I’ve recently received my scores from ETS and wanted to share my study process with you! From getting questions wrong, studying reviews, and nervously checking the timer during my speaking section, this is my 7-day TOEFL study journey. Here’s how my speaking score went from 24 → 28 in 7 days.
[This is an older blog post. Some information may contain outdated information from TestGlider’s older version. This blog post mentions our old name, TOEFLBANK. Please note that some information included here may no longer be available on TestGlider.]
This post will be different from the previous tips & tricks blog posts.
Starting today, I will record my 7-day study plan for the TOEFL, and whether I can reach a goal of 110+ by JUST using TOEFLBANK.
I’m going to be honest — With only 6 more days to study, I don’t want to spend time or spend a lot of time looking for the right study material.
To study for the TOEFL iBT, here are 3 things I know about my TOEFL skills:
- I am already fluent in English
- I know the different types of TOEFL questions (check out the TOEFLBANK blog)
- I need to work on my 15-second TOEFL Speaking preparation
My goal is to at least boost my score by 6 points!
Since I already know how to read, listen to, speak, and write in English fluently, I want to see how much I can improve by learning the test structure.
Stick around until the end to find out how my TOEFLBANK grade compares to my Official TOEFL iBT Home Edition results.
This post will show you how I studied for the TOEFL, how to use TOEFLBANK if you’re new here, and where TOEFLBANK can use some improvements compared to the official test.
Let’s get to how I timed my speaking scores for perfect answers & studied review notes for templates (check out my official score at the end).
Day 1: TestGlider Full Test Practice
I took my first full practice test at TestGlider. I got a 104.
The analysis combines a lot of information from your Full Test results: score, target goal, test D-day countdown, and the average score per section from the test data.
If you scroll down, there’s even more information about your scores based on question types of each TOEFL section — but that’s for later.
First things first! We’re here to take the TOEFL iBT Home Edition.
Today is March 9th, 2021, and here is my receipt for the real TOEFL Home Edition.
The date is set. I have a TOEFL iBT Home Edition to take on Tuesday.
By taking the TOEFL, I hope I can come back with better advice, high-quality information, and insider knowledge to share with you all.
Then after taking the TOEFL, I’ll write down what I thought about the studying process — Things that helped me during the test, and things that didn’t.
All right, here we go. TOEFL in 7 days just using TOEFLBANK. Let’s see if I can make it to 110+.
Day 2: TOEFL Study Log
Turns out, I make a lot of small mistakes — Here is my study log.
Instead of keeping track of all different sections, question types, and correct and incorrect answer choices, the “Review” page keeps track of it for you.
If this was a textbook, I would have to flip through several pages, passages, and answer keys to figure out which ones I got wrong.
Instead, you can see exactly which questions you missed on this one page. Plus, the review page shows each answer choice highlighted and analyzed in the passage.
It looks like I’ll have to brush up on all the different types of Reading Section questions.
The types of Reading Q’s I got wrong are:
- Sentence Simplification
Now I know I don’t have to waste my time trying to study the 7 other types of Reading Questions
I practiced up to 10 questions a day, then reviewed the question types, then tried the same question types from different passages again.
Becoming familiar with the questions, answer choices, and passages gave me the motivation to keep studying.
Day 3: TOEFL Speaking
The next day, I moved on to my weakest section: Speaking.
If you’ve watched the YouTube video of me taking an entire Full Test, you know how I feel about the Speaking Section.
I didn’t know what to say in 15 seconds, and I wasn’t sure how to organize my thoughts or wrap them up at the right time.
To put it simply, it was a mess.
After licking my wounds, here are 3 ways that I prepared for the TOEFL Speaking Section:
1. Practice Speaking out Loud
One of the things that caught me off guard was having to hear my own voice.
I tend to overthink a lot, so my speaking is often too fast with lots of unnecessary words.
For the TOEFL, I realized I couldn’t speak like I normally do.
I checked out an older blog post on TOEFLBANK, written by Geun, to help me pace and structure my speaking.
2. Review your words
While at first I was planning on recording my own voice and writing my spoken answer down,
I realized that the Speech-to-Text section writes down your answer for you!
Here’s my speaking practice:
That saved me so much time helping me review what I actually said
In this answer, although the grammatical mistakes didn’t cost me points, (ETS won’t penalize you over small speaking mistakes) it’s still a good idea to clean up my conjunctions (and, or, but) and keep my phrases clean & consistent.
3. One Question at a Time
Instead of tackling BOTH independent and integrated speaking questions at once,
I practiced one speaking question at a time.
I realized I can only try to improve one type of speaking answer at a time, so I separated them — Independent first, then Integrated second.
I started practicing speaking about my own opinions for the independent question, then moved on to the integrated one once I felt certain I could give a solid independent speaking answer.
With the tips from this Speaking Guide in mind, I felt better about having to speak in 45 seconds!
Day 4: TOEFL Study Tip
On day 4, I made a technique to make better responses faster.
I tried “Word Bubbles” as a way to visualize a list of related words and synonyms.
(I use thesauraus.com a lot to find other words I can use in a certain context.)
Here’s an example sentence to show you why using synonyms in your TOEFL speaking and writing answers is important:
“I acquired a basket so I can acquire flowers. To acquire flowers, I had to first acquire—”
In the sentence above, the word “acquire” is overused, which makes for a terrible speaking answer.
Repeating the same word can bring your TOEFL Speaking and Writing scores down! ⬇
You wouldn’t want to speak like a broken robot repeating itself either.
But it’s unrealistic for me to think up a whole list of synonyms in 15 seconds!
