TOEFL Tips for your Dream Score

Preparing for the TOEFL exam is a process. Taking the TOEFL exam before you are ready is unnecessary and costly. Following the TOEFL tips on this web page will 1)help you to prepare effectively and 2) ensure that you only need to take the exam one time. Imagine not having to take the TOEFL exam repeatedly. How much money would that save you?


TOEFL Tips: Find your current TOEFL level before you begin your study routine.

To find your current level, you should take a full-length TOEFL practice test.  There are several advantages to doing this:

  • Becoming more familiar with the structure and format of the test
  • Getting reading and listening diagnostic results so that you can understand your weak points
  • Having a TOEFL specialist provide feedback on your delivery, language use, and topic development
  • Receiving diagnostic results about your writing from a TOEFL specialist
  • Practicing concentration, pacing, and test-taking strategies in English for almost four hours

Once you get your results back from your practice test, you can then compare your current TOEFL score with your target score. Then use the 5-10 points per month improvement rule to gauge how many months you will need to reach your goal.

100 (target score) – 78 (current score) = 22 points

22/10 =  2

22/5  =  4

Therefore, if your current score is 78/120 and if your target score is 100, it will take you approximately 2-4 months of practice before you will be able to reach your goal. Typically, reaching your target score will take longer than what you might think. As a result, in this case, to improve 22 points, I would recommend that you spend 4 months of daily study.

TOEFL Tips: Get a TOEFL study plan based on your current English abilities.

Now that you know how long you will need to prepare, you should choose a TOEFL plan for the recommended period of time.  Keep in mind the following suggestions as you choose your course.

  • Only choose the 1-Month TOEFL Course if your current TOEFL score is within 10 points of your target score.
  • Choose the TOEFL Speaking or Writing Boot Camp Course only if you have already met your subtotal requirements in the other sections.
  • Spend 2-3 hours daily going through the lessons for the recommended period of time.
  • Take advantage of the e-mail support service ( your course allows;  e-mail your TOEFL mentor whenever you have questions or concerns.

TOEFL Tips: Send your pronunciation, speaking, and writing practice to a TOEFL speaking mentor.

Unlike most TOEFL preparation services,  you will be able to complete pronunciation, speaking, and writing practice tests.  In fact, you will be able to send your TOEFL specialist 60 seconds of speaking or pronunciation practice daily. In addition, you will be able to send ONE writing practice test daily for grading. To get the most out of the feedback you get, do the following:

  • Keep a speaking and writing journal so you can jot down the suggestions that your speaking and writing specialist provide.
  • Study the recommended lessons so you can improve your weak points.
  • Complete the recommended voice recording exercises and send them to your speaking specialist for evaluation.
  • Only register to take the TOEFL exam when you are consistently scoring 26+ on the speaking and writing practice tests.
  • Aim to score 5.2/7.0 or higher on the pronunciation post-test.
  • Complete 4-5 speaking and 3-4 writing practice tests weekly so you can get regular feedback to monitor your progress.

TOEFL Tips: Take a full-length TOEFL practice test.

Near the end of your TOEFL course, you will need to complete a full-length TOEFL iBT practice test.  Taking one of these practice tests will help you to monitor your progress. In fact, if your practice test score is close to or more than your target score, register to take the official TOEFL iBT. If your score is lower than your target score, send an email to your TOEFL mentor:

Dear TOEFL mentor,

My current TOEFL score is 88/120. My current subtotal scores are R= 22, L = 24, S = 23, and W= 19.

However, my goal is 100/120, with minimum subtotal scores of 25 in the reading, listening, speaking, and writing sections. What adjustments do I need to make in my TOEFL preparation study plan?


First and Last Name

TOEFL Tips: Register to take the official TOEFL exam when you are confident you will reach your target score.

Once you are confident after a full-length practice test that you will likely reach your overall score and subtotal scores, register to take the TOEFL iBT.  After you complete the TOEFL iBT, let your TOEFL mentor know how you did.

In many cases, students reach their target scores on the first try. However, if you did not, do not be afraid to tell your TOEFL mentor how you performed.  Together, you and the TOEFL mentor can modify your study plan based on the score report you get from Educational Testing Service.

Good luck!

Michael Buckhoff,




TOEFL Integrated Speaking Task 4 Tips and Tricks

On TOEFL Integrated Speaking Task 4, you will read a short passage. Then you will listen to a lecture.  You will then have about 30 seconds to prepare your notes. Once the computer says “begin speaking,” you will have 60 seconds to record your response. Following several tips and tricks will help you to get to the best score possible.

TOEFL Integrated Speaking Task 4
TOEFL Integrated Speaking Task 4

TOEFL Integrated Speaking Task 4: Preparation is key.

This type of TOEFL speaking task is academic.  So, you need to practice reading and listening to academic materials.  Go to National Public Radio online.  At this web site, you can find listening and reading passages on various topics. The passages at this site are geared toward adult native speakers. As a result, the vocabulary and grammar will include both basic and advanced forms.

As you read and listen to the passages, you should jot down the main and most important support ideas. 

  • Using your notes, you should record 60 second responses of the passages that you are reading and listening to.
  • Record your responses so you can listen to them. Pay attention to the grammar and vocabulary that you use. Make sure you are not repeating word for word what you are reading and listening to. Rather, you should be using your own grammar and vocabulary as you re-explain the ideas.
  • Make sure you use simple present tense reporting verbs (i.e, “the reading passage states…,” or “the speaker in the lecture argues….” to summarize the two texts.
  • Most students who spend a few months reading, listening to, taking notes, and orally summarizing the texts, recording, and evaluating their speaking score very high on this speaking task. 

TOEFL Integrated Speaking Task 4: Understand how to organize your response.

Typically, in this type of TOEFL speaking task, the reading passage will define an academic concept. Then the speaker in the lecture will give an example to further explain the academic concept.  Consequently, you will need to organize your speaking task into three parts: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.

TOEFL Integrated Speaking Task 4:  The introduction

Introduction:  The author in the reading passage defines an economic concept, and the speaker in the lecture gives an example to show how the concept works in real life.

Make sure you explain how the reading and listening passages are connected.

