How to Study for TOEFL

Article Summary: The best way to study for the TOEFL exam is to learn to speak English rather than to memorize all its grammar rules.

TOEFL is the acronym for Testing of English as a Foreign Language. It is the language torture chamber for international students wanting to enter U.S. colleges and universities.

There are no official records of the number of university students taking the TOEFL exam each year. However, the number would be in the millions. Each student pays as much as $250 to register for it. Then they buy books and CDs to help them learn all the grammar rules and exam tips in order to pass.

Most students spend months studying diligently for it.

I once spent several hours in a public library reviewing study guides for the TOEFL. Of course, after I read the introduction for each section, I had no difficulty answering the multiple choice questions.

I would have had no difficulty in getting an almost perfect TOEFL score.

There were a number of other people in the library at the same time. I think if I had asked some of them to answer a few of the example questions, they could have done so just as easily as I did.

Why would each of them have been able to answer the multiple choice questions correctly? By doing the same thing I did. They would have selected the choice which sounded best to them.

Few of them would have known what a gerund was, or could have explained causative verbs, or the progressive form of the present tense, or told me what an adverbial clause was. Many of them may have had difficulty explaining something as simple as subject agreement. Yet, all of them could have selected the correct answer when these points of grammar were given as examples. They would have selected the multiple choice answers which sounded right because we have an intuitive sense about our mother tongue even when we don’t know the grammatical terms and rules.

What do I mean by a sentence sounding right? As humans we have the ability to think in real language without using our voice. We can have a conversation in our mind as though the words have real sound. Our mind is reacting to this virtual sound, not to grammar rules.

There is a difficult way to pass the TOEFL, and there is also a simple way. If you can speak English, you can do it like I did in the library. You would select the correct multiple choice answer which sounded right in your mind. If you cannot speak English, then you would need to do an immense amount of study so that you could select the correct multiple choice answer which would follow a particular grammar rule.

I am not suggesting that you discontinue your study of grammar before taking your TOEFL exam, but I am suggesting that learning to speak English will help you the most as you prepare to take the TOEFL exam. (See “I raised my TOEFL score from 60 / 70 to 121 / 115 in ten weeks.“)

Something has been turned upside-down in the study of English as a spoken language. Somewhere, someone decided that they needed to explain rules of grammar when they were teaching non-English speakers how to speak. So they stopped teaching English as a spoken language and began teaching English grammar instead.

Very quickly, for some unknown reason, it was decided that teaching grammar was more important than teaching students how to speak English.

Why does TOEFL spend so much time testing grammar, and so little time testing spoken English? See Grammar and writing in spoken language study.

Spoken English Learned Quickly will teach you how to speak English in half the time it will take you to speak English studying ESL in a U.S. college program. If you live outside of the United States where English is not regularly spoken, it will take you even longer to learn to speak English using ESL (EFL). Many students study English for two years and still cannot carry on a simple conversation in English. Spoken English Learned Quickly students can speak better in four months than many who have studied EFL for two years, and they can carry on a good conversation after only nine months of study.

Technical topics relating to spoken English study:

A technical comparison of Spoken English Learned Quickly and ESL

Grammar and writing in spoken language study

Can beginning and advanced students use the same lessons?

Socialization versus language instruction