Tips for Improving Your Score on the TOEFL (Part Two)

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) measures an individual’s ability to use and understand English at the university level. The TOEFL is considered the standard measure of proficiency for North American English. More than 9,000 colleges, agencies, and other institutions in over 130 countries accept TOEFL scores as proof of an individual’s fluency in English.

The TOEFL is an extremely accurate indicator of an individual’s English fluency. Unlike the ACT, SAT, and other standardized tests, the TOEFL actually measures what it claims to measure. While it is possible to “crack” the TOEFL the same way you would another standardized test, it is actually easier and more productive to focus on boosting your proficiency with the English language itself.

This part of our TOEFL lesson offers tips for preparing for the Listening and Speaking sections of the exam. We’ll also discuss some additional strategies that apply to the TOEFL as a whole. Make sure to check out the Reading and Writing section strategies found in part one if you have not already done so.

Like the strategies found in part one, these tips depend on having one or more native English speakers whom you can study with. If you do not know anyone who possesses the knowledge and time to be your TOEFL study partner, contact the English Island. Our experienced TOEFL teachers offer customized, one-on-one classes to students located throughout Metro Atlanta.



The easiest and most effect way to prepare for the Speaking section of the TOEFL is to actively participate in English language conversations. Make sure that you are contributing to the conversation by building upon what others have said and by asking and answering questions. Try to answer questions as quickly as you can, as this is one of the ways that you will be tested during the exam. Pay attention to your pronunciation as well. Being able to generate clear, precise and understandable responses in everyday conversations will help you on the TOEFL.


For the listening section I strongly recommend checking out your local NPR (National Public Radio) station. (Atlanta’s NPR station is 90.1 WABE.) NPR programs tend to use language that is simultaneously straightforward and grammatically correct. If possible, listen to the program with a native English speaker. After the program is over, have him or her ask you a few questions about what was said during the broadcast. NPR also has smart phone and tablet apps, and many of its programs are available in short, easily-digestible chunks on its website. You can do this same process with podcasts, television shows, and movies if you get tired of listening to NPR. Just be aware that standards for the correct use of English in American popular media are pretty much nonexistent. When in doubt, stick to listening to news-based and other non-fiction media.

Other Tips

Boost your vocabulary by keeping a word journal. Keep a small notebook with you and write down any words that you do not know. Look up definitions for these words and practicing using them in conversations.

Keep in mind that native English speakers often communicate with one another in ways that are, strictly speaking, not grammatically correct. We’ve covered some of the more common native speaker mistakes in recent blogs. Check those out for explanations of why native English speakers make these errors and the best ways to avoid making them yourself.

Track down reading material that you find personally interesting and that you can relate to. Reading articles and novellas that you feel a connection with can help you to stay motivated during the process of preparing for the TOEFL. If you want to read a full length novel, I recommend checking out books in the young adult genre. The best young adult novels use well-written, straightforward prose, without the complicated syntax and intimidating vocabulary of works aimed at older readers.