Improve your TOEFL score

So, you took the TOEFL and got a low score. Don’t worry! You can always take it again because there is no limit to the number of times you can take the test.

To improve your score you will first have to identify why you got a poor score.  Most students will take the internet-based TOEFL iBT. This test has four sections. It is normal for students to do well in some sections and poorly in others.

Students receive a score ranging from 0-30 for each of the four sections. The overall score is the sum of these four scores and ranges from 0-120. By examining the score for each section it is easy to identify which section needs improvement.

The Listening Section

There are two easy ways to improve your listening comprehension score:

Review audio materials provided in TOEFL study guides. These guides often contain audio CDs or CD-ROMs with sample conversations, lectures, and student discussions that can help you prepare.

Listen to the radio in English. VOA News (Voice of America) broadcasts news stories online and on the radio. Text that matches the audio broadcasts are available so you can follow along. Watching TV in English will not help your listening comprehension as much as radio because there are too many visual cues that can be used to infer the content.


The Reading Section

A low score is this section is probably due to limited vocabulary. Students who score well on this section tend to have a vocabulary between 10,000 and 15,000 words. Several options are available to help:

Build your vocabulary by studying word lists provided by in TOEFL study guides. The books and study guides featured below focus on improving reading skills, increasing vocabulary, and provide hundred of words and phrases to practice.



Read in English regularly. Newspapers, magazines, and books (especially non-fiction) printed in English are a good guides for building vocabulary. However, it is important to note that some publications may be printed in British English and the TOEFL tests American English.


The Speaking Section

Improving your speaking skills is perhaps the hardest English skill to improve. There is really only one way to effectively increase your speaking ability:

Talk to someone in English. There are a couple of ways to ensure that you speak to someone in English regularly. The first is to enroll in an intensive English conversation course; the other is to find a private tutor. Either strategy will force you to become more proficient in speaking English.

If you prefer to practice speaking English on your own, you will need a study guide that can provide speaking scenarios, and familiarize yourself with the iBT questions, hints for correct pronunciation and grammar. Several well respected speaking guides are featured below.


The Writing Section

Improving your writing skills is easier when a fluent English speaker can proofread your writing and provide comments and feedback. Therefore, working with a private tutor may be the most effective way to increase you writing score.

Students often score poorly on the Writing section of the TOEFL because they have difficulties organizing their thoughts and outlining the essay.  There are several books available that provide essays topics, sample essays, and useful tips for organizing and developing ideas.