Ok, so I finished my TOEFL some time ago now, but I just discovered this forum today.
I prepared for about a week or two, with "cracking the TOEFL" which I did not find helpful at all - the tasks in there are much more difficult than what the TOEFL asks.
You don't need to understand any texts, or interpret them, or rewrite sentences, or invent new paragraphs. Nothing like that.
You don't need to tell engaging stories, at no point in the test.
You also don't need to entertain your tester, nor sound overly natural and believable.
What helped me most was using the practise exams online, and watching some videos / reading about other people's experiences.
So what I really needed to practise was speaking quickly without thinking. SOmewhere I found a template that was something like
1) summary of question/problem
2) state your opinion/solution
3) give three reasons/arguments
4) summarize your suggestions and how they relate to the problem/question
Not sure if that is actually required, but it helped me to feel confident.
There was one question where my mind turned blank after half the time, so I didn't speak for like 15 seconds, and then just said a grammatically not very correct summary about the very few things I mentioned earlier
Still got 30/30.
What also helped to feel less nervous about talking to a computer in a room full of people was, as I saw someone say on youtube, trying to be the last one in the cue so that others start before you. Also, in general, if you always wait until the time for each task is up (you can skip it if you want to just continue), some people are going to be speaking before you have to anyway. Listen, so you can guess the topic. I just catched one answer for the first question but it made all the difference to my stress level. I was able to think of a sound structure before even knowing the question, and with that successful experience, the following questions were much easier to handle.
I feel like the comprehension questions are very tricky, more than once I thought that there might be several correct answers. One listening excersice was particularly difficult, about some particles or bugs I don't remember, I didn't understand it too well, but I did not get that throughout the lecture they were talking about 2 different types - they sounded extremly similar and I did not notice. So when there were questions about (made up words, I don't remember the names) "miops" and "myops", I did not know which one was which so... I guessed.
I'm pretty certain that was the testing question, because I got the number of questions expected in all other parts and one more in listening, and it's just extremly unlikely that I guessed everything correctly.
I got 30/30 so it must have been that question that didn't count.
I got 29/30 in writing and I think I know why. As again I did not want to finish early, I kept staring at my essay improving a word/sentence here and there. Unfortunately, do avoid stress, I had accostumed myself to not look at the clock. So I didn't know I didn't have time for another adjustment, but I started moving sentences around anyway. This lead to my final essay having a half sentence somewhere, as I cut the first part of it, intending to move it elsewhere and then adapt everything - stupid mistake, but well.
I might have made some spelling mistakes as well, I'm used to autocorrect.
Overall I have no clue why they give people so much time. I had 45 min left in reading, and over 30 min in each of the other parts except speaking because there you can't do anything after finishing the timed recordings so you don't have extra time.
So what I can recommend: get there early. Don't worry about the other people, you'll never ever see them again. Also, their stress or (over) confidence do not help you. Just focus on yourself.
You can go to the bathroom and take snack breaks whenever you feel like it. I think they tell you how to do it in the instructions, but since I had so much time left and did not want to skip forward, I walked around quite a lot and nobody cared (to be fair, I was the only one doing this, everyone else was very busy).
Do the freely available online quizzes to get a feel for the questions and the time you need to answer them. If you know you don't have to worry about the time, don't. Just don't commit my mistake either - before changing anything, do check the time!
Read the available "good" text examples. Practise writing a few essays about similar topics. A specific structure can be helpful as a guide for your writing, but again I doubt that it's necessary.
Learn everything about the the test (e.g. the test questions that are evaluated, but do not affect your result). Know its duration and have your strategy to deal with the (extra) time. Know that it may take some more time to start the test than they tell you (I started about an hour late, not my fault but obviously only happened because I was last in line. Everyone else started about half an hour late). Have your drinks and (non-noisy) snacks if you think you might need them. Wear comfy clothes, but choose a colour and shirt that look decent enough for applications - the result document contains a photo they take there!
Get more paper for notes if you need it, before you need it. Make sure you have enough paper for the speaking and oral comprehension questions, before you start those parts. Have an extra pen as well.
Focus on your grammar and easy sentences. Nobody is trying to evaluate your intelligence, it's not like an exam at school, the content doesn't really matter as long as it's not wrong. Know your strategy for the oral comprehension part with respect to taking notes. For speaking, as mentioned above, a certain structure can help to make it easier to think of complete sentences. Before the test actually starts, there's some time which I used to write down the structures (which I had memorized) so that later, when my memory was filled with funny topics of the reading part, I could just refer to my own notes.
I made a template for each question, so it was easier to take notes and the notes already formed the structure.
And as you will have noted throughout this text (which obviously does not meet TOEFL criteria!), my English is far from perfect. I also have an accent. Before taking the test I had never been to an English speaking country (except for some stop overs) nor did I study in English. I feel it's really all about understanding how the test works, and using that knowledge.
Last edited by Chezangelous; 07-05-2019 at 10:21 AM.
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