Speaking Section takes about 17 minutes to complete. There are two main types of tasks: Independent Speaking Tasks and Integrated Speaking Tasks.
Skills that are tested in both parts of this section include the abilities to
► produce fluent, clear, and intelligible speech
► organize and deliver a spoken presentation of up to one minute in length
► connect parts of your speech by using transition words and phrases
► pronounce words properly
► use stress and intonation correctly
► use appropriate grammar
► use vocabulary accurately
► use idioms appropriately
► understand written and spoken information and prompts
Preparing Your Response
For all of the Speaking tasks, you have a short period of preparation time, from fifteen to thirty seconds depending on the task. A clock on the screen tells you how much time you have left to prepare your response. When the preparation time is up, you will hear a beep that tells you it is time to begin speaking. During your preparation time, you should first analyze the question for the task to make sure that you know what the question is asking you to do. Then you should write notes or a very simple outline to look at when you are speaking. You will only have time to write down a few words. For the Independent tasks, write down a quick summary of your opinion or preference. For the Integrated tasks, you can use the notes that you took when you were reading the passages and listening to the lectures. Mark the points that you think are important and write a few words that will remind you, what you want to say. Don't try to write out a complete response during your preparation time, and don't read from your notes. You will lose points if you seem to be reading your response.
Delivering Your Response
In this section, you will speak into a microphone and a digital recording of your voice will be made by the computer. At the same time you are speaking, other test-takers will be recording their responses as well. The headphones you are wearing will block most of the sounds of other people speaking, but you may hear them anyway. You need to focus on your own task and ignore any sounds around you. Here are some hints for delivering your responses:
► Speak clearly and directly into the microphone.
► Don't speak too quickly or too slowly.
► Avoid long pauses and saying "urn" or "uh" too many times.
► Try to pronounce words carefully.
► Pay attention to the on-screen clock and use it to adjust your timing.
Practicing Your Response
It is important that you practice taking this section by speaking into a microphone and recording yourself. One way to do this is to use a computer microphone and a computer equipped with a sound card and with the Windows operating system. Plug the microphone into the microphone jack on the computer itself or on one of the speakers.
• As with all sections of the test, familiarize yourself with the directions. When the directions appear, click on the Dismiss Directions button and begin the Speaking Section right away.
• Read the questions carefully to be sure you know what you are being asked to speak about.
• During the preparation time, plan what you are going to say and write a short, informal outline.
• Follow the outline as you speak.
• Use transition words and phrases to connect the parts of your response.
• Keep track of how much time you have by checking the on-screen clock.
• Know the types of questions you are likely to be asked and practice some typical phrases you might use in your answers.
TACTICS FOR TOEFL WRITING
The fourth section of the TOEFL iBT tests your ability to produce clear, well-organized academic writing. This section contains two writing tasks: an Integrated Writing Task and an Independent Writing Task.
Type of Task
Integrated Writing Task
Reading passage and related lecture
Summarize and compare lecture and passage
Reading: 3 minutes
Lecture: 2 minutes
Writing: 20 minutes
Independent Writing Task
Your own knowledge and experience
Give your opinion of an issue or express your personal preference
INTEGRATED VERSUS INDEPENDENT TASKS
For the Integrated Writing Task, you read a short passage, then listen to a short lecture on the same topic. You then write an essay summarizing the lecture and the reading passage and showing the relationship between them. You may take notes on both the reading passage and the lecture. The Integrated Task asks you only to summarize and paraphrase the information that you read and hear. You should not express your own opinion of the issues and you should not bring in any information from outside the passage and the lecture (just as in the Integrated Speaking Tasks).
The Independent Writing Task requires you to read a prompt (a topic) and express your opinion in your response. Your response is based entirely on your own knowledge and experience (just as in the Independent Speaking Tasks).
ENTERING AND EDITING THE WRITING TASKS ON THE COMPUTER
This is the only part of the test in which you will primarily use the keyboard rather than the mouse. You must type your responses on the computer. If you do not have much typing experience, or you are not used to typing in English, you will need to practice as much as possible. You can also download typing lessons from the Internet. Type "free typing tutorial" into your browser and take your pick.
The program for typing the essay is a simplified version of a standard word processing program. For the most part, all you need to do is type in the essay. Unfortunately, there are no ‘spell check’ or ‘grammar check’ tools. In fact, there are only the simplest editing tools: Cut, Paste and Undo.
• As with all sections of the test, be familiar with the directions. When the general directions and the directions for each task appear, click on the Dismiss Directions button and begin working right away.
• Give yourself time to think about the question or the prompt and to plan your essay by taking notes and writing a simple outline.
• Time management is important. Keep your eye on the clock as you work on both tasks.
• Divide both responses into an introduction, body, and conclusion.
• Use signal words to indicate transitions. Signal words can be used to join paragraph to paragraph and sentence to sentence.
• Give yourself time to check your responses for problems with content, grammar, and mechanics.
• Don't exit either task early. Keep checking your response for problems until you run out of time.