Use a compound sentence in order to connect the main points of the two texts.

Use simple present tense reporting verbs as voice markers for both sources.

TOEFL Integrated Speaking Task 4:  The body

Body:  First of all, the author introduces the law of supply and demand economic concept. According to the author, in a capitalist market, when the demand for a product is low, then the price for that product will decrease. Conversely, when consumers really want a product, the price for that product will increase, especially if the supply of such product is low.

Second of all, the speaker illustrates this concept by discussing some chocolate sold at an auction.  No one else at the auction was selling the delicious treat, according to the speaker.  However, seven different buyers really wanted to buy that item, so the speaker explains that the buyers got into a bidding war. Finally, the  chocolate sold for more than $300 US. 

  • Talk about the reading passage first and then discuss the listening passage.
  • Use 4-6 voice markers directly identifying the author of the reading passage and the speaker in the lecture.
  • Use simple present tense reporting verbs to explain the information and to introduce the different sources.
  • Keep your tone neutral by neither agreeing nor disagreeing with the information.
  • Focus on the most important points from the reading and the listening passage.

TOEFL Integrated Speaking Task 4:  The conclusion

Conclusion: To sum up, the speaker’s example of the chocolate sold at the auction clarifies the economic concept discussed by the author in the reading passage.

  • Restate the introduction. However, this time state the main idea of the listening passage and then explain the main idea of the reading passage. Use a simple sentence (with one subject and one verb) so you have different grammar from your introduction.
  • Use a summary transition word to conclude the response: to sum up, to conclude, in summary, in the final analysis…
  • Use two voice markers acknowledging the information in the reading and the listening passage. 

TOEFL Integrated Speaking Task 4:  Practice and record responses to this type of academic speaking task.

Many students think they can simply watch a whole bunch of You Tube videos to get a high speaking score.  This is simply not true. First, you should spend a lot of time daily getting exposure to English.  For example, talk to native or near native speakers as often as you can. Watch television and movies. Listen to Podcasts and music.  Spend time reading magazines, newspapers, and books.

Second,  get comfortable speaking 100-200 words a minute in English without a lot of pauses and hesitations.  Then, you can start TOEFL speaking practice by recording responses to this type of integrated speaking. Listen to your recordings, so that you can critique your delivery, language-use, and topic development.

TOEFL Integrated Speaking Task 4: Critiquing your delivery

When you listening to your recording of integrated speaking task four, ask yourself the following:

  • Do I pause after every 4-5 content words with a slight rise in tone (with all thought groups except the last)?  Do I drop my intonation slightly at the end of every sentence, except yes/no questions?
  • Do I blend words together in the same thought group?
  • Do I place more stress on nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs?
  • Do I place less stress on prepositions (i.e., “to,” “of,” “below….” ) , determiners (i.e., “many,” “a,” “two…”  ) and auxiliary verbs (“is” washing, “have” lived, “will” go…)?
  • Do I place primary stress on the correct syllable of longer words? Do I make the stressed syllable clearer, louder, longer, and higher pitched?

TOEFL Integrated Speaking Task 4: Critiquing your language use

In addition, you should also evaluate your speaking in terms of language use:

Do I use a combination of basic and advanced grammar?

Am I consistent with my point of view and verb tenses?

Do I use both basic and advanced vocabulary? Are my vocabulary words precise?

Do I have any inappropriate word choice problems?

TOEFL Integrated Speaking Task 4: Critiquing your topic development

To make sure you are organized and have adequately supporting details, ask yourself these questions:

Independent speaking tasks: Do I have a sharply focused topic statement in the beginning of the response (Avoid using a memorized template!)?

Independent speaking tasks: Do I use 1-2 specific, personal details to illustrate my ideas?

Integrated speaking tasks: Do I use a sharply-focused statement that frames the reading and the listening passage or the listening passage?

Integrated speaking tasks: Do I use 10-12 voice markers in my response to identify the author and the speaker in the reading and the listening passages?

Independent and integrated speaking tasks: Do I have a clear connection of ideas in all parts of my response by

Using transition words?

Using determiners and pronouns?

Repeating or rephrasing key words?

Using parallelism? 

TOEFL Integrated Speaking Task 4: Get help from a TOEFL speaking mentor.

There are advantages to consulting a TOEFL speaking mentor.

  • You will be able to learn exactly which pronunciation problems you are having and how to eliminate them.
  • These mentors will effectively diagnose vocabulary and grammar problems affecting your speech.
  • These speaking coaches will also be to recommend specific lessons that you can study to address your weaknesses.
  • You will shorten how much time you have to study before scoring 26+ on TOEFL speaking. 

TOEFL Integrated Speaking Task 4: Model Response

Listen to the model response for this type of speaking task:


Michael Buckhoff,









TOEFL Listening Practice Tips

One important part of your TOEFL listening practice requires that you get the gist, main idea, or purpose of passage.  Sometimes, at the beginning of a passage, the speaker may make a transition from a previous topic to the new topic of a lecture.

TOEFL Listening Practice
TOEFL Listening Practice

TOEFL Listening Practice: Changes in topics, digressions, and corrections

Listen to the beginning of a TOEFL listening practice test to see if you can separate the previous topic from the new topic:

What is the topic of this lecture?

A. Hurricanes

B. Tornadoes

C. Low Pressure Centers

D. Coastal Destruction

Because the speaker uses the word “in addition,” you can guess that he is adding to topic of hurricanes, which is a previous topic discussed in another lecture. Therefore, the topic of this lecture is tornadoes and the destruction they cause. Therefore, answer choice “B” is correct.

In other cases, speakers may digress and bring up interesting topics but return back to the specific topic of a lecture.

What is the topic of this lecture?

A. Tsunamis

B.  The Ocean Floor

C. Earthquakes Occurring over Land

D. Mexico City Customs

The professor indeed mentions tsunamis at the beginning of his lecture. However, he then brings up the topic of earthquakes.  He also explains that the class will be focusing on a type of earthquake that occurred in Mexico City a few years ago. Hence, answer choice “C” is correct.

