Sunday, October 08, 2006

How to TOEFL iBT

Finally got my TOEFL iBT score! I was really terrified about this score, because lot of things depend on this. Most importantly, TOEFL score can make-up as GRE Verbal (I hope so.) So, I needed a moderate score, so that I can apply to any universities that I had short-listed. 

So the final score was, 104 (out of 120; equivalent to CBT 257 and PBT 613) [Reading: 26 (30), Listening: 26 (30), Speaking: 24 (30), Writing: 28 (30)]. 

Of-course, this is not very high score but you need at-most 100 to apply for a PhD program. I am more than happy with my score after a frustrating GRE Verbal 360!! However, after my score I was trying to estimate how good/bad is my score and how other people are scoring in this newly adopted Internet Based TOEFL exam, known as iBT. 

These two links can help you to understand about new TOEFL exam. Even though ETS (Educational Testing System, who takes these exams) scale iBT 100 as equivalent to CBT 250 and PBT 600, it is not that easy! At least, this is what I understood from these reviews. One test taker even commented that TOEFL iBT is tougher than GRE!

I don't have any idea of TOEFL CBT (Computer based) or PBT (Paper based) exams. But from the reviews what I understood is, earlier tests were more on "what you know about the language". They had separate sections on structures and grammars, besides usual listening, reading and writing. The new iBT is more like "how well you can use the language" or "how well you can communicate with the language". 
Someone gave a short (and good) description of new iBT test. I have pasted it below, rest of my email will follow after this. 

source: <>

furkankoksal <> wrote: Hi ,
I ve taken the Toefl test on saturday and I must say it was damn hard !

Let me tell you sth,,

1.In the reading section; the whole reading passage appears and so 
does the countdown timer. But the thing is, dont you ever, ever start 
reading the whole passage paragraph by paragraph ! That will be 
nothing but wasting time. You should jump to the questions and try to 
find out the answer on the passage at once. Do not ever wait or think 
more than a minute. Cuz guys, time is rollin !!

2.Its too much in IBT , and forget about the CBT. The passages are 
almost 10 paragraphs and have advanced vocabulary. So you d better be 
prepared to the show . (both physically and phsychologically)

3. The listening section has 3 parts and everypart has 1 dialogue and 
2 lectures so that makes 3 dialogus and 6 lectures in total. There is 
one pencil and some papers, ur pencil may go off, so u may need to 
take a pencil sharpener with you :) (I dont think u ll have time to 
sharpen though). You will pray for the break time !

4. After the break(10 mins),is the speaking section . Following a 
short microphone control thing, you ll be asked a simple question 
related to to ur opinion on a specific topic. You will have 15 sec to 
prepare for ur response, and 45 seconds to talk. Then, integrated 
section comes, you ll see a reading passage and a listening passage 
which has the opposite idea of that in the reading passage. and you 
are asked to answer the questions. you have to answer the questions 
only by using details given in the reading and listening passages. But 
keep in mind that you ll have a limited time (about 30-40 seconds) to 
read the reading passage and to understand, then u will not be able to 
see it again . That s a crucial point. 
You are playing for time !!

5. Writing section , integrated part is just like the speaking section 
but the difference is that you can see the reading passage while you 
are writing. So grasp the idea in the listening passage, that will 
work. In this section, like the way LOngman adviced, you can go with 
"In this set of materials, the reading passage discusses .....while 
the listening passage discusses .......and ... ...differed 
considerably in their ideas of ....." 
Independent part is just like the CBT . write ur opinion about a 
specific topic. (for a succesful essay, u can check back the email of 
Saba- which includes some essay tips . Just scroll up on the mail 

Finally, the person sitting beside you may speak loudly and most 
importantly may start the speaking section before you (while u re in 
the listening section yet), dont let that disconcentrate you. He may 
talk loudly because he fears that his voice will not be recorded with 
his normal voice. But this is totally wrong. You dont need to speak 
loudly, a normal tone will be OK . 

You should move FAST !

Good Luck .

PS: The advices and the ideas indicated in this e-mail may not be 
suitable to everyone. This e-mail is here only for goodwill. 
Best regards 
Furkan Koksal


Okay! Now hopefully you have a better understanding about iBT. Let me tell you the truth, if I can get 100+ in iBT with 360 GRE verbal, you will do better than me. So start thinking that way. 

