This is How I Prepared for TOEFL to Score 117

Raghuram Sukumar TOEFL 8 Comments

toefl experienceI gave my TOEFL exam on 17th November in Delhi. I prefer taking tests in morning  slot, so I gave it in the 10 AM.

The breakup is:

  • Reading-30
  • Listening-29
  • Speaking-28
  • Writing-30

I used the KAPLAN and BARRON TOEFL test prep CD’s.

I gave my GRE last year i.e. Nov 2012, got 317. Actually I scored pretty bad on the writing section in my GRE.

So I started some writing practice, gradually I improved a bit and started writing blog posts and stuff for college groups (it did help me).

I started preparing for TOEFL a week before the exam, I was a little scared as I had not touched my word lists in a long time, and most people I talked to or read about had started atleast 2 weeks in advance.

I did not prepare much, in all I must have done about 2 full tests. On my first day I did a few sectional tests of Barron’s, they are not really difficult, and do build your confidence. So I would recommend starting with that.

Then I moved on to Kaplan full length tests. I did a few sections of the first test ( there are 4 in total).

I then did 2 full length and in the last test too I did I guess only the listening section and maybe perhaps the writing one as well.

I scored somewhere between 80-90% in reading and listening.

I would recommend that you should start reading newspapers or books if you don’t read much. This is because in the reading section the passages might be pretty long, so you need to make sure that you don’t waste too much time reading them and also get a good idea of which passage contains what information, and what the overall idea is.

One should also try to answer questions like, what the passage is about? What is the author’s sentiment? What is the information given, and importantly which are the key points or events in the passage.

Listening Section

In the listening section, I already watch quite a lot of movies and am also dependent on video lectures for my studies.

I would recommend that you watch sitcoms like big bang theory, friends, and may be even a few academic lectures.

Try taking notes when watching academic lectures, also try to take notes without pausing the lecture or rewinding it. This would give you a close experience to how it is in TOEFL.
I would recommend that you not be lax like me, and actually get more practice. I only did the tests, and a writing task just the day before the exam. One should do more.

I also advise that you give as many full length tests as possible, because TOEFL can be quite tiring, long passages and long academic lectures can be a nasty surprise if not fully prepared.

Coming to the speaking section. In case of KAPLAN it records your response, so you can replay it and identify where you faltered.

Try sticking to the words used by the speakers, this eases the burden, and lessens the chance of making errors as you don’t have to think.

I used to make notes, and kinda just repeated them point-wise (ad-libbing was obviously there, as i couldn’t capture all).

Writing Section

In the writing section, you can read sample responses. In the integrated task,don’t make it too long.

Also it would be good if you type the essays and make sure that your typing is not too slow.

Quick typing gives you more time to think and review what you have written. In case of the independent writing task, express yourself clearly.

Quote examples that are relevant and not made up, it is also important that you remember to use punctuations correctly( this text i have written has a lot of mistakes, am kinda in a hurry).

Don’t use bombastic language if you are not well versed with the words (happens a lot when you just learn the words and don’t really look up their usage), be simple.

And RELAX. TOEFL is actually pretty easy. However scoring good will only help, so prepare well.

Thanks to Akshay for sharing his experience.

Next : Warning: Use these 4 TOEFL strategies at your own risk


  1. well. i’m a bit nervous actually to try this for the first time. but i’m glad to have spend my time here.

  2. little grammar lesson : exams are taken not given. You don’t give an exam, you take an exam. And TOEFL is not as hard as it used to be, they have made it easier because a lot of universities just want people to meet the minimum requirements and get the visas and pay the tuition, so don’t worry about it too much.

  3. Ah, thanks Akshay!! This was a well summed up experience of the “TOEFL test”………..I am giving it on December 21st, your words seem reassuring to me, touche!! 🙂

  4. I got 119 without preparing for a day. I gave my test in the afternoon. Toefl does not need any preparation neither the time or day. The only thing to look out for is the speaking section. You need to keep your sentences short and meaningful with standard pace. It’s not important if you don’t finish a sentence for time as long as they understand what you were trying to say. It’s also easier for girls to score higher for their advantage in voice.

    1. coaching does help, but if you start preparing in advance then there won’t be a problem.

      my recommendation is that don’t take coaching and start studying atleast 2 weeks before the exam.

  5. I thought this experience was yours, but this sentence – ‘I prefer taking tests in morning slot, so I gave it in the 10 AM’ helped me that I couldn’t be yours.

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