“If your TOEFL score is 51”

If your TOEFL score is 51, you are ranked at 9% compared to other test-takers. In other words, 91% of test-takers scored higher than that. In addition, since the minimum requirement for undergraduate study at many English-speaking universities is 61, you are not likely to be admitted.  Therefore, what do you do if your TOEFL score is 51?  This web page will tell you everything you need to know so that you can improve your TOEFL score.  Your English improvement will not happen overnight. Therefore, be patient. Follow the strategies on this web page so that you can make the improvements that you need to significantly improve. I have been teaching TOEFL preparation, as you can  see here,  for more than 25 years, so I know exactly what you need to do to improve.

If your TOEFL score is 51

Like the quotes says, look at your low score as an opportunity to make long-lasting improvements in your academic English proficiency. It will not be easy. You will be frustrated at times, but with practice and your motivation to succeed, you will be able to improve!

If your TOEFL score is 51, set a target TOEFL score and subtotal scores.

If your TOEFL score is 51
Act upon your TOEFL goals!

Do some research to find out what TOEFL score you need.  Before you begin all of this arduous English practice for months and months and months, you need to have a target TOEFL score. In addition, you need to have a reason for why you want a certain TOEFL score. Without the motivation and without having a specific TOEFL target score in mind, you will not be willing to do all of this intense practice and study. Here are some questions to help you determine how serious and committed you are:

What target score do you need? What specific subtotal scores do you need in the reading, listening, speaking, and writing sections? If your goal is to score 100+, you should set smaller goals and work on achieving those smaller goals first. To illustrate, because your score right now is 51, your first goal is to reach 61. Then, you should strive to reach 81. Finally, you can reasonably set a goal of reaching 100. Reaching these smaller milestones will be psychologically rewarding. However, if you only set a goal of 100, you will soon frustrate yourself because every official TOEFL exam or practice test that you take will seem like a failure to you even though in reality you are making steady progress toward your goal.

Why do you need this target score?  Is it for a job or some vocational program? Why do you want this job? Why do you want to get this professional training?  Are you really, really, really motivated toward this aim?  If you are not truly motivated to achieve this goal, you will not successfully complete your TOEFL journey.

Kind of like pieces to your favorite pie,  three important ingredients will help you reach your target TOEFL score: motivation, practice, and time. To illustrate, if you are not motivated, you will not be willing to practice your English for the extended period of time necessary to make the improvements you need to reach your target TOEFL score.

If your TOEFL score is 51, stop studying TOEFL; start improving your general English.

Focus on improving your general English right now.

Forget your TOEFL study right now because your score of 51 is so low. Instead, you should be improving your general English in 7 important areas: vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, listening, reading, writing, and speaking. Spend 3-4 hours every day for the next three months improving your language use in these 7 important areas.

Vocabulary Ideas

Without adequate vocabulary, you have no foundation whatsoever for scoring high on the TOEFL exam. Therefore, you need to expand your range of both basic and college level words.  Spend 100’s of hours at my TOEFL Vocabulary Resources web page so that you can  begin compiling note-cards to help you master these words. You can create your own note-card system in about 57 hours. Get all 1,700 of your notecards prepared so that you can begin studying from them every day.

Pronunciation Tips

You MUST improve your pronunciation if you want to improve your speaking fluency.  Here is how you do it:

  • You Tube:  Listen to songs and practice tracking the music; in other words, try to sing with the singer using similar intonation, pacing, and vowel and consonant sounds.
  • You Tube:  Type in “read along books for adults with lyrics.”  Find videos in which you can read the book out loud with a narrator. Try to read with the narrator at the same speed with similar pronunciation, intonation, word stress, and blending.
  • Also, type in “English pronunciation practice” and practice pronouncing the sounds in the videos with the teachers.
  • Watch 3-5 full-length movies weekly. During the movie, pay attention to how the actors talk to each other; practice imitating the sounds.

In addition to these tips, you should frequent my TOEFL Pronunciation Resources web page:

  • Make a point to practice out loud the sounds and pronunciation patterns.
  • Learn why pronunciation is important to your TOEFL speaking score.
  • Get tips and tricks on how to improve your pronunciation.

Grammar Suggestions

Having accurate control of both your basic and advanced grammar helps you perform optimally during the speaking and writing sections. In addition, understanding grammatical structures helps you to understand reading and listening passages.  As a result, take time to meaningfully improve your knowledge and use both basic and advanced grammar.