So, a word bubble helps me think of different ways to phrase my opinions, statements, and reasoning in time.
If I know I’m trying to say “acquire,” but need another word instead, I think of a word bubble and try to pop them in order: Find → go and get → get my hands on → bring.
Having 3 or so alternate words to depend on is better than none! Here’s what it looks like:
Try mixing in one synonym at a time into your speaking answer practice, but make sure to use different words like you would in a natural conversation.
Here’s a better version of the example sentence: “I found a basket so I can pick some flowers. To get the basket, I had to first get my hands on…”
So, the word “acquire” can be replaced with words and phrases like: “to get,” “get my hands on,” “find,” and “fetch.”
It sounds so much better.
A word bubble can help you get past those “Ummm”s and “Uhhh”s and help your speaking answers flow!
I suggest trying out word bubbles for common TOEFL words like “mentions,” “argues,” “examples,” and more. For example, the simple phrase “I agree” can also be expressed as “Yes, this is a good idea,” or “This idea seems valid.”
If you don’t know where to start looking for related words and common synonyms, start with the next section on TOEFL Vocab!
Day 5 and 6: TOEFL Vocab
I studied vocab, phrases, and Speaking Feedback using the TestGlider social media channels.
For vocab and phrases, I looked at Instagram and Facebook.
Studying vocabulary words can be a lot easier if you can remember images related to those words.
TOEFL Test D-Day
It’s finally my test day!
I checked in okay BUT… I couldn’t connect to my proctor.
Long story short, I used a Mac laptop, and the new Mac security update apparently does not work with ProctorU’s chat application.
⌚ 3+ hours with ProctorU and ETS’s live chat support later, I requested a reschedule and got a free reschedule confirmation 10 days later.
I did the most logical thing I could — I scheduled it for the earliest day available again and borrowed a Windows computer this time.
So! Here we are..7 MORE days to prepare for the TOEFL.
Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the daily study log.
Instead, I’ve brought some tips, tricks, advice, and the best TOEFL templates that I gathered from the next part of my TOEFL journey.
Day 8-14: Actual Exam Practice… Again!
This week, I felt more prepared by taking another Full Test.
I thought it would be simple, but the passage was really nuanced — it took me a while to get through (and usually I breeze through the Reading section within 25 minutes.)
In the Review page, I could find exactly what I did wrong and how to fix it for the next question of the same type.
Do you think you can get this question right? (Try out a Section Test for Reading)
I loved being able to see the question, answer choices, passage, and the explanation for the correct answer all on one page.
With a practice test, I brought both my reading and listening scores to 28 — another day getting closer to a perfect 30 .
TOEFL Tips & Tricks
Now that we’re well into the second week of TOEFL studies, here are the final tried-and-true tips & tricks for all TOEFL Sections:
To save time, go ahead and read the question BEFORE you get to the passage.
If you try to read the entire passage first, you will run out of time!
Even though the Reading Section is the longest section,
you actually only have about 1.8 minutes to answer 1 question.
Reading Section Timing
So it’s helpful to know what kind of answer you’re looking for in the passage.
The best example of reading the question first is questions that start with “According to paragraph 5…”
It’s much easier to focus on just paragraph 5 for now, move on to the next question, and then review your answers with the time you’ve saved up at the end.
Listening Section Timing
It’s easy to get lost in the flow of a conversation in the Listening Section, and before you know it you have to answer back-to-back questions within the next 9-or-so minutes.
The biggest waste of your time is writing down the long words! Save time by using acronyms — the first letters — for your notes.
For example, if the students are discussing a major change in the Business Department, you can always just write “B.D.” and move on to the next point.
Identifying the long terms and turning them into short, memorable acronyms can save you a LOT of time during the note-taking part.
️ Speaking Section Timing
The best way to stay within the time limit and deliver a clear, cohesive answer in the Speaking Section is to state your reasoning in order. During your preparation time, jot down 2 reasons why you chose your answer.
For integrated questions, jot down 2 important examples from the audio. Then, keep your reasoning in that order using transitions like “First,” “Second,” and “Third.” This will help you speak in complete sentences and develop a short conclusion before the timer runs out.
Writing Section Timing
Before you start the Writing Section, go ahead and write down your 2-3 main reasons to support each paragraph. Build your writing answer on those major points, and you’ll make sure you never go off-topic. Avoid losing a bunch of points for going on a random tangent about your personal thoughts during both the writing tasks!
All in all, don’t let the timer control you on your test day. You can’t stop time, but you can choose your pace.
Here’s the breakdown of the time limit per question through the whole test:
Pace your sections, practice on your slowest sections, and improve your timing with the tips & tricks we’ve covered so far.
Each day, you’ll see a slight improvement in your pace. It might be just 3 seconds’ improvement, but you’ll feel more prepared to take on the TOEFL day by day.
After the Test: My TOEFL iBT Home Edition Score Result!
After all that, I received my TOEFL iBT Home Edition score
I’m happy it was 110+ just as I’d hoped, BUT I wish I could’ve studied Listening a bit more!
So that wraps up my 2-week TOEFL iBT Home Edition journey.
I hope this advice can help you boost your scores to the score you need.
If you’re ready to take the TOEFL Home Edition and want to know more about the check-in process, head over to the other parts of the TestGlider TOEFL iBT Home Edition Guide.
After finishing the TOEFL, the world awaits you!
Leave your stories in the comments below — A new TOEFL test-taker might need your tips and tricks too.
Thanks for coming along on my 7-day TOEFL study journey. And as always,
Good luck with your studies!