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Tips to ace the TOEFL in style

Read and answer questions on the computer, speak s-l-o-w-l-y and listen for ‘pragmatic’ understanding

education Updated: Mar 17, 2010 09:24 IST
Hindustan Times

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is the most widely accepted English-language assessment used by more than 7,300 institutions in 130 countries, including the UK, the US and Canada. The test is divided into four sections: reading, writing, listening and speaking. Here are some pointers and resources to help you score well for the test.

Find something interesting to read and listen to, then practise speaking and writing about it. Listen to Podcasts, recorded lectures — check the website of your
favourite university. Go to news websites such as and Read up on your favourite subjects on popular websites such as
. Work with a speaking partner, preferably with a native speaker of English or try an online video chat. The more opportunity you have to speak the language,
the more familiar you will become.
. Take on the role of a great journalist. Take good notes and use them to make summaries.
. Make vocabulary flash cards and pretend you are a contestant on a vocabulary quiz show.
. Visit TOEFL-TV on YouTube ( for great resources and tips from English-language instructors and students who have taken the

Practise reading
. Practise summarising and paraphrasing texts.
. Use charts and outlines to organise the ideas in a text. Practise speed reading techniques.
. Practise reading (and answering questions) on a computer screen.

Listening tips

. Listen for basic information — did you comprehend the main idea, major points and important details?
. Listen for ‘pragmatic’ understanding — can you recognise a speaker’s attitude? What is the purpose of the speech? Is s/he an authority or a passive part of the
. Listen to connect and synthesise — do you understand the relationship between ideas? Compare and contrast. Determine the cause and effect.

Speak out

. Read aloud a short article from a newspaper, campus newspaper, magazine, textbook, or the Internet. Write down two-three questions about the article.
. With a speaking partner: Answer the questions. Outline the main points of the article. Give a one-minute oral summary of the article. Express your opinion about
it. If there is a problem discussed, give the solution.
. Pronunciation: Speak in s-l-o-w motion. You could imitate American or British intonation and rhythm patterns. You could also work on problematic

sounds, such as:
[ t ] and [ d ] — uncurl your tongue
[ p ], [ t ], and [ k ] — add some air!
[ p ] and [ b] — purse your lips
[ f ] and [ v ] — lower lip to teeth
. Find an accent reduction coach. Your pronunciation doesn’t have to be perfect, but native speakers should be able to understand you.
Write right
. Find a writing buddy who can give you feedback.
. Read an article and find listening material on the same topic. Write a summary of each. Explain the ways they are similar and how they are different.
Combine all your skills

Find listening and reading materials on the same topic from the library or the Internet. Take notes or create outlines on each. Give a one-minute oral summary of each.

In a short written response (150 - 225 words), explain how the two relate. Take notes or create outlines on each. Give a one-minute speech about the same.

Use free resources:, download TOEFL iBT Tipswatch video clips highlighting study practices, download sample questions, join communities on SMS GupShup for free updates.

Source: ETS, which administers the TOEFL

First Published: Mar 16, 2010 11:05 IST