How to study for TOEFL?

Popular French actress Catherine Deneuve once famously said, “I learned English by going to America and marrying an Englishman who didn’t speak French. That helped”.  Until you have plans like Catherine to learn the English language, preparation for TOEFL is a better alternative.

Started in the year 1964, TOEFL or Test of English as a Foreign Language is a globally acclaimed and widely respected test recognized by over 10000 colleges in more than 130 countries. If you are planning to study abroad, specifically in a nation where English is a primary language of communication, TOEFL is the first step. If you wish to speak Na’vi and settle in Pandora, we don’t know how to guide you.

TOEFL is conducted in two formats, the Internet-based or iBT and the paper-based test. You can select the format you wish to take. Considering the ease of iBT and its growing popularity, we recommend that but the ultimate choice is yours.
The Internet-based test: iBT has a different format than the paper-based test. Here’s how the break-up of iBT looks like:

Reading section: 60-80 minutes | 36-56 questions

Listening section: 60-90 minutes | 34-51 questions

Short break: 10 minutes

Speaking section: 20 minutes | 6 tasks

Writing section: 50 minutes | 2 essays

The paper-based test: The paper-based test, on the other hand, looks like this:

Listening section: 30-40 minutes| 50 questions

Writing section: 25 minutes | 40 questions

Reading section: 55 minutes | 50 questions

TWE test: 30 minutes | write one essay

For students of India, Internet-based test (iBT) is the only option. iBT is conducted across the country in many centres. All this information is easily available on the official TOEFL website, however, since we are talking about its preparation, it is evident we shed some light on all its aspects. Some of the key things you should know about TOEFL if you are an Indian student planning to study abroad.

Things to know about TOEFL for Indian students

TOEFL fee: $ 180 or INR 11,708 approx (as on 02 April 2018)

Number of test centres in India: 45 (Find your centre here)

Test dates: 307 test dates for Indian students in 2018

Number of attempts: 1 every 12 days

Validity of TOEFL score: 2 years

Announcement of results: 15 days after taking the test

How to prepare for TOEFL?

Preparation for TOEFL should ideally be spread into the sections of the format viz reading, listening, speaking, and writing. Prepare for every form of test separately and you stand a chance to fare better.


The reading test requires you to read passages and answer questions relevant to them. Non-technical English is used for all the reading section tests, therefore, keep in mind to steer clear off technical subjects during practice. The more you read, the more you will get in the comfort zone to write your test. Here are a few tips to follow:

  • Always keep your notepad and writing kit handy when you are doing practice sessions
  • While reading, avoid the tendency to finish the entire passage at once. Read slowly and take notes as you read. It is easier to take notes when you read rather than trying to recall everything at the end, for e.g. What is the main story in the passage, who are the characters, what is the location, what is the conflict etc.
  • Try mapping the questions with your answers at the end to gauge your accuracy
  • Read online newspapers, since you would be appearing for iBT, it is advisable to practice reading online. Trust me, there is a big difference between reading online and reading a newspaper.
  • Underline new words and keep a dictionary handy. This will impeccably improve your vocabulary and turn out to be useful when you sit for the actual test.


The listening section tests your ability to comprehend conversations. You will come across monologue and dialogue and you are expected to decipher the context. Here are a few tips to follow:

  • Listen carefully and do not weave thoughts in your mind or else you will lose track of the context
  • Focus on tone and modulation, pauses and expressions
  • Travel with the voice
  • Practice listening to podcasts and audiobooks. This material is easily available on the internet; look for English comprehension podcasts or vocabulary improving podcasts.
  • As above, keep a notebook and writing kit handy and take notes during the session
  • Watch English news, movies, documentaries and talk-shows


This is where it gets a little nervous but if you are already using tools like Siri, Google Assitant or Cortana, this will feel like a cakewalk. Here, you are expected to converse with a computer and the level of communication is earmarked. Here are a few tips to follow:

  • Start thinking in English. The key to spoken English that I have learned is to think in English. If you think in English and practice it more often, you slowly develop a lot of confidence to speak with fewer errors.
  • If you are uncomfortable to talk to someone else, start by talking to plants, pets and the mirror. This will help you develop confidence when you are required to speak.
  • Practice a lot with virtual assistants like Siri, Cortana, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant
  • Slowly, start interacting in English with your family members, friends


The writing section requires you to write long-form essays. Here are a few tips to follow:

  • Practice writing every day
  • Choose a subject and write on it in a certain timeframe. This will give you the know-how to improve your speed, thinking, and writing
  • Set a timer and write on anything that captures your interest
  • Read essays available online and give your take on the same. Compare both when you are done.

More useful tips

Apart from the above, there are a lot of other things you can do to prepare for TOEFL:

  • Download the TOEFL Go official app and practice anytime, anywhere. Here is the link to download the app.
  • Scour through the archives on TOEFL talks, the free webinars available on official TOEFL website
  • Refer to MOOCs, there are thousands of online courses to help you with your preparation
  • Take timed tests. Now that you know that format of the test, start taking timed tests to get acclimatized to the environment of the actual test. It will also help you build speed and accuracy.
  • Take previous years TOEFL papers. It is often more useful than taking other sample tests.

We hope this post helps you prepare for your TOEFL and you achieve great success in your education and career ahead. For more such information, you can register with us to get weekly email alerts on important blogs and scholarships. Till then, take the test.