- In the first part (this link: part 1), I will introduce about the TOEFL iBT test, talk about its difficulties and present some principles and materials to get a higher score.
- In the second part (this part), I will share my own experience when tackling with each part of TOEFL iBT including reading, listening, speaking and writing.
Strategies for improving
Now we will go to the strategies for each part of the TOEFL test.
First, I will talk about the reading. The key points to get a high score in reading section are reading a lot of variety of topics and learning new vocabularies.
- You can use the above resources for practicing reading and learning new vocabulary.
- To review the ways to answer for each kind of questions in TOEFL reading test, please review this page: https://www.notefull.com/content.php?pgID=722
Next, I will move on Listening. As I said before, this is the most difficult part with most foreign students. To deal with that, the only way is that improve your listening skill by listening to academic materials as much as possible. Maybe the conversation is easy to understand but the lecture, especially the hard topic one like history or anthropology is extremely difficult. To get the maximum score, you must have the ability to understand every point (or even every word) that the speaker said. This is because when you listen to the lecture if you miss some points, the questions will ask about those points. Therefore, I suggest these activities improve your listening skill:
- Review the way to answer all kinds of question in listening section: https://www.notefull.com/content.php?pgID=723
- Try to transcribe the whole lecture you listen. This will make sure you can understand every word that the speaker said. Listen as many time as possible to fully understand the lecture, especially with the hard one.
- When you listen, try to guess which information will be asked, circle it on your notes and pay attention to the detail the speakers talk. This is the most effective way to improve your score rapidly.
With the speaking section, you absolutely don't need to speak like a native speaker to get a high score, but you should speak for everyone can understand. So try to speak and express your idea or opinion is an easier way for everyone can understand is a must have to do to get a high score. Here are some suggestions:
- Preview your pronunciation, always use diction to check the pronunciation of an unknown word, you can guess the pronunciation and but sometimes it is not correct. And there are thousands of irregular words like this in English.
- If you have a chance to speak with the native speaker, it is the best. Your speaking can improve a lot when speaking with them. If you have a chance to live in English speaking country like US, UK, Australia, Canada,… make the best use of your chance to improve both your correctness and fluentness of your speaking.
- In about 1 week before the test, try to speak, communicate, think everything in English. That makes your brain be more effective with deal with difficult speaking topics and your speaking will be more natural.
- You need templates for delivering your speaking effectively, follow these instructions and practice you can get 26 or more on speaking section: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6434B98632F06DB0
- Always remember that when you state your opinion, you need to support it with reasons and give an example for it, the best example is from yourselves. Examples should be clear about What, When, Who and Where.
- In my opinion, the question 1 and 2 in speaking section is the most difficult one.
- You need to practice them every day, try to answer many times until your fulfill all the aspects of a good response.
- Try to give 2 reasons with 2 different points of view, don't choose 2 reasons that overlap each other. For example, which places you want to study: public library or your own house. I will choose public library and I will give two reasons for that question. They may be (1) a lot of books for reference and (2) is convenience. You can see that second reasons comprise the first reasons so these two reasons are not good. Pick another one like: (1) A lot of books for reference and (2) Best use for group study…. My suggestion is thinking one physical reason and other is a mental reason for the best non-overlapping one.
- Give your reasons shortly and directly, use the other sentences for giving an example, don't explain your reasons too long. You absolutely don't have time to deliver the successful response.
- With the question 3, 4, 5 and 6 the hardest part is listening and take good notes. After taking notes, you have to try to choose which information you will present in 60 seconds, you should not and must not repeat everything you listen and try to connect information between reading, listening by using aforementioned templates. You also need to practice express the idea in the simple way, not the complicated way. These two techniques will make sure your high-score response.
- Most important: Practice with timer, pace yourselves!
Finally, I will discuss the strategies of the writing section. With the first question, you will read a short passage and then listen to a lecture that discusses the passage. Most of the time, the lecture will cast doubt the information presented in the reading however recently they can change. So the best practice here is practice for the casting doubt form but try to write one or two essays with another form of supporting or explaining form. Here is my suggestion:
- Watch this instruction video on how to get good notes on both reading and listening: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ytubzmj_j94
- Similar to the integrated speaking questions above, you should use the template to deliver your response. I found the template in this video is useful and easy to deliver.
- You don't need to write the conclusion paragraph for this question, it will not help you more points. Instead, using your time to improve the content, clarity, grammar, spelling, and mechanics in your body paragraphs is a much better use of your time.
- My suggest the length of the response is around 350 to get the maximum score!
With the second question - the essay question, the changing requirement is not using your own experience. So you should read and listen more information around you and try to remember them. And when you practice writing your essay, you should give examples taken from another source not from you. If you are familiar with the way of writing an essay in Vietnamese or other Asian countries, you will find no difficulty when writing with the new requirement. Here are some other suggestions:
- Review the techniques for writing essay here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ul2OTUqMGqk
- Practice reading some sample essays from native speakers and do analyze them. You will learn a lot from them. Whenever you cope with new sentence structure or good vocabulary or expression, try to learn them. Here are some sample essays: http://www.toeflresources.com/index.php?id=sample-toefl-essays
- Write simple introduction and conclusion, you don't need to write elaborately with these two parts. You had better invest your time in writing well-supported body paragraphs. Don't give 3 body paragraph structure if each body is not well supported. Instead, using 2 body paragraph structure with each of them is well supported by reasons and examples. And you will get a much better score. Here is the outline and time schedule for writing your essay:
Brainstorming and outlining: (3 minutes)
Introduction: (4 minutes)
Body 1: (9 minutes)
Body 2: (9 minutes)
Conclusion (3 minutes)
- Remember using simple and common sentence structure rather than complex and unsure sentence structure will help you to get a higher score.
- Writing a long essay, it does not mean you will get a high score. However, the condition to have a high score is writing a long essay. So try to maximize your score in 30 minutes by writing a long and well-supported essay. Here is the score you may get based on your essay's length:
- 450-550: 27-30
- 350-450: 22-26
- 250-350: 17-21