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Mahesh Ramani

Mahesh Ramani is a senior content editor for the Hotcourses India- an IDP company.


07 Aug 2015 2.3K Book icon 3 mins Share

How to ace the TOEFL

This article helps students understand the sections of the TOEFL exam and helps them crack the test

07 Aug 2015 2.3K Book icon 3 mins Share
Mahesh Ramani

Mahesh Ramani is a senior content editor for the Hotcourses India- an IDP company.


Share this article
How to ace the TOEFL

A Brief Introduction

TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language. TOEFL was developed by ETS a non-profit firm based out of Princeton, USA. It is aimed at students who wish to pursue higher education abroad and who are non-native speakers of the English language. The test comprises four units:

  • Reading
  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Writing

Earlier the TOEFL was administered over both the Internet (iBT) and the traditional paper-based format (TOEFL PBT). By the end of 2012, the TOEFL PBT was phased out.

TOEFL scores are considered the benchmark for measuring proficiency in English and the scores are accepted by most major universities and colleges in the US, UK, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and other top study-abroad destinations. TOEFL scores are valid for two years!

Don’t Miss a Single Letter

The ‘Reading’ component involves reading three to four passages from an academic text or scholarly work and then answering questions based on the content in the reading material. This usually runs from an hour to about 80 minutes and has anywhere from 36 to 56 questions.

Silence is Golden

The ‘Listening’ component involves listening to a lecture / presentation and then answering questions based on the lecture. This usually runs from an hour to about 90 minutes and has anywhere from 34 to 51 questions.

The Gift of the Gab

You will have to speak on a general topic; you will also be asked to speak on topics that are similar to the topics featured in the reading and listening components of the test. This usually runs for about 20 minutes.

The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword

This comprises two tasks one will be an essay based on the reading and listening tasks, and the other would be a critique or view on a contentious topic. This is usually for about 40 to 50 minutes.


  • Reach the exam venue on time.
  • Be calm and composed, do not get flustered.
  • Use your 10 minutes break carefully.
  • Read all instructions carefully.
  • Read the passage at least twice before attempting the questions.
  • If you are unsure about a question move to the next one.
  • Listen with complete focus and concentration to the lecture.
  • Never ever get disheartened by a poor test score; remember there is always a next time.

Focus Five on the TOEFL

  1. Take care to ensure that you read all instructions carefully before beginning the test. The devil lies in the detail so ensure that you do not miss any important instruction or directive.
  2. If a question seems tough or you are in doubt do not waste too much time thinking and progress to the next question. 
  3. Keep your essay simple and direct with an easy language flow, over-ostentatious writing is not going to get you brownie-points. Simplicity and substance scores any day over complicated prose-heavy text.
  4. Prepare really well for the test; do as many sample practice tests as possible before you take the actual test.
  5. Time is of the essence - remember that every test component has a specific time-limit. Aim to complete every test-component within the allocated time frame.

The Essay

In most cases the essay becomes the make-or-break factor for you to ace the TOEFL. The ‘Writing’ component comprises two writing tasks:

  1. Integrated Writing - This involves reading / listening and then writing a summary / comparative piece of writing of about 250 to 300 words.
  2. Independent Writing - This is an essay on a given topic that should ideally be structured into four or five paragraphs and be about 350 words in length.

Keep in Mind

  • The summary writing is heavily dependent on how closely you analyse the audio or read the passage given to you.
  • Be focussed and use simple direct sentences, as far as possible use simple language; flowery prose is only for classical texts.
  • Be careful if quoting statistics or numbers; unless you are doubly sure of a number do not mention it. 
  • Break up your essay into logical structured paragraphs.
  • Once you are done writing the essay read it once again to ensure that there are no grammatical errors or repetitive words and phrases.

TOEFL Scholarship

A good TOEFL score and an excellent academic track-record may land you a TOEFL scholarship, which lets you choose from over 8000 top-class institutions from all over the world. The next scholarship programme will begin in early 2015. So be sure to visit the TOEFL scholarship programme page for more information.

That’s it people - focus, prepare, plan and ace your TOEFL!

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