Improve your TOEFL score

Do you want to improve your TOEFL score?  Have you recently taken the TOEFL exam? Are you unhappy with the overall score or subtotal scores that you received?  To improve your TOEFL score, you will need to analyze your TOEFL score report. You will need to choose a TOEFL course based on your goals. You should complete the lessons for the recommended period of time.  Lastly, you should complete a full-length TOEFL iBT practice test to measure your progress.

Improve your TOEFL score
Improve your TOEFL score

Improve your TOEFL Score: Analyze your score report.

Educational Testing Service will send you a score report after you take the TOEFL.  This report will contain a complete diagnosis of your reading, listening, speaking, and writing strengths and weaknesses. Highlight the areas in yellow in which you need to make improvements. For instance, I looked at one of my Online TOEFL Course students score report last month.  As I looked at the speaking section competency descriptors, I noticed the student had difficulty with language-use and delivery on the independent tasks.  Furthermore, the student also hadproblems with incompleteness or inaccuracy of content with integrated tasks 4 and 6.  Therefore, based on this information, the student needed to do the following:

  • Use more complex type grammar structures such as noun clauses, adjective clauses, and adverb clauses during the independent speaking tasks.
  • Improve intonation, pacing, and pronunciation of vowel and consonant sounds during independent speaking tasks.
  • Develop a more effective system of taking notes, especially on academic listening passages.
  • Learn how to more accurately paraphrase important main points and details from reading and listening passages.

Like this student, you can figure out what your problem areas are. However, you may not know exactly how to fix those problems.  Of course, TOEFL mentors like me have analyzed 100’s of score reports so we can help you in your analysis. 

Improve your TOEFL Score: Choose a TOEFL course.

To improve your TOEFL score, you need to choose a course that will give you the practice you need for a specific period of time.  As a general rule, you can expect to improve your overall TOEFL score 5-10 points for each month that you study.  Therefore, if your current TOEFL score is 80 and you want to score 100, you can expect to spend  2-4 four months of practice.  In addition, scoring around 100 puts you into the 80 percentile rank, which means only 20% of all test-takers score this high. As a result, you  really need to put in an extra effort to break the 100 barrier. Keep in mind a few important tips as you choose your TOEFL course:

Only choose the TOEFL Speaking Boot Camp course if you have met all your required subtotal scores in the reading, listening, and writing sections. Tell your speaking mentor if you need 26/30 points.  Achieving this score puts you into the 88% percentile. This means only 12% of the 1000’s of students who take the TOEFL annually ever reach this score.  Do not underestimate how hard you will need to practice to score 26.  Reaching this goal could be the most difficult thing you have ever had to do.  You should keep a speaking journal so that you can write down the delivery, language-use, and topic development issues that you are having.  In your journal, look for recurring problems in your speaking practice tests and try to eliminate them as you send more practice tests to be scored. After each speaking practice test, your mentor will tell you what changes need to be made in your speaking so that you can score 4.0/4.0 or 30/30 points.

Only choose the TOEFL Writing Boot Camp course if you have met all your required subtotal scores in the reading, listening, and speaking sections.  

Improve your TOEFL Score:  Complete the lessons.

Once you have chosen your course, you need to begin your academic English language study.  Make sure that you schedule time on your calendar for your TOEFL preparation studies.

Follow the lessons in your course outline so that you get balanced practice among all the important skill areas: vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, listening, reading, writing, and speaking areas.

The course you choose is a self-study course. However, you need to send your pronunciation, speaking, and writing practice to your TOEFL speaking and writing mentors Your TOEFL mentors ill provide audio and written feedback on these practice tests at no additional cost so that you can monitor your progress. You must study the recommended lessons from your TOEFL mentor. Make an effort to send your mentor speaking and writing practice several times a week. 

Your TOEFL writing mentor has graded almost 100,000 pages of college writing since 1997, so he will be able to diagnose your writing issues.  After you submit your two essays for error correction, learn as much as you can about what changes the mentor had to make in your writing and why. The writing mentor will completely re-write your essay so you can see what changes need to be made in your writing so that you can score 30/30 points. Your writing mentor will recommend specific lessons that you need to study in order to improve your writing. Make every effort to study and master the content in those recommended lessons.  Do NOT get discouraged with the feedback and comments you get. Continue to send more practice tests to your writing mentor.  You will improve over time.  One of my students last year, for instance, improved his writing subtotal score from 21 to 29 in 2.5 months. He had to complete more than 35  writing practice tests during that time to get that result. I cannot guarantee these same results with you.

Do not forget to study the vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar lessons in your course. Studying these lessons will help you to improve your subtotal scores in the reading, listening, speaking, and writing sections. 

Improve your TOEFL Score: Take a full-length TOEFL iBT practice test

After you complete the lessons in your course, you should have a good idea how you are doing. For example, you will have been getting scores from 0-30 on both your writing and speaking practice tests.  If you have achieved a reading speed of 300 words per minute, you know you are ready to tackle the reading section. In addition, if you are scoring 80% or higher on listening practice tests, you should feel confident with your listening comprehension skills.

However, taking a practice here and another there is not the same as taking a full-length four hour practice test. It takes a lot of concentration to think in English for more than four hours. Therefore, you should register to take a full-length four hour TOEFL practice test. I have a partner web site that offers these realistic practice tests for about $45. Moreover, the developer has speaking and writing specialists who will accurately score those tasks.  After this practice test, you will have a good idea of what your overall TOEFL score  and subtotals scores are.  If your practice test score is equal to or more than your target TOEFL score, then register to take the official TOEFL exam.

If your practice test score is lower, email me. Together, we will look at your current practice test score and your subtotal scores. After we will come up with a revised TOEFL study plan to help you work on your weak points.  Hang in there! You will reach your target score if you stay the course. It is just a matter of time. 

Good luck! 

Michael Buckhoff,

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