Preparing EFL/ESL Students for TOEFL Exams

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) exams have been sat by more than 27 million people worldwide. TOEFL exams are geared to demonstrating a university level of proficiency in English: the right score leads to getting a place at university as well as acceptance by various professional bodies, and institutions.
So, what should you, as a novice EFL teacher, be aware of when preparing EFL students for TOEFL exams? Here are a few useful tips worth remembering.

The most important thing to know is whether your students are going to sit the TOEFL iBT (internet based test) or the TOEFL PBT (paper based test): the former is done on a computer linked to the WWW, but the latter is done handwritten. Unfortunately, you can’t elect to do the PBT if the country in which you are doing the TOEFL runs the iBT exam – so you definitely don’t want to mess up here!

A week or so before you start teaching your class, you should do the following things: visit the TOEFL site ( and fully familiarize yourself with the format of the exam: pay careful attention to the time allowed for each paper, the number of questions, the format in which the questions are presented, and any important comments relating to the papers. Fully familiarize yourself with the iBT and PBT formats: especially any difficulties that may be associated with the iBT format. Finally, learn how the scoring system works.

All the information that you have now gained should be transmitted to your students: they MUST know every aspect of the exam that they are going to sit in the minutest of detail.

You should also decide on which book you are going to use, and you should get hold of some practice tests: there are some books that just contain TOEFL practice tests – use them!

Fortunately, your class will be well-motivated: so they will not get bored when faced with doing lots of practice tests, which should be done under exam conditions. You should also do a mock TOEFL exam about a month before the actual exam: this will give the students the opportunity to experience what it will be like in the real exam.

Lastly, empathize with your students: encourage them, and tell them that they are merely going to sit a final exam which is identical to all those previous tests that they have done.