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How to Improve Your TOEFL Score 

 January 28, 2022

By  Chuky Ofoegbu

The TOEFL is one of the most popular English language proficiency tests that enable people to study or immigrate to Western countries such as the United States, Australia, or Canada. 

The key to improving your TOEFL score is to leverage the right preparation strategies. Questions on the TOEFL exam always follow the same pattern.

Therefore, if you're familiar with the exam format and you follow the correct techniques, you can rest assured that your TOEFL score will increase. 

Here are some valuable and unique tips to help you prepare for the TOEFL effectively and improve your TOEFL scores. 

Identify Your English Proficiency before Taking the TOEFL

Be honest with yourself. If you have a basic understanding of the English language, the probability of scoring high on a TOEFL exam is very low.

There are numerous online English language level test calculators that can give you a rough idea of where your English level proficiency falls.

You should only register for the TOEFL exam when you have attained an intermediate or higher level of English language proficiency.

Identifying your English level before taking the exam makes you more confident and saves you time and money.  

A great way to improve your English proficiency is to read more English publications. These could be print media like books and newspaper articles or digital media like online journals or electronic magazines.

You should also find opportunities to practice speaking in English with fluent English speakers.

To improve your ability to understand spoken words, try to listen to English podcasts or watch English films without using subtitles. 

For your writing abilities, practice writing your thoughts frequently. 

Study with Quality TOEFL Prep Resources

Today, several publishers have issued TOEFL prep guides or online courses, most of which are not very effective at helping students improve their TOEFL scores.

So, before you purchase a TOEFL prep book or an online course, do your research to ensure that the resource is of the highest quality.

As a high quality TOEFL preparation resource can help you quickly learn the tips and tricks to improve your TOEFL scores.

If you're looking for the high quality TOEFL prep resources on the market, make sure to read out our in-depth review article on the best TOEFL preparation books and TOEFL preparation courses to see our recommendations.

To help you find the best TOEFL resources, we have purchased and spent weeks thoroughly reviewing several TOEFL prep resources.

Here on Sojourning Scholar, we go the extra-mile in giving our readers the best recommendations, as your academic success is our top priority.

Closely Examine the Questions and the Options Provided  

Students are often nervous when attempting their TOEFL exams. The chances of error increase when they are worried about the clock ticking. The most important thing is to calm yourself down and be confident.

With calm nerves, you're better able to comprehend each question clearly and answer it correctly.  

Another important thing is to read the question clearly and take your time to grasp the meaning. It's impossible to answer a question correctly if you do not fully understand it.

Often, the information is not directly mentioned. For instance, the question might ask you what the word referred to in the paragraph is, but its meaning may not be instantly apparent from the paragraph. 

Here, you'll need to infer the meaning. Once you understand what you're being asked, make sure you read all the answer options and choose the most suitable one. 

Sometimes, an answer option might look correct at first glance but is the wrong one. So, be sure you read all the questions carefully and have double-checked before confirming the answer.   

Note Your Mistakes and Learn From Them

It is okay to make mistakes, but it is unacceptable to repeat them. Each time you practice the questions given on TOEFL prep books or in online courses, make sure you take note of any mistakes you make. 

In addition, you should not only review the questions you get wrong, but you should also review other questions similar to the types of questions you get wrong. Doing this will allow you to easily spot your weak and strong areas.

For example, questions on the reading section of the TOEFL iBT fall into 10 categories. These reading question types include: factual information, negative factual information, inference, rhetorical, vocabulary, reference, sentence simplification, insert text, prose summary and fill in a table.

So, if you find yourself consistently getting vocabulary questions wrong, then your best strategy moving forwards will be to improve your understanding of vocabulary in context. 

Take Full-length Practice Tests and Get Feedback

Many TOEFL prep resources such as books and courses include full-length TOEFL iBT practice tests. 

The most effective way of taking a TOEFL practice test is by taking an on-screen practice test on a computer. You can find on-screen practice tests in any of the top TOEFL prep books such as the Barron's TOEFL iBTOfficial Guide to the TOEFL iBT by ETS, and TOEFL iBT Prep Plus by Kaplan

It's also important that when you take a full-length practice test, you should do so in one sitting. This is best done by taking the practice test in an environment where you will be free from distraction.

This will allow you to prepare for the TOEFL in  the same environment that you will find on your test day.

At the end of each practice test, you should closely track your performance across all sections of the TOEFL.

It's also best to seek help from someone who's fluent in English when evaluating your performance on the Speaking and Writing section.

Several online TOEFL prep courses offer speaking and writing reviews that can help you assess your performance and guide you where needed. 

Section Specific Tips To Improve Your TOEFL Score

Here are some additional tips you can use to enhance your reading, writing, listening, and speaking to improve your TOEFL scores. 

How to Improve Your TOEFL Score on the Reading Section

  • Read English books, novels, newspapers, etc., as much and as often as you can 
  • Read texts on a variety of topics, whether they are academic or non-academic 
  • Learn how to understand the text by reading it in one go since there will be a very limited time to re-read the entire passage

How to Improve Your TOEFL Score on the Listening Section

  • Listen closely to the passages for the main gist and avoid writing everything you hear
  • Listen to the questions carefully and note down the important terms
  • Avoid answers that present information that was not mentioned in the passage
  • Listen to content in English every day, such as podcasts, Ted Talks, and documentaries.

How to Improve Your TOEFL Score on the Speaking Section

  • Practice the free questions available online
  • Read a story or just a paragraph. Summarize the text in your own words and read it aloud
  • Record yourself speaking in English or practice in front of the mirror 
  • Find and connect with English speaking partners on social media platforms who might be interested in learning about your culture or country in exchange for you practicing your English

How to Improve Your TOEFL Score on the Writing Section

  • Do extensive typing practice on a QWERTY (standard) keyboard
  • Practice writing or typing a blog or diary in English every day
  • Don't depend on the spell-check of your word program while practicing typing 

Bottom-line

The TOEFL is not an easy exam for most test-takers, as it requires good skills in reading, listening, speaking, and writing English in an academic setting.

Following the tips in this blog should set you on the right path to improving your TOEFL scores. 

For help finding and purchasing the TOEFL online course that best suits your needs, check out our thorough review of the best TOEFL preparation courses on the market. 

Good luck with your TOEFL preparation!

Chuky Ofoegbu


With almost a decade of experience pursuing higher education in the United States, I fully understand the pain points foreign students endure. I created this website to help foreign students successfully navigate their way through the challenges they will face while living in the United States.

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