My advice for the people taking the TOEFL
TOEFL test is very challenging test of English Language. It’s not something you can learn overnight. So, it’s better to prepare as best as you can. It would be better if you can do it as better as you can so you don't have to take is second or third time, because, you will agree with me, $180 is not so small amount of money to take the test couple of time. So, you will need some dedication and a good will.
When I was taking the test for the first time (which was sometime in the beginning of 2009) I haven’t really prepared for it so much. I’ve learned some English from the TV’s, movies and in the High School and that was all. Actually I also have some English summer course which last only one month but that was just 3-5 hours per week and it didn’t helped me a lot. Probably because I love to learn on my own.
I needed TOEFL to attend classes on my University and I got 61 on the first try which was relatively good, if we take into account that I didn’t read or prepared for the test at all. I actually needed 60 points in that time. Later, the minimum score changed to 71 so I needed to take it for the second time. I’ve taken the TOEFL for the second time 2 years later in the summer 2011.
For the second try, I was preparing and practicing for the TOEFL for about 25 days or so which is relatively small amount of time, so I wouldn’t advise you to schedule such a small amount of time for practicing and TOEFL preparation. But I’ve read a lot of English books and references “loud” so I got some really good pronunciation of English words. I’ sure that’s because I was reading a lot to improve my speech didn’t really care what I’m reading, I just needed to read it correctly.
I was practicing about 3-4 hours every day. I would say that you need at least 2-3 months practicing 1-2 hours every day to make some good score like 80+, of course I assuming that you have some elementary proficiency only. It all depends from person to person. I like to learn on my own, so I didn’t wanted any expensive English learning courses or something like that. I started searching on amazon for already used and for the best and cheapest books related to TOEFL and I’ve bought them. I’ve found some for free as well and printed them all, and also I’ve found some websites related to TOEFL. So, internet and computer can also help you a lot in your preparations. You can find a essay topics, and you can compose a story in your own way and that will help you. By doing this, you can also practicing on how to use most effective and in the same way most basic words you can use in every single essay you got. (The Perfect phrases for the TOEFL Speaking and Writing Sections book helped me a lot on this)
You must have a lot of self-confidence and concentration which is really important. You will probably take the TOEFL with some other people in the room, so you won’t be alone. It can really be tough if you don’t concentrate on yourself. Just think you are alone in your room. Remember, you can’t fail or pass this test. The score is what counts but it’ most important that you don’t think about that at all. Just concentrate to what you are doing. The last day before taking the test, I think the most important thing is to relax, and get a good night's sleep. The test lasts about 4 hours (4 section, 1 hour each) so you better be prepared to it.
I had to travel two hours to the destination and I had stomach problems the night before the exam because I didn’t rest myself enough, but everything went relatively well in the end. I expected I will score a minimum of 80 points since I really improved my English (I also got some positive comments from my fellows about my English). However, I scored 76 which was quite good I guess, because I needed a minimum of 71 points for my university and academic purposes.
I was pretty much already explained which books and references helped me the most. So, just to say, if you want to buy some material for practicing TOEFL, you don’t have to buy most expensive book. The most expensive doesn’t mean that it’s the best. Believe me, you can find a lot of reviews of these books by the people and that can help you a lot. To be honest, If I need to rate the most expensive book I bought for practicing TOEFL that would be below the average. I already explained and take a brief review of all of these materials I’ve used. You can learn pretty much of what will be on the test, but you really need some general knowledge of English, not only grammar or something similar. It’s really advanced test of English, so you better prepare good and make some dedication to it.