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Often TOEFLers ask me, “Michael, how long will it take me to pass the TOEFL iBT?” Of course, there is no way for me to answer this question, for there are many variables affecting the duration of time a TOEFLer will have to study before reaching his/her targeted score.
1) What is your current TOEFL iBT score and how far do you need to go?
This is the first variable that you must consider when you think about how much time will it take to pass the TOEFL iBT. If you have not taken the TOEFL iBT yet, you should consider taking a practice test so that you get a benchmark of your current academic English proficiency. Then, you should determine what score you need by contacting the admissions office of the university you wish to attend and ask them what their required TOEFL iBT score is for incoming undergraduate and graduate students. For example, if your current TOEFL score is 49/120 and if you need a score of 100/120, you will probably need to improve your English proficiency over a period of a year or so before you are ready to get a score of 100/120.
2) What is your first language and how similar is it to English?
There is sufficient research to suggest that, if the first language of the TOEFLer comes from the Indo-European language family, he/she will have an easier time learning English. However, if the first language of the TOEFLer is a language from Asia or the Middle East or another language that is NOT from the Indo-European language family, the TOEFLer may have to study English a bit longer since the pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar will be vastly different from those of English.
3) What is your innate intelligence, especially in regards to language learning?
Some people seem to have a predisposition toward learning a second language, and some do not. If you are born with a “special talent” toward learning a second language, you may be able to pass the TOEFL iBT sooner than those TOEFLers who are not genetically inclined to learning a second language.
4) In which environment are you studying English?
Are are studying English in an English speaking environment or are you studying English as a foreign language in a non-English speaking environment? Some research suggests that you may be able to pass the TOEFL iBT sooner if you do the total immersion method of language study. That means you speak English all day with native speakers, you read English newspapers, and listen to radio and television programs in English. At first, this may be a painful way to learn a new language for many, but it may be a faster way to get a high TOEFL iBT score.
5) How well do you manage your time and how hard are you willing to work?
Do you manage your time or does your time manage you? If you multi-task and have an effective plan in your TOEFL study targeting your academic English weaknesses, you will be able to pass the TOEFL iBT a lot sooner than those who are poor managers of time and who do not have an effective study plan. For example, many TOEFLers study TOEFL vocabulary by uploading audio files to their portable musical devices and study the words when exercising, driving, or working. Studying TOEFL vocabulary while doing another activity is called muti-tasking.
In addition to your time management skills and having an effective study plan, you should also take into consideration how hard you are willing to work before passing the TOEFL iBT. But it is not just working harder but working smarter. For example, if you work hard at studying the right information, you will be able to pass the TOEFL iBT a lot sooner than those TOEFLers who do no work hard and study the wrong information. A general consensus among scholars of linguistics is that regular and consistent language study may be better than irregular and inconsistent language study.
Therefore, cramming right before you take a TOEFL iBT is NOT the best way to learn academic English. Conversely, setting 2-3 hours of TOEFL iBT language study a day over a period of time may be a better way to learn English. So, if you are going to study English 8 hours a week, it is better to study 1-2 hours a day all week long than to study English 8 hours on a Saturday.
In conclusion, as you can see, a number of factors will determine how long you will have to study before passing the TOEFL iBT. One thing for sure, though. If you want it bad enough like a lot of the TOEFLers that visit Better TOEFL Scores, you will do whatever it takes to get your desired score.
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