Your Insider Guide to the TOEFL

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the Educational Testing Service (ETS)]

Ways to Prepare for the TOEFL

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Professional TOEFL Instruction

Students in need of high TOEFL scores must rigorously prepare for the assessment. The time and money invested in professional TOEFL instruction are not insignificant, but TOEFL prep ultimately requires far less of both than the remedial English courses usually expected of students with low scores, and low-scoring students are often denied university admission altogether. TOEFL instruction is generally offered either in group classroom or individual tutoring formats. These methods of preparation allow students to concentrate on improving their specific TOEFL weaknesses by working with experienced TOEFL teachers. There is simply no substitute for the interaction and feedback provided by a dedicated TOEFL educator, but students should be sure to choose TOEFL teachers with appropriate credentials.

Online Preparation Resources and Aids

Many test prep companies offer professional TOEFL instruction in online format. Students who choose this method of teaching enjoy a number of advantages, such as the convenience of home study and lower ancillary costs (e.g. transportation). Among the disadvantages of online TOEFL study are over-reliance on technological infrastructure and lack of in-person interaction. Several internet resources that are helpful to TOEFL students are also available to the general public. The most important of these is the ETS website, which offers a free six-week TOEFL prep course, free practice questions, free TOEFL webinars, and an online store.

TOEFL Official Guides and Prep Books

The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test, published by ETS, is an invaluable aid to the TOEFL preparation process. This book contains a general discussion of the exam, detailed coverage of each test section, tips and strategies for improving performance, and three full-length practice tests with answers and answer explanations. A DVD, which allows students to view and practice the TOEFL exactly as it appears at iBT test centers, is also included. Any TOEFL books not published by ETS are considered unofficial. Test prep firms and publishing companies have released a number of titles, which vary widely in quality.

TOEFL Practice Tests

In addition to the TOEFL practice tests included in the Official Guide, test-takers may purchase additional volumes of official practice tests from the online store on the ETS website. Two volumes of five official practice tests each are available either in hard copy or as e-books. Unofficial (non-ETS) practice tests have been published by many of the major test prep firms to supplement the relatively small amount of official materials. Students should consider practice testing to be an integral component of their TOEFL learning plans, and unofficial practice tests are often provided free of charge. Practice tests help students overcome testing anxiety, improve testing endurance, and most importantly, build testing skills.

Other ETS Resources

Students preparing for the TOEFL are advised to consult the TOEFL Information and Registration Bulletin, which can be downloaded from the ETS website free of charge. In this document, test-takers will find important information about registration, testing procedures, test center policies, and score reporting. Students may also consult a variety of free PDFs, on topics such as TOEFL scores and TOEFL history.