In other cases, the professor may bring up an incorrect idea. He will then change his mind and correct whatever was said.  As a result, you need to pay attention to whatever the professor corrects:

What is the main idea of this lecture?

A. Inflation

B. Economics

C. Tax incentives

D. Deflation

Even though the professor says he is going to talk about inflation, he corrects himself.  He then says he is going to talk about deflation.  Hence, the correct answer is choice “D.”

A speaker may transition from one topic to a new one.  In other cases, the speaker may digress and then return to the topic begin discussed. Lastly, the speaker may even correct something that was said. In all these cases, you will need to keep up with what is happening.

TOEFL Listening Practice: Integrated Speaking Strategy

During the integrated speaking tasks 3-4, you will need to understand the relationship between the reading and listening passages.  Furthermore, you will need to verbalize that relationship in your speaking response.   For example, suppose you read a passage about adaptations that animals make to survive. Then in the listening passage, you listen to a lecture about a snail which can spread slime over itself during periods of dry weather so that it doesn’t dehydrate. You will need to create an introduction that shows the relationship between the reading and the listening passage:

Did you notice in my introduction that I

Stated the main idea of the reading AND the listening passage?

Used simple present tense reporting verbs?

Included voice markers to acknowledge the author and the speaker of the two passages?

Explicitly stated what the relationship was between the listening and the reading passage?

TOEFL Listening Practice: Integrated Writing Strategy

Similarly, you will also need to understand the relationship between the listening and reading passages during the integrated writing task.   For instance, you could read a passage about three advantages of higher corporate taxation in the United States. After the reading passage, you could listen to a lecture explaining the problems with each advantage of corporate taxation discussed.  Then in the introduction, you will need to show how the listening passage is related to the reading:

Example TOEFL integrated writing task introduction:  The author in the reading passage explains three advantages of taxing businesses in the United States, and, in the listening passage, the speaker casts doubts on each advantage discussed.

Did you notice that my integrated writing strategy for the introduction is similar to the introduction that you just listened to: main idea for reading and listening passage, simple present tense reporting verbs,  voice markers, and directly mentioning connections of the two passages.

TOEFL Listening Practice: Final Tips

Now you know that TOEFL listening practice involves more than just understanding the main idea or purpose. You know have some ideas on how you can frame your introductions for your TOEFL integrated speaking and writing tasks.

If you are looking for an effective and comprehensive Online TOEFL Course, consider my course. As one of my subscribed students, you will have benefits that many only dream of:

  • E-mail support 24/7/365
  • Unlimited access to more than 700 vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, listening, reading, writing, and speaking lessons and practice tests.
  • Audio, written, or video feedback after every pronunciation, speaking, and writing practice test that you submit. You can send me speaking and writing practice to correct every day!

Good luck!

Michael Buckhoff,



TOEFL Writing Tips and Tricks

TOEFL writing on this web page will help you learn how to write an introduction plus a sharply-focused thesis. You will also learn how to write arguable topic sentences. Lastly, you will learn how to write with depth and complexity of thought.

TOEFL Writing
TOEFL Writing

This TOEFL writing practice test lesson will be based on the following writing prompt:

“Planning for the future is much better than living each day without any prior planning.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement.”

TOEFL Writing Practice:  Writing a 100+ Introduction

Starting your essay off with a 100+ introduction can be as easy as

  • Making some general statements about the writing prompt
  • Addressing the counter-argument
  • Including a three-point thesis

In order for people to succeed in life, they will need to get a marketable college education, they will need to find high-paying jobs, and they will need to save money to buy houses in nice neighborhoods. Some would say that achieving these goals represent the American dream. Even though some may argue that these aspirations can be achieved without any planning at all, I believe that planning for the future will help people to get good educations, lucrative jobs, and valued homes. Therefore, indeed, I do agree with this statement.

TOEFL Writing Practice: Writing Arguable Topic Sentences

Each body paragraph should be unified around a central idea.  The central idea or topic should restate one of the key points in your thesis that you included in the introduction.

In addition, you should make sure that your topic sentences are arguable and not factual in tone. Read the following examples showing the difference between arguable and factual tones:

Too factual: First of all, many students enroll in competitive universities.

Arguable: First of all, planning for the future can help one to get a competitive, marketable college education.

Too factual: Second of all, some workers get high-paying jobs in the future.

Arguable: Second of all, planning of the future is also important because it can help one to get a high-paying job.

Too factual: Lastly, some people plan in advance and buy homes in popular neighborhoods.

Arguable: Lastly, preparing for the future now can help one get an appreciating house in in-demand neighborhoods later on.

In short, make sure that you topic sentences make assertions which need to be defended.

TOEFL Writing Practice: Writing with Depth and Complexity of Thought

Depth refers to how specific and focused you are in your writing after the topic sentence of a paragraph. Having depth also means that your ideas are complex in that you are able to interconnect different parts of a single idea.

TOEFL Writing Practice: Paragraph Lacking Depth

Second of all, planning for the future is also important because it can help one to get a high-paying job. Every one wants a job that pay wells. For instance, jobs that pay more than $100,000 annually can help people to afford larger homes. Good paying jobs help people to be able to travel more with their families. Of course, who doesn’t want to go on a trip to Europe, for example? Whether you want to buy a large home or be able to travel, you will want a good job that pays well.  Then it will be important to plan in advance how you will be able to get this job. 

This paragraph lacks depth because it

  • Covers too many topics without enough development (high-paying job, traveling more with family, and planning in advance).
  • Doesn’t make the connection between high paying jobs and traveling with planning in advance.
  • Is not unified (the writer begins by talking about high-paying jobs and then moves to discussing traveling; in fact, the writer spends almost no detail explaining why planning in advance is important.).

TOEFL Writing Practice: Paragraph with Depth

Second of all, planning for the future is also important because it can help one to get a high-paying job. To illustrate, my cousin Tomas recently completed his Master’s Degree in Accounting.  However, before he finished his academic studies, Tomas took advantage of the career center at his university.  The Career Center helped Tomas to prepare a resume. Furthermore, the center gave Tomas several mock interviews along with feedback on how to improve his interviewing skills.  Finally, a few months before Tomas finished his accounting studies, he began interviewing with prospective employers. Due to his planning in advance, one of the big five accounting firms hired Tomas. Also, his starting salary with the firm was set at $105,000 annually.

