Guest Post: Why Its a Good Idea To Start Your TOEFL Prep With a Practice Exam

Getting ready to take a language proficiency test can be a scary experience. The best way to lessen the stress and achieve a great score is to get enough practice for your TOEFL exam. But even more important than the time you spend on preparation is how you do it. And there are no better ways to start off your exam prep than taking a practice test.

Here are 7 reasons why mock exams are a great first step in preparing for your TOEFL:

1. Seeing how much work you still need

One of the most important ways a practice exam helps you prepare is to reveal how much effort you still need to put in to achieve your target score. Once you’ve finished taking your mock test, you can see what score you would’ve gotten if it had been the real thing. You can use that score as a reference to see how far away you are from your target score. If you are planning to apply to a university, for example, most of them publish the minimum required scores needed to attend, so you know what you need to be aiming for.

2. You find out what you need to focus on

By starting your prep with a practice exam, you will find out what you need to focus on in the later steps. In many cases, we are blind to the areas where we need most work and since the TOEFL tests your overall language skills, you will need to excel in all areas to get the best score. You can see what parts you struggled with the most during the practice exam and put more effort into getting them up to speed. Of course, you will also find out what you already know so you don’t have to waste precious prep time on further improving your strong suites. 

3. They reduce exam stress

Another great thing about taking a mock exam is that you will get an idea of what it is like to take the real test. The scary part about taking a language exam is often that you don’t know what is going to happen. By taking a practice test, you will put yourself in a situation as similar as possible to taking the actual exam. Once you know what you are going to be dealing with, it will be a lot less intimidating. This is why it’s also important to simulate the real conditions of the TOEFL with your practice exam - try to limit the time you spend on each particular question to what you would have in the real test.

4. Practice tests reinforce learning

Perhaps surprisingly, practice tests are also one of the best ways of revision in themselves. Studies have shown that sitting for a mock exam is actually more beneficial than spending the same amount of time studying. Taking them can really reinforce learning and make what you’ve already retained more easily accessible. To achieve the best results, you can also choose to do several practice tests because that approach has been shown to really bring the best scores for students preparing for an exam. 

5. You see what materials are the best for preparation

If you are preparing for the TOEFL exam by yourself, the number of materials available to you can be very confusing. There are so many different textbooks and sites out there that choosing the right ones will be a challenge. However, if you’ve already taken a practice exam, you will know exactly what to look for in your preparation materials and will waste no time on using resources that don’t really help you prepare.

6. Practice exams give you stamina

TOEFL tests require endurance and stamina. They take hours to complete and are, in general, very demanding affairs. Starting your preparation with taking a practice test will not only give you an idea of how the real experience will be like, it will also increase your stamina for the TOEFL test. This is especially important if you haven’t taken any exams in a while. If you’re a recent university graduate, you will remember how tiring long written exams are and that you need a lot of preparation to be up for the task. 

7. For best results, take several practice exams

The saying goes, practice makes perfect. And this is very true when it comes to taking mock exams. It’s definitely a good idea to start your revision off by taking a practice exam (for the reasons mentioned above) but it’s even smarter to take several. Not only will this encourage spaced repetition which has been shown to dramatically increase how much information you can retain, it will also give you a very good overview of how you are progressing in your preparation process. 

Conclusion - Practice Tests Show You the Way to Achieve the Best Result on Your TOEFL

Starting off your TOEFL preparation with a practice test is a great way to ensure you get the best result on your exam. From showing you what you should be focussing on during your prep to giving you a heads up on what the exam itself will be like and knowing what materials to use, practice tests are an invaluable part of your preparation process. 


Author bio: This article was written by Liisi. She is a language enthusiast who has been studying English for over 20 years now and hopes to never be finished. Thanks to her obsession with languages, she also co-founded Teacher Finder - a site that connects language learners with private teachers worldwide. 

After you take your practice exam, be sure to pick up the free Study Planner so you can put the results of your practice test to good use!

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