TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)

TOEFL Experience and Strategies by Mariana Magdy Botros

Hey guys, I just passed TOEFL and got the required scores for my pharmacy license. I’m gonna share my experience in detail in this post. I hope you all get your dream scores too.

First of all, I didn’t take the home version test. I found a test center giving the test in NewYork. Try to call the available testing centers and see if they are running the test.

Here is my detailed experience with TOEFL preparation.


Notefull, ETS books” official guide, volume 1&2”

For reading

  • I started with Notefull but Notefull strategies were not working for me, I was getting 20, so my advice is to start with Notefull just to get an overall idea about question types.
  • Don’t use skim strategy. Don’t use the “keywords” strategy.
  • First, read the first 3 sentences of the first paragraph and then the first sentence of all paragraphs. Read that with deep understanding. This is a crucial step for mastering your passage.

Now I will explain 3 main strategies I have used.

  • When you read the question: try to figure out what it is mainly asking about and put it in your mind.
  • When you go to the passage: read it from the beginning even if the answer is in the middle. If the answer is in paragraph 4 and it’s composed of 7 lines and the answer is in line 4, read quickly but with understanding the first 3 lines, and then read line 4 carefully putting in your mind what the question needs. You can neglect the last 3 lines as long as you got your answer. I know that this seems time-consuming, but in fact, that saves time more than reading the same part 4 or 5 times without getting any idea. This also will help you in the summary question because you would be already fully understanding the main ideas of the passage.
  • When you go to the choices: give every choice a mark, either yes or no or maybe. “NO” if the choice is (1) WRONG “ a clear opposite of a mentioned idea”, (2) NOT MENTIONED “ which seems good but nobody mentioned that. “MAYBE” if the choice is (1) confusing (2) not understood and remember that if you don’t understand a sentence, that doesn’t mean that it’s incorrect. “YES “ if the choice is (1) mentioned by the same meaning with the same or different words (2) an only conclusion of a sentence mentioned in the paragraph.
  • Exclude all the NOs and think of the YESs and MAYBEs.
  • I used to practice 1 passage at a time, not a full test, and then figure out the reasons for my mistakes. Remember that you need to practice to improve not to just finish tasks.

For listening

  • I started with notefull
  • I used to take notes but I found out that not taking notes is better for me. That doesn’t mean that this will work for you, but try a full listening with taking notes and another without taking notes and see which approach will be better for you.
  • Strategies for answering questions are the same as reading.

For speaking

  • I started with notefull.
  • For question 1: I practiced the 180 questions for question 1 “ in notefull” and wrote down examples and personal life experiences. This might be boring, to be honest, but it’s important to find ideas to talk about.
  • For question 2,3,4: it’s all about practice. You need to know how many lines of notes you are able to speak about and train yourself not to take more or fewer notes to manage your time.
  • I did that all and I was stuck between 23 and 25, and I needed 26. I got help from Miguel Marcano. I got 4 lessons with him, made some adjustments, and then did it. Thank you, Mike, for your help and motivation.

For writing

  • I used only notefull and a friend of mine evaluated my writings and gave me some advice. I recommend that you get a writing evaluation from a tutor or a trusted friend if you are stuck in writing.
  • question 1: when you read, write down briefly the 3 ideas which you are expecting to hear about. When you listen, train yourself to write down every idea, just words not the whole sentences.
  • question 2: (1) give yourself 3 minutes to think of your reasons and examples. Your 2 reasons have to be different, not off-topic. For example, if you choose to live in an Apartment over living in a house, you can say that the reasons are the price and the variety of neighborhoods. Completely different areas. You also can choose a reason why you love your choice and a reason why you hate the other one. This will help you write different words and different examples. (2) when you start your examples, start from level 0. Stretch your ideas. Give more details. Instead of saying I went to high school, say 10 years ago, I went to Amoun high school, which is located in Portsaid, a city in Egypt. See? More explanations. (3) don’t start from the middle of your story and always remember that the evaluator doesn’t know anything about your story, so begin from the base of your story.

That’s all my experience. I hope that this would be useful for you and good luck all.


Mariana Magdy Botros

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