This paragraph has depth because it

  • Uses only one example to support the topic sentence and spends roughly 80 words developing the example.
  • Effectively makes the connection between planning in advance and getting a high paying job (making a resume, practicing mock interviews, and interviewing for jobs prior to graduation).

TOEFL Writing Practice:  Putting It all Together

Maybe after reading this lesson, you may want some feedback as you practice these important tips and tricks that you have learned.  I have a TOEFFL Writing Boot Camp Course, which specializes in giving you the practice and feedback you need to score 24+:

Good luck!

Michael Buckhoff,






TOEFL Speaking Tips for 26+


Scoring 26+ on TOEFL speaking is difficult. Those scoring at that mark represent the top 10% of the millions of students who have taken the TOEFL. How can you become one of the top 10% of all TOEFLers?  How can you score higher than 26+ on the speaking section of the TOEFL exam?  A series of videos will give you some clues on how to score high on the speaking section.

TOEFL Speaking
TOEFL Speaking

TOEFL Speaking: There is not just one way to practice speaking.

As you learn in this video, practicing speaking involves more than just memorizing templates and recording speaking practice tests. In this case, this student who scored 27/30 on the speaking section gamed with players from the United States. Hence, even though he did not live in the US, he was still able to develop a high level of speaking fluency by playing online computer games with players in the United States. In other words, there are many ways that you can practice TOEFL speaking. Find a way that works for you.

TOEFL Speaking: Stay the course and do not give up until you pass.

After watching this video, you learn that Khalid completed 266 TOEFL speaking practice tests before he was able to score 26 on the speaking. It may take you a few months before you reach your goal. Therefore, do not give up, be patient, and practice until you pass.

TOEFL Speaking: Get ideas from others

In this TOEFL speaking video, you hear directly from other students on the kinds of practice that you can do to improve your English.  Find other students who have scored high on the speaking section of the TOEFL. Learn how they studied. Learn what they did every day to improve their speaking. Two heads are better than one, right?

TOEFL Speaking: Get professional help with your speaking!

The student who sent me this e-mail got professional advice and feedback before taking the TOEFL exam. Moreover, similar to Khalid, she completed 100’s of practice tests. After each practice test, she closely monitored her delivery, language use, and topic development for possible problems. Then she would complete the same practice test again.  Practice makes perfect, right? Follow what this student did, and you will be surprised how quickly you can improve your speaking.

Good luck!

Michael Buckhoff,


TOEFL Online Lessons in 7 Essential Tips

Michael Buckhoff provides the TOEFL online lessons on this web page. To find out more about his complete Online TOEFL Course, CLICK HERE.

Preparing for the TOEFL now is easier than ever. Many sites such as this one offer TOEFL online lessons to help prepare you for the TOEFL iBT exam.  In fact, this web page will feature 7 TOEFL online lessons to help you. These lessons will help you to improve your vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, listening, reading, writing, and speaking. As you practice these lessons, do the following:

  • Take notes during each TOEFL online lesson.
  • Create a note-card system for the vocabulary words.
  • Using close caption, read out loud with me as you watch each video.
TOEFL Online Lessons
TOEFL Online Lessons

TOEFL Online Lessons:  Vocabulary Improvement

In this lesson you will focus on creating a note-card system so that you can learn the 500 TOEFL words A-E of the vocabulary list that I have at my Online TOEFL Course.  To get the complete A-Z list of 1,700 words, you will need to join my Online TOEFL Course.

Open the list in your browser:

Write one word in large bolded letters onto a note-card and put the definition, a sample sentence, parts of speech, pronunciation, and synonyms and antonyms of the word on the other side of your note-card; repeat this step 499 more times until you have a complete note-card compilation of all the words from this list.

Begin studying the list regularly until you have complete mastery of all the words.

Also, spend time daily watching the following 30 minute You Tube video to further help you master the vocabulary words in this lesson:

TOEFL Online Lessons: Pronunciation Practice

This is 1/48 pronunciation lessons that I have at my Online TOEFL Course.  To get access to the other pronunciation lesson, you will need to join my Online TOEFL Course. This lesson will focus on the alveolar fricative consonants [s] and [z] as in the words “sip” and “zip.”  The only difference between these two sounds is the state of the vocal folds. For example, the [s] is a voiceless consonant sounds.  There is no vibration in the vocal folds when you produce this sound. However, the [z] is a voiced consonant sound. There is vibration when you produce this sound. Therefore, as you practice this lesson, keep I mind the following ideas:

    • When the [z] is at the end of a word, you should make the vowel sound before it longer.
    • You should make the vowel sound shorter when it precedes a word that ends with an [s].
    • Read out loud this lesson as you practice the minimal pair, pronunciation, sentence, and paragraph exercises.

TOEFL Online Lessons: Grammar Practice

My grammar course offers a diagnostic grammar pre-test and post-test.  These tests help you to identify your strengths and weaknesses with English grammar. The following lesson about adjective clauses is 1/40 grammar lessons in my Online TOEFL Course.  In this lesson, you will learn how to use “that” and “which” in restrictive and non-restrictive adjectives clauses.  Mastering the points taught in this lesson will help you to reduce your language errors in the speaking and writing portions of the TOEFL exam. Write down the sample sentences you see in the lesson. This will help you to more effectively learn the grammar structures that I am teaching.

TOEFL Online Lessons: Listening Practice

My Online TOEFL Course offers more than 40 TOEFL level listening practice tests and dozens of other lessons to help you improve your listening comprehension.  The following lesson will help you by explaining three important tips about listening: understanding rhetorical cues, listening for focus words in lectures, and paying attention to pausing.  CLICK HERE to go this lesson.

TOEFL Online Lessons: Reading Practice

This following lesson is 1/100 reading lessons in my Online TOEFL Course. In this lesson, you will learn about completing schematic tables.  This video will show you how to identify this TOEFL iBT multi-point question.  Also, you will learn the specific test-taking strategies you should use when answering this type of question.

