How to Study Effectively, Part 2

Aside from being organized and identifying your target range for TOEFL, you will need to identify exactly what you need to learn. That is to say, consider which academic skills you can improve on to have the best advancement in your language and to achieve a high score. If you are weaker in listening, then be sure that you practice listening daily. If speaking is your weakness, practice recording your voice in simulated responses on a recorder or on your smartphone and listening to your voice to evaluate your speaking. If you do not know your weaknesses, you will need to first identify your strengths in English and find out your level of English according to separate language skills. In fact, you may have excellent grammar and reading skills and thus need not dedicate time to practicing reading passages; however, first you need to discover what you need to improve upon.

  1. Identify your level and learning needs


  • By taking a practice TOEFL test, you can find out your current level. Once you have an idea of your exact level, you can pinpoint your target and lay out a strategy of how to get from Point A (current level of English) to Point B (TOEFL target score) in your exact time frame. You do not want to waste any precious time, so if you can identify the task you need to strength (e.g. listening or note-taking,) that will help you work accordingly within your study time table.

Example: Let’s say you have one week of time before you need a final score, that would be a very different study plan than if you had a 90-day study plan (if you had more time to attain a TOEFL score.)

  1. Read and take notes

In the previous blog, How to Study Effectively, Part 1, you learned that having a notebook or computer files of notes is useful.

  • Read & make notes: When making the notes under each academic skill or sub topic, read your subject and make notes either writing comments or short summaries. (How to take notes effectively will be addressed under a different blog heading.)
  • Write key ideas taking notes: in addition to reading and note-taking, practice identifying the main purpose and writing down the main idea, key points and supporting facts from your memory of listening or reading into your notes. You will retain information better later on. Be sure if you write by hand to handwrite legibly, otherwise, it will be useless to read later on when you review and you might not interpret your notes or waste your valuable study time. Save time by composing neatly.
  • Highlight key points: if you are on the computer, highlight key information with colors (not too bright) in the file so that you can locate key words later on when you review. If you are using a notebook for taking notes, highlight with a colored marker (not too bright or it can distract you) to easily relocate key ideas. If you have these key ideas highlighted, it will be an outline of the information that you can review quickly at a later day.

Four Emotional Strategies to Reduce Test Anxiety

On top of physical strategies, there are also four emotional strategies to help you feel less anxious before you take your TOEFL test. Think strong and you will be strong emotionally.

Emotional strategies:


  1. Keep a positive mindset and remain calm. If you can center yourself and eliminate any negativity from your mind, you will be more confident and comfortable during the test. If you can breathe whenever you feel nervous, it will help your nerves relax, and with this calmness, you can go forward successfully the test day. Before the exam, visualize yourself getting the target score you want.
  2. Schedule time to relax since relaxing will raise your efficiency. It’s important to maintain a work/study/life balance so that your emotions are not too drained. Allow yourself down time from studying in order to keep that balance and stay strong. Preparing for a challenging, draining TOEFL test requires tons of effort and statistics show that if you reward yourself by taking breaks often, you will be more emotionally centered and focused on the test.
  3. Do not give up. If you feel frustrated, just keep your eye on your goal and remember why you want to get that goal. Staying motivated is the key to getting where you want to be. Your life is made up of many aspects, not just academic. If you do not get the target score on one try, try, try again to improve your results.
  4. Ask for support from family such as a mother, sister or partner, and friends or colleagues you work with. Tell them about the exam and how important it is to you and explain what you are going through emotionally if you have any struggles. Ask them to respect your study habits, for instance if you are studying quietly at lunchtime alone, and to be patient if you do not have time for them since you have your eye on your goal.

To overcome the anxiety that you may have for the TOEFL test, you must first understand the causes of anxiety and create the best coping mechanisms for your specific situation.