First of all, you need to find out what you are least familiar with. As result, take this grammar diagnostic test to figure out which areas of English grammar you should focus on the most.

Second of all, after the grammar diagnostic test, you should spend time studying the grammar structures you are least familiar with.  During your study, practice writing down the sample sentences and phrases that you are learning.

Finally, use my TOEFL Grammar Resources web page, which has several benefits:

  • Extensive practice with prepositional phrases
  • Punctuation instruction to help you avoid sentence structure problems such as comma splices
  • Examples of syntactic variety to help you improve your sentence structure during the TOEFL speaking and writing tasks
  • Improved control of verb tenses

Listening Advice

Research suggests that high listening comprehension can help you to improve your speaking and writing more quickly.  Put another way, the more you can understand the input (listening + reading) that you are getting, the easier it will be to have meaningful output (speaking + writing).  Therefore, if your TOEFL score is 51, spend at least 45 minutes of your time daily listening to or watching history, news, documentary, and science programs.

Ted Talks:  Ted Talks is a great place to practice your listening.  Choose your topic and begin watching.  Avoid using the caption option. However, use it if you cannot understand anything without it.

National Public Radio: This web site has both reading and listening passages. Spend time listening to and reading news segments which you have an interest in.

You Tube:  Among countless other things, You Tube has all your favorite songs.  Type in “Songs with lyrics” and find one of your favorite songs in English. Without looking at the video, listen to the song and write down the words. Then when the songs finishes replay it to verify that you have copied all the correct words.

Lastly, use my TOEFL Listening Resources web page:

  • There you will learn about all the TOEFL iBT listening question types.
  • Moreover, you can take some listening practice tests to measure your comprehension.
  • In addition, you will learn additional tips and strategies of practice exercises that you can complete to improve your listening comprehension.

Reading Practice

Spend time reading three types of materials: books with multiple chapters, magazines, and newspapers. You should spend the most time reading books with multiple chapters. In fact, your goal is to read approximately 200 pages weekly.  As you read, think about how the chapter you are reading relates to the main point of the book. As you progress through the book, try to make connections between what you have read, what you are now reading, and what you will read. Making the kinds of connections with the information in the book will improve your critical thinking abilities.  Choose reading materials of which you have an interest.

In addition, if your TOEFL score is 51, take time to practice using my TOEFL Reading Resources web page:

  • Find out what your current reading speed is and how to improve it.
  • Familiarize yourself with the common TOEFL reading questions types and the strategies for answering them.
  • Take some reading tests to measure your comprehension.
  • Get useful, long-tips to improve your reading comprehension.

Writing Ideas

As you are completing your suggested reading and listening activities, take notes.  Your notes should focus on the most important main and support points of these passages.  Then use your notes to write a 250 word summary of a reading passage. Likewise, use your notes to write a 250 word summary of a listening passage. Writing these summaries simulates the TOEFL integrated writing task. In addition, writing these summaries with new vocabulary and grammar can expand your range.  Aim at writing 3-5 250 words summaries each week.

Furthermore, use my TOEFL Writing Resources web page so that

  • You can get different tips and tricks to improve your integrated and independent writing skills.
  • Complete a writing practice test and get free feedback from a qualified TOEFL writing mentor.
  • See 100 writing prompts updated for TOEFL 2019.
  • Read model responses.

Speaking Practice

In a similar manner, use your reading and listening notes to give 60-second oral summaries. This helps you practice your integrated speaking skills. In addition, you are expanding your vocabulary and grammar as you deliver 3-5 weekly responses. If one is available in your city, join a Toast Masters group, in which you can give presentations in front of a group.

As you practice your speaking, use my TOEFL Speaking Resources web page, which will

  • Show you success stories of students who reached their dream speaking scores.
  • Allow you to complete a free TOEFL speaking practice test and to get free feedback. from the most qualified TOEFL speaking mentor in the world.
  • Give you tips and tricks to score 26+.

If your TOEFL score is 51, practice your general English for at least three months.

When your TOEFL score is 51
Your MUST practice your English every day.

You should spend at least three months following these general English practicing strategies. Each day spend 3-4 hours improving your vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, listening, reading, speaking, and writing skills. At the end of your 3 months, you should find that you are much more comfortable using English that you were initially. In fact, you should be able to do the following with little or no difficulty:

General English Reading Competencies

  • Read at approximately 200 words per minute with 60%-80% comprehension.
  • Identify the main points and most important support points of passages in note form. Yes, you should be comfortable taking notes on reading passages.
  • Be comfortable reading for up to 45 minutes without stopping to check your cell phone or being distracted in some other way.