TOEFL Online Lessons: Writing Practice

My course  has more than 40 independent and 43 integrated writing practice tests. Unlike many TOEFL prep sites, I will grade and  comment on every writing practice test you send me. I offer all of this to you for a low monthly subscription fee. Moreover, you can send me one writing practice test to be scored every 24 hours while you are one of my students.  In the following TOEFL online lesson, you will learn some tips and tricks to help you add more detail to your independent writing task. After watching the video, you should complete some writing practice tests and use the ideas from this lesson. This will help you to create more specific details to your writing.  Finally, the more often you practice the techniques you learn in this video, the more natural using these ideas will become.

TOEFL Online Lessons: Speaking Practice

In the speaking part of my Online TOEFL Course , you can choose from among 300 independent  speaking practice tests. Also, you can complete 20 integrated speaking practice tests.  In both cases, you can send them to be for evaluation. Then I will provide feedback to help you understand your delivery, language-use, and topic development strengths and weaknesses.  I also will allow you to complete speaking practice tests from anywhere on the Internet, and I will provide feedback and scoring on that as well.

In the following video, I will teach you how to create a compare and contrast response for the TOEFL independent speaking task. After watching the video, try the following tips:

Create some sample compare and contrast speaking prompts.

Writing out responses for each of the speaking prompts.

Then make a recording of each response reading exactly what you wrote down.

Create some more speaking prompts and then make a brief outline.  Use the outline to make your 45 second responses.

I hope you enjoyed practicing the TOEFL lessons on this web page.

Michael Buckhoff,








TOEFL iBT Preparation Tips

TOEFL iBT stands for the Test of English as a Foreign Language Internet-Based Test. Students whose first language is not English need to take this exam for admission into English-speaking universities.  In addition, student who complete their studies may decide to work here in the United States. In many cases, these would-be workers will need to demonstrate academic proficiency in industries such as healthcare.  To illustrate, an international student who wants to work as a pharmacist, doctor, or nurse, will need to achieve 26 and 24 points on the speaking and writing section.

The TOEFL iBT can take up to four hours to complete the reading, listening, speaking, and writing sections of the exam. Because it is so academic in nature, there are a few things that you need to be able to do before you will be ready to take this exam.  Think of these things as a checklist. One you complete each item, you are one step closer to being ready to take the TOEFL iBT exam.


TOEFL iBT Vocabulary Preparation

First of all, you need to acquire 1500-2000 vocabulary words since the TOEFL exam is academic.  Without vocabulary preparation, you are likely to see and hear too many unfamiliar words during all sections of the exam. Not knowing these words will slow down your reading speed and making it difficult to concentrate.  Not having a good foundation in English vocabulary will make it harder for you to understand. You might not understand, for example, the main and most important points in TOEFL listening passages.

Take 1-3 months to learn the vocabulary words through several steps:

  1. Write each word onto a 4 inch x 6 inch note card. Put the vocabulary word on one side. On the other side, put the definition, a sample sentence, parts of speech, and synonyms and antonyms.
  2. Make audio recording of all the words on your list. Record yourself saying each word and giving a sample sentence.
  3. Begin reviewing the note cards, and listen to the words on your smartphone.

TOEFL iBT Pronunciation Preparation

Second of all, no matter how organized, complete, and accurate your TOEFL speaking tasks are, if the TOEFL iBT human raters cannot understand what you are saying, you will never score high. Therefore, you need to work on reducing your non-native speaker accent.  At least, you should focus on making sure you are speaking clearly enough so that your accent does not block meaning. Most students, however, are unable to correct their pronunciation problems on their own, so you should seriously consider joining my TOEFL Speaking Boot Camp Course.

Work very hard on the Speak Clearly part of the course by completing both pre-tests. Finally, take the pronunciation post-test and aim to score 5.1+/7.0 or higher according to the intelligibility scale.

TOEFL iBT Grammar Preparation

Third of all, to prepare for the TOEFL iBT, you need to have a good knowledge of both basic and advanced grammar:

  • Sentence types: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. Be comfortable using all of the sentence types in both speaking and writing.
  • Adjective, noun, and adverb clause structures: Make sure you know how to use these dependent clauses in both speaking and writing.
  • Reduced adjective, noun, and adverb clauses: Know when and if you can reduce these dependent clauses with active and passive meanings.
  • Verb Tenses: Make sure that you have good control of your verb tenses and that you are consistent in your verb tenses during the independent and integrated verb tenses. In fact, spend 1-3 days reading the following article I wrote:
  • Gerunds and infinitives: Make sure you know how to use these in both speaking and writing.
  • Punctuation marks such as the comma, semi-colon, hyphen, dash, period, question mark, and quotation marks

TOEFL iBT Listening Preparation

Fourth of all, make it a goal to practice listening to news, documentary, history, and science news segments. Each segment should be at least 5-10 minutes long.  As you practice listening to the segments for about 45 minutes daily, complete the following activities:

  • Develop a note-taking system to capture the main and most support points
  • Use your notes to orally summarize the passages; record yourself making 60-second oral summaries of the passages
  • Use your notes to write 150 word summaries of the passages

Spend time learning the TOEFL listening question types so that you know what to expect when you register to take the TOEFL exam.

TOEFL iBT Reading Preparation

Fifth of all, you will need to increase your reading speed to at least 300 words per minute with 60-80% comprehension.  Having a faster reading speed has several advantages:

  • Finish reading passages faster so that you have more time to answer the reading, speaking, and writing questions.
  • Have better comprehension of what you read. In fact, studies show that faster readers have better comprehension and fewer distractions than slower readers.
  • Read more books and magazines for pleasure, academic, and professional purposes. Knowledge is power!  The more books you read, the more you will learn.

