TOEFL® - Test Taking Strategies

Use Good Test-Taking Strategies

Once test takers have built their skills and practiced for the test, they are ready to take the test. Here are some good test-taking strategies recommended by ETS.

  • Carefully follow the directions in each section to avoid wasting time.
  • Click Help to review the directions only when absolutely necessary because the test clock will not stop when the Help function is being used.
  • Do not panic. Concentrate on the current question only, and do not think about how you answered other questions. This is a habit that can be learned through practice.
  • Avoid spending too much time on any one question. If you have given the question some thought and you still don´t know the answer to a question, eliminate as many answer choices as possible and then select the best choice. You can review your responses in the Reading section by clicking View. However, it is best to do this only after all the questions have been answered so you can stay focused and save time.
  • Pace yourself so you have enough time to answer every question. Be aware of the time limit for each section and task and budget enough time for each question/task so you do not have to rush at the end. You can hide the time clock if you wish, but it is a good idea to check the clock periodically to monitor progress. The clock will automatically alert you when five minutes remain in the Listening and Reading sections, as well as the independent and integrated tasks in the Writing section.

Advice for Listening

Skill: Understanding Text Structure and Speaker Intention

Performance Level: Intermediate

Score Range: 14–21


These are suggestions for techniques to use while listening, to better understand what you hear.


These are suggestions for things you can do to improve your listening ability.


Visit academic classes in English and record the lectures or presentations. Listen to short sections several times, until you understand the main points and the flow of ideas.

Listen for the structure

lecture or presentation, narrative or story—beginning, middle, and end. Pay attention to intonation and other ways the speaker indicates that information is important.

  • repetition of key words and phrases
  • paraphrase (repeating information but using different words)
  • pronunciation of key words more clearly and loudly
  • Pay attention to expressions and vocabulary that may indicate the type of information being given:

    • opinion (I think, It appears that, It is thought that)
    • theory (In theory)
    • inference (therefore, then)
    • negatives (not, words that begin with "un," "non," "dis," "a")
    • fillers (non-essential information) (uh, er, um)
    • Identify digressions (discussion of a different topic from the main topic) or jokes that are not important to the main lecture. [It's okay not to understand these!]


  • Visit academic classes in English and record the lectures or presentations. Take notes on the lecture or talk and then write a summary or outline of the talk.
  • Watch soap operas or situation comedies on television.
  • Listen for emotions, often expressed through changes in intonation or stress.
  • Pay attention to facial expressions or word choices that show excitement, anger, happiness, or frustration.
  • Pay special attention to body language and intonation patterns used to express different emotions.
  • Do this with a friend and talk about the program together.
  • Keep a listening log.
  • Write down new expressions, idioms, and vocabulary that you hear.
  • Make lists of vocabulary used to indicate fact versus opinion, knowledge versus theory.