Three questions you should ask yourself before starting to prepare for the TOEFL test.

It is test-takers’ first duty on their To-do list that they should order a good reference book for the TOEFL from Amazon. Most of them would carefully read reviews and hear former test takers reflecting on their books. They probably end up clicking the order button of those books whose reviews are good and friendly and which are ranked high.

They may receive an appropriate book the following day, but most of them will find the book disappointing. It will be either that they don’t understand the book at all or that their knowledge has already covered the book. This is due mainly to the ignorance of two important considerations.

1) You should know where you are.

The best way to do this would be to take an actual test. If your score is 80 or above, then, your choice of the ETS Official Guide will be appropriate. If your score is lower than 60, you will never be able to read the Official Guide. However, the Official Guide is one of the best-selling books under the section of the TOEFL in Amazon. This means that most of the customers cannot enjoy the book or utilize the knowledge and wisdom in it to apply to the next TOEFL test.

2) You should set the goal before looking for a good book.

On the shelf of a bookshop you can see TOEFL reference books whose test taking strategies are just as varied. You will have a hard time choosing which strategies to take: whether to read the entire passage first or read the questions and answer choices first; whether to focus on the academic topics or the familiar topics; or whether to write more than 500 words or not more than 300 words. It all depends on the score you are aiming at.

3) Is your (possible) test score really above 40?

If your score is below 40, it will be nearly impossible to understand all the strategies. If you know them, you cannot utilize them in the actual test, because you don’t understand what is going on in the test. You will even have a hard time getting the gist of the reading passage. You will have difficulty keeping yourself awake throughout the listening section. You can say or write virtually no words. If that’s your situation, your TOEFL guides will be reduced to worthless debris.

Therefore, ask yourself these three questions before starting to prepare for the TOEFL test.


Daily TOEFL 29: And…And…And… vs. (silence)

There are many things you never notice about the way you speak, but I do.

Let me introduce one of them.

One is the use of “and.” Here is part of a sample response to Q3 of 6 in the TOEFL Speaking Section.

The university is announcing a new ban on smoking.

And students will not be allowed to smoke in the dorm.

And if you smoke, you may be punished.

And the woman makes complaints about the new policy.

And she thinks drug problems are much more imminent  …


That’s about it. Obviously, this sample uses too many ands. Its usage is irrelevant. This may be just a habit that the speaker has developed before s/he realizes. However, if you imagine listening to this response, “and” will be haunting you when it is time to judge this response. The effect will be negative.

I can assume that this habit comes from a strong desire of the speaker not to stop speaking. S/he wants to speak, but cannot say anything. That’s when “and” pops up. However, “and” should connect two sentences logically, the former sentence being a reason or an assumption, the latter a result or a conclusion. Or both have a parallel relationship.

I don’t think “and” can work as a filler. I would make a pause if I have to think before speaking. Just a pause of a second or two will not affect your entire speech.