TOEFL iBT Reading Preparation: Prioritize your reading practice

In addition, you will need to become familiar with the reading question types and the strategies for answering them. As you take realistic, full length TOEFL-level reading practice tests, pay particular attention to the questions you missed.  Make an effort to understand why the answer you chose is incorrect and the correct answer is the better option. Practice taking reading practice tests. However, make sure you prioritize what is most or least important in your study:

  1. Spend time reading books, magazines, and newspapers for about 45 minutes every day for at least 2-3 months. Develop an effective note-taking system so you can record the main and important details.  Spend time weekly giving 60-second oral responses and writing 150 word summaries of the passages.
  2. Acquire more vocabulary. Like I said before, you must increase your vocabulary to about 1500-2000 words. Do NOT shortcut this step.
  3. Increase your reading speed to at least 300 words per minute with 60-80 comprehension.
  4. Become familiar with the TOEFL reading question types and the strategies for answering them.
  5. Complete TOEFL-level full length practice tests so that develop the  mental strength and stamina you need.  Having this mental strength will help you get through all the reading passages during the reading, speaking, and writing sections of the TOEFL exam.

Spend 80% of your reading practice completing steps 1-3 and 20% of your time completing steps 4-5.

TOEFL iBT Writing Preparation

Sixth of all, you can watch all the You Tube videos you want about the independent and integrated writing task on the TOEFL iBT exam. However, if you do not complete practice tests, you will not be able to improve. The purpose of your writing practice is to help you get used to writing 350-450 word responses for the TOEFL independent writing task.  In addition, you need to practice writing 250-350 word responses for the integrated writing responses. Most likely you will not be able to diagnose your own writing issues so you should consider joining a TOEFL writing course.  As a result, you will be able to get meaningful feedback from a TOEFL writing specialist so that you can see how you are scoring on the practice tests. In addition, a writing specialist will also help you to understand what problems you are having and how to overcome them.

TOEFL iBT Writing Preparation: Practice makes perfect, right?

To illustrate, I had a student last year who had scored 21/30 points on the writing section of the TOEFL iBT.  While he was enrolled in my course for two and a half months, he completed 21 independent and  15 integrated writing practice tests. After each practice test, I evaluated and scored his writing. I gave him some helpful but brief suggestions each time. However, I did not error correct any of his essays.  After completing my course, he re-took the TOEFL exam, this time scoring 29/30 on the writing section. I figure that he wrote approximately 12,250 words and spent 140 hours studying the vocabulary, grammar, and writing lessons in my course.  Because of his hard word

TOEFL iBT Speaking Preparation

Seventh of all, you will need to practice recording 45 second and 60 second responses for independent and integrated speaking practice tests. If you are on a tight budget, I recommend that you enroll in a TOEFL speaking course.  A speaking course will allow you to complete practice tests and to get audio and video feedback inexpensively. You will not have to pay a TOEFL tutor $25-40 an hour. For example, you can enroll in my TOEFL speaking course and complete practice with feedback. This costs only $99 monthly. And you can complete and get feedback daily on the practice tests you submit.

Good luck!

Michael Buckhoff,




Four TOEFL Vocabulary Improvement Tips

If you develop a command of TOEFL vocabulary, you will dramatically increase your chances of scoring higher on the TOEFL exam. Moreover, having adequate TOEFL vocabulary will help you to succeed in your academic and professional situations; therefore, follow the TOEFL vocabulary improvement tips on this web page:

TOEFL Vocabulary Improvement

TOEFL Vocabulary Improvement Tip 1: Rely less on translation dictionaries

Sometimes, what you don’t do is just as important as what you do when you are seeking TOEFL vocabulary improvement.  For example, as you advance your academic English language proficiency, you should rely less and less on translation dictionaries while you aim for TOEFL vocabulary improvement.  If you need to check the meaning of a vocabulary word, use an English dictionary so that you can get a simpler understanding of the word.  For example, suppose you saw the word “gregarious” in a reading passage in a newspaper.  Indeed, “gregarious” is not a common word, especially in informal conversations.

Therefore, instead of trying to get a translation of the word from your own language, you will find that an English dictionary will define the word as “someone who is fond of others; sociable.”  In this case, you have probably heard of the word “sociable,” so there is no need to try to get an exact definition.  By using an English dictionary to understand the word, you are getting more exposure to English by 1) reading a sample sentence using the word, 2) seeing synonyms and antonyms of the word, and 3) understanding what part of speech the word is so you know how it works grammatically within a sentence. If you had used a translation dictionary, you would have missed these three important language-use opportunities

TOEFL Vocabulary Improvement Tip 2: Rely less on English dictionaries and use the context more

Another important factor in your TOEFL vocabulary improvement is you that use the context more to understand the unfamiliar words that you come across. This is your most important goal since, when you take the TOEFL exam, you will not see or hear definitions of unfamiliar words during the TOEFL exam as you encounter the often conceptually-dense reading and listening passages.  Therefore, during your TOEFL vocabulary improvement study, aim to use vocabulary-in-context strategies to get a sense of the unfamiliar words you are encountering:

Adjective clauses: In some cases, adjective clauses can give you additional information to unfamiliar nouns in reading or listening passages:

Photosynthesis, which is the process by which plants convert sunlight into energy, occurs in most terrestrial and marine plants.”

In this case the adjective clause  defines “photosynthesis” so there is no need to use a dictionary to find the meaning.

Examples: In other cases,  examples in the reading passage may help you to understand the meaning of unfamiliar words:

“The friend I met at the party is a gregarious person. For instance, I noticed that the person really likes meeting and talking to new people.” 

The example after the first sentence illustrates what a gregarious person is by saying that s/he likes being around people. Therefore, it can be inferred that “gregarious” is similar in meaning to “sociable.”

TOEFL Vocabulary Improvement: additional contextual clues

Other words in a sentence: In addition to paying attention to adjective clauses and examples as contextual clues, looking at other words in the sentence(s) might also help you to guess at the meaning of unfamiliar words:

“California has building codes requiring older buildings to be seismically retrofitted so that the buildings have additional steel fittings and concrete columns to make the structures more resistant to damage after moderate to large earthquakes.”

Other words in the previous sentence make it easier to understand what “seismically retrofitted” means.

Appositives: Appositives, nouns phrases used to modify other nouns within a sentence, can also help you identify the meaning of unfamiliar words. Did you notice that I used an appositive “noun phrases” to identify the meaning of appositives in the previous sentence?  If that is too confusing, pay attention the following sentence:

“Meiosis, a type of cell division, occurs among single-celled plants and micro-organisms.”