Now, let me share with you what helped me in the exam. 1st reading, as the email sender suggested don't read the whole paragraph at first, just skim through it. I support his views. I had to randomly select my last few questions of 1st essay. You have to very efficient, it is better if you practice more before the exam. Good part was, after my 1st essay, I was on-time for rest of the essays, because I understood how to handle it. I even had time and went to toilet during my last essay :) Even though my GRE score doesn't reflect I learned few vocabulary, but my short-cut high-frequency lists helped me a lot in the TOEFL iBT. One suggestion is, always give TOEFL after GRE. I also read lots of emails and news in English. I guess that helped too. 

Now listening. I thought I gave this section very well. But only 26. However, I am happy with it. 

Ugh Speaking! Whatever review you read, iBT speaking is very hard to every one. Even to peoples who are very fluent. Let me tell you my experience. In my two weeks' preparation I spent very little time for speaking, where I spent most of my time watching movies (I liked preparing for TOEFL:) You are watching movies and also preparing for a exam! I wish other exams were like this). When and how did I prepare for Speaking? I spoke to myself explaining things that can be asked in the test. It was easy, because, it is more like a conversation. But in the real test it was lot harder, I cannot even understand my own words! I was that nervous. Problem is, you can speak to people (a conversation) but when they tell you to speak after a beep! Its really hard, and your time (40 s - 60 s) ends just after you get the flow of speaking!! So, you should practice with beep and with time. I had another problem. Many people commented that 15-30 seconds break was very short. In my case, I found these unnecessary. It was my fault and I couldn't understand at that moment what mistake I am doing again and again. I was prepare in the break time, so I was trying to practice my speech during that 15-30 sec break, and when the original time starts, I am like, umm, umm, ugh, hmm, and no sound! I cannot repeat the same thing within few seconds. It might be better, if I just note down the points and speak when you are supposed to. See, if you have the same problem or not. If you do, then practice accordingly. 

Lastly writing! With my poor english I write a lot (mostly emails) and that helped me:) After my exam, I was satisfied with writing and listening. Writing was as expected but I expected better in listening. I wasn't sure how much I might get in reading and speaking, but I am more than happy with all the scores. Ooh! another thing for speaking. When I gave the exam, we were only 3 people in the 30 people's lab. Also in three corners. It helped a lot, because when other people are talking in the small room you cannot concentrate on your speaking. I must say, I was lucky. I have no idea, what would have happened, if there were test-takers just beside me! Few things you can do to avoid this situation. As you have seen above, the email sender suggests to move faster, so that you can start before other people. Practice talking when others are talking beside you and try to not to be distracted. (which is really hard. even with these 3 people, I was looking in the other person, who was speaking very confidently and I guess his exam was really good! But I have a bad habit of looking people in the exam hall:) In fact, I was getting nervous seeing him, because "beta boila fatai feltese, r amar mukh diye kothai bair hoitese na! faizlami naki." Whatever, bottom line is, try to concentrate on your own speaking:) You will do better. If you are not applying for graduate school this year, then you should remember a useful tip. Give the exam between Mid July - End of August. There is a possibility that there won't be too much rush in this period. After that time everyone start giving exam who targets fall session and before that everyone gives exam who targets spring session. 

When I gave my exam, iBT resources were not available in the market. Special thanks to Nafid and Hammad for letting me know about the American Center in Banani. After spending 4/5 days, I had the idea on how iBT test looks like. They have all the resources available for TOEFL iBT and other standard tests. If you can manage time (it is open only from 10AM to 4PM, sunday - wednesday, i guess), then you must go there. They have one day membership (50tk), one month (200 tk) and one year (500 tk) membership. Within this membership they also advise students on graduate school admission procedure. I haven't been there for the advise, but it might be helpful too. And I did an one year membership. 

So, thats my two cents! Hope that helps. Again, nothing is free! So pray for my graduate school application:) 
Take care. 


Anonymous said...

Hiii Naushad..This is really a great job u done for the ppl.
I believe it will defenatly helpful for the TOEFL preparing stdnt.Thanx a lot!!