General English Listening Competencies

  • Listen to and take notes on Ted Talk and NPR passages. Your notes should capture the main idea and most important support points.
  • You should be able to watch an entire two hour movie in English without distractions. Even though you cannot understand everything you saw in the movie, you should be able to catch the most important parts.
  • Complete some of Randall’s Cyber Listening Lab quizzes that are difficult.  You should be able score between 60%-80% on these quizzes.

General English Speaking Competencies

  • Read a 100-150 word passage in about 60 seconds with appropriate pauses and changes in intonation.
  • You should be able to listen to a short listening or reading passage and explain it to someone else without misrepresenting or leaving out anything important.
  • Speak with a native or near-native speaker on a variety of topics without too much difficulty. The native speaker should not have too much trouble understanding you.

General English Writing Competencies

  • You should be comfortable expressing yourself in English. For example, you should be able to write about something related to your personal experience.
  • In particular, you should be able to accurately and completely re-explain listening and reading passages without too many grammar or word choice mistakes.

Take a full-length TOEFL iBT practice to see your current TOEFL level.

When your TOEFL score is 51
Take a full-length TOEFL four hour practice test to mark your improvement

After you spend 3 months improving your general English, you should take a full-length four hour TOEFL iBT practice test to find your level. You should have improved your TOEFL score to at least 70/120.

If your TOEFL score is 51, choose a TOEFL course for a specific duration.

Choose your TOEFL course.

Now that you have a new practice test score, you should choose a TOEFL course based on your current level. Generally, you should expect 5-10 points of improvement each month as you study the lessons in your course.  As a result, if you current practice test score is 70 and if you want to score 100, it will take you 3-6 months to reach your goal.  Choose your course plan right now.

If you are still unsure of which course plan works best for you, send me an e-mail (mbuckhoff@aol.com) with the following message:


My current overall score is___/120, and my reading, listening, speaking, and writing subtotal scores are ___30, ____30, ___30, and ___30.

However, I need an overall score of___/120, and my reading, listening, speaking, and writing subtotal scores should be ___30, ____30, ___30, and ___30.

Please recommend a specific study plan to help me reach my goals.


First Name

If your TOEFL score is 51, follow these tips on getting the most out of your course.

Helpful tips as you use your course.

Every course you choose is a self-study course, which means you will need to be motivated to study your lessons.  You MUST practice if you want to improve your TOEFL score. Schedule time each day to study the lessons in your course. Here are some guidelines as you follow your TOEFL study guide:

  • Make sure you create a note-card system to learn your vocabulary words.
  • Complete both pronunciation pre-tests and the post-test so that you can get feedback from your accent reduction coach.
  • Take the grammar pre-test so that you can see which areas you should focus on the most.
  • As you complete the 40 listening practice tests, your goal is to score 60% or higher consistently. In addition, take notes on the main and support points of each of the passages.
  • It will not be easy, but you should set a goal of increasing your reading speed to at least 300 words per minute with 60%-80% comprehension. Therefore,  complete each speed reading practice test with that goal in mind.
  • As you go through the writing lessons, complete 3-4 practice tests every week so that your TOEFL writing mentor can read, evaluate, and score them. This important feedback will help you to monitor your progress. In addition, the feedback you get will direct you to important lessons in your course that you will need to study/review in order to improve your writing score.
  • Finally, as you practice your speaking, send practice tests to your TOEFL speaking mentor. Your mentor will give you delivery, language use, and topic development feedback so that you can understand your strengths and weaknesses.  Send at least 3-4 practice tests to be scored every week.

If your TOEFL score is 51, take a full-length TOEFL iBT practice test to see if you are ready to re-take the TOEFL exam.

TOEFL practice test

Once you finish your TOEFL course for the recommended period, you should take one more full-length TOEFL iBT practice test to measure your progress.  If your overall score and subtotal score is equal to or more than your target score, register for the official TOEFL exam.

Discuss your results with your TOEFL mentor.

A TOEFL mentor can help you create a new study plan.If your practice test score or subtotal scores are lower than your target, email your TOEFL mentor at mbuckhoff@aol.com.

Michael Buckhoff, your TOEFL mentor, will be able to tailor your TOEFL study based on you most recent practice test score. A few minor adjustments will help you to focus on the areas of improvement that you need to reach your TOEFL target score.

Good luck!

Michael Buckhoff, mbuckhoff@aol.com


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