An appositive is used to identify “meiosis.”

Be verb: In some cases, the “be” verb is a clue to unknown words in a sentence:  Biology is the study of living organisms. Since the “be” verb introduces subjective compliments, which give further information about the subject of the sentence, you can guess the meaning of “biology.”

TOEFL Vocabulary Improvement Tip 3: Increase your exposure to academic reading and listening passages

Now you know that using the context to understand new vocabulary is important;  hence, you should make an effort to read and listen to academic passages for about 90 minutes daily while you prepare for the rigorous TOEFL exam which contains almost five hours of academic reading and listening content.

TOEFL Vocabulary Improvement: Increase exposure to reading passages

For your reading practice, find newspapers, magazines, and books, and spend 45 minutes reading and taking notes on the main and most important points of the information. Do not stop when you see unfamiliar words. Keep reading and concentrating on the passages for the full 45 minutes. When you are finished, go back to some of the unfamiliar words and try to use contextual clues mentioned on this web page to help you understand. If that fails, then use an English dictionary or web site to understand the meaning.

TOEFL Vocabulary Improvement: Increase exposure to listening passages

Similarly, for your listening practice, spend about 45 minutes listening to news, documentary, science, and history programs. Break up to listening practice to short 5-7 audio segments of information.  As you practice, take notes on the main and most important points in the passages.

For both your reading and listening practice, you should now practice your language use, an important piece of the puzzle that will help you to acquire basic and advanced grammar for the long term. Therefore, use your  notes from the reading and listening passages to deliver 60-90 second recorded responses. In addition, use your notes from the reading and listening passages to write 250 word responses.  Obviously, speaking and writing about these reading and listening passages helps you improve your TOEFL integrated speaking and writing proficiencies. More importantly, however, speaking and writing about the passages using your notes helps you to use the vocabulary and grammar that you are reading and listening to, which really helps you to cement these new grammar structures and vocabulary words into your brain, in other words, helping you to learn academic English.

TOEFL Vocabulary Improvement Tip 4: Develop a long-term study plan to acquire these 1,700 TOEFL vocabulary words

So far I have said nothing of vocabulary lists because I want you to see that using the context and having regular reading, listening, and language-use practice eclipses the importance of memorization. Nevertheless, assuming that you are willing to engage in reading and listening practice each day, you should study new vocabularies so that you can see how these new words or being used in the passages that you are studying.  Get your free comprehensive list for TOEFL vocabulary improvement by going here:

To learn this vocabulary list, do the following:

  1.  Record yourself speaking each word three times. Listen to the audio files of the words on your phone or tablet.
  2. Put each word onto a 4 x 6 inch note-card, with the word written in large bold letters on one side and a definition (no translations!), sample sentence, parts of speech information, and examples of synonyms and antonyms on the other side.
  3. Separate the note-cards into stacks of 100 initially, but then begin separating the vocabulary into two stacks: the words that you can easily remember and the words that you are having trouble remembering.
  4. Study your vocabulary words regularly making sure that you cycle through ALL of the words every few weeks.

Following these five steps in your memorization will eventually ensure that you will 1) start using the words in your speaking more, 2)begin using these words in your writing more frequently, and 3) begin recognizing these new words as you complete your reading and listening practice daily.

Good luck!

Michael Buckhoff, founder, owner, and materials writer for the Online TOEFL Course “The 7-Step System to Pass the TOEFL iBT






Three Tips TOEFL Test-Takers Often Forget

Today, in the English Language Program at California State University, San Bernardino, all the teachers and I had a common midterm grading session in which we read and scored TOEFL independent style personal experience essays using similar rubrics that ETS uses. Some essays, of course, scored higher or lower than others. After reading and scoring 120 essays today, I have three suggestions that you can think about if you want to score higher than 24/30 pts. on the writing section of the TOEFL iBT.
All the students today were responding to the following writing prompt:

What are the most important qualities of a good roommate? Use specific reasons and examples to support your point of view.

Tip 1: Sharply-Focused Thesis Statement

Many of the essays we read today did not have sharply-focused thesis statements. For example, in one paper the student wrote, “It is important to be a good roommate to others you are living with.” In another paper, the student wrote, “There are several crucial qualities of a good roommate. I will explain them in the rest of this paper.” In both cases, these two students were not specific enough in the thesis to frame the arguments that they would soon make, so, the more specific you can be in the thesis, the easier it will be to organize your paper.

Think of your thesis as a blueprint or forecast sentence, around which you frame the topic sentences in the body paragraphs of your essay. For example, notice the specificity and focus in the following thesis:

Although many qualities are important for good roommates, being honest, respectful, and responsible are three attributes that will help any person live in harmony with others.

Tip 2: Arguable Topic Sentence

Like the thesis, the topic sentences framing your body paragraphs should be arguable so that they are assertions. However, about 57/120 of the essays we read contained factual not arguable topic sentences. Therefore, unfortunately, the essays read more like explanatory essays rather than argumentative ones. Notice how the following three topic sentences are more factual than argumentative:

Roommates are always honest in their apartments when they are living with others.

A person living with others has respect.

Roommates have responsibility to pay bills and share chores.

Since the following three topic sentences are factual and since these sentences were prominently placed in the beginning of the body paragraphs, the rest of those paragraphs had more explanatory, non-argumentative tones. Notice in the next three examples, how each sentence is framed more as an argument.

One important quality of a good roommate is that s/he must be honest with others.

In addition, a good roommate should be respectful to others.

Finally, to live in harmony, roommates should be responsible.

By using “must” and “should” in these sentences, the writer has created a more arguable tone, around which he/she must now provide relevant supporting details in each of these paragraphs.

Tip 3: Developed Body Paragraph

If you try to use too many examples in a single paragraph, you will not have enough time or energy to fully support your ideas. Therefore, it is best if you use 1-2 examples in each of your body paragraphs. Only 6/120 essays they we read had the depth and progression of thought to score high. As a result, most students’ body paragraphs were not specific enough and covered too many different ideas. For example, notice the shallow nature of the following paragraph:

In addition, a good roommate should be respectful to others. He, in other words, should be nice and not do annoying things. Being respectful will make it easy for him to live in peace with others in the apartment. It is not good if there is fighting with others, and if roommates are respectful, they will get along much better. I once had a roommate who was not respectful, and we did not live together for very long. I now live with someone who is respectful, and things are much better for me now. As a result, being respectful is definitely an important characteristic in a roommate.

Unfortunately, the above 112 word paragraph has no examples to elaborate on why being respectful is an important quality. For example, the writer could have given an example of an annoying thing that a roommate had done and then expanded on that idea. For example, if the above paragraph were rewritten with more development, it could look like this:

In addition, a good roommate should be respectful to others. To illustrate, last year I lived in an apartment with Takahiro while I was in the English Language Program at California State University, San Bernardino. One night while I was writing a 5 page paper for my Level 5 Academic Writing class, Taka came home after studying in the library. Without consulting me, he invited a whole bunch of friends over, and they started listening to loud music. All of this commotion made it difficult for me to concentrate on my paper. I wish that he had respected me enough to at least ask me beforehand if it had been OK for him to invite his friends over before he did. His lack of respect for me made it difficult for us to live together, so next time I will make sure I choose to live with a roommate who is respectful.

On the other hand, the 144 word revised paragraph focuses on only on one example and spends 100+ words elaborating on that idea, thereby giving the paragraph the depth and complexity of thought needed to score high.

In Conclusion

After reading this article, ask yourself the following question: “Do you want TOEFL iBT human raters to give you a high score on the independent writing task?” As a result, make sure that you follow the three tips I outlined in this lesson, and you will be much happier the next time you get your TOEFL results.

Michael Buckhoff,

Online TOEFL Preparation Course

Four Language-Use Tips for TOEFL iBT Speaking Section

This article is written specifically to those TOEFLers who aim to score 26 points or higher on the speaking section of the exam.

The second category in the TOEFL iBT rubrics, language use describes how well speakers control their grammar and vocabulary in their responses. Therefore, you want to make sure that you can eliminate grammatical errors during your response. Keeping this in mind, the independent and integrated speaking prompts will determine the type of verb tenses and sentence structure that you will use in your response. Consider the following independent and integrated speaking prompts and the types of grammar that you will use.

Tip 1: The “recommend or advise” type of independent speaking prompt: This type of speaking prompt asks the test-taker to recommend or give advice regarding a topic. It can phrased in the following way: “Someone you know is preparing for a job interview. What advice will you give your friend?”

In this case, since the question is using a verb of urging such as “recommend” or “advise”, you will need to use the subjunctive mood in the noun clause as you explain your ideas. For example, you might say, “If my friend is preparing for a job interview, I will advise that he practice interview questions beforehand and make sure that he wear appropriate business attire during the interview.” Notice that I used the base form of the verbs “practice” and “wear” in the noun clauses. You will use the subjunctive mood in the remainder of your noun clauses in this type of a response. For more information, using Google, type in the key words “What is the subjunctive mood in English Grammar?”

Tip 2: The hypothetical type of independent speaking prompt: This type of speaking prompt typically asks you about an unreal present condition. It may be phrased in the following way: “If you had to move to another city, what city would you move to and why?”

Answering this question forces you to use the simple past plus “would” to talk about a situation that will never happen. For instance, to begin this type of speaking prompt, you might say, “If I had to move to a different city in my country, I would move to Buenos Aires because of its employment and educational opportunities. Because I was not talking about something which was happening right now, I could not use the simple present tense. Instead, I used the verbs “had” and “would move” to talk about an unreal present condition. The reminder of your response should stay in the simple past, thus being consistent by using the hypothetical tone throughout the response. To learn more about this type of grammar, go to Google and type in these key words: “English grammar and present possible, present impossible, and past impossible conditions.”

Tip 3: The “describe” plus “personal experience” type of independent speaking prompt: This type of speaking task is asking you to describe something that you did in the past such as “Describe a favorite vacation that you went on. What is a favorite memory that you had during this vacation.”

Obviously, this two-part speaking task is asking you to describe something that has a clear beginning and end in the past, which means you will be using the simple past and perhaps other past tenses to describe the activity. To illustrate, to answer the first part of the question, you could say, “Going to the Grand Canyon is my favorite vacation I went on when I was a child.” In this case, I used the simple present “is” and the simple past “went” and “was” to begin the topic for the first part of the speaking prompt. When answering the second part of the question, you could frame the beginning of your response like this: “My favorite memory at the Grand Canyon is when my family and I went

on a hike to the Colorado River from the South Rim.” Like before, I used the simple present “is” and the simple past “went” to introduce this topic for this part of the speaking task.

Tip 4: The “discuss” or “explain” type of integrated speaking task: When completing integrated speaking task 3, 4, 5, and 6, you will be asked to explain or discuss points in reading and listening passages. For example, for integrated speaking task 4, it could be phrased in the following way: “Explain how the points in the lecture relate to the points in the reading passage.”

Since the purpose of the integrated speaking tasks is to summarize or re-explain the main points in either the reading or listening passage, and, in the case of integrated speaking tasks 3 and 4, you are explaining what the relationship is between the reading and listening passages. Therefore, I suggest that you use the simple present tense to accomplish this purpose. In addition, to maintain formality, you should also explain the information from the third person point of view and be sure to use voice markers which clearly acknowledge the sources being used. For example, suppose you read a passage which defines socialism as a form of government, and then you listen to a passage that gives an example of a country which practices this form of government. Then, you could frame your introduction in the following way: “The reading passage defines a concept called socialism, and the listening passage gives an example to further illustrate the idea.” By using “the reading passage” and “the listening passage,” the sentence is framed around the third person point of view. The verbs “defines” and “gives” appropriately explain the ideas from the simple present tense. Furthermore, notice how a compound sentence is used since the purpose is to explain the main points of both passages. Thus, the main point of the reading passage and listening passages are appropriately explained in two independent clauses joined by the coordinator “and.”

To sum up, whether you are completing independent or integrated speaking tasks, make sure you take time to closely analyze the speaking prompts so that you can determine the type of grammar and sentence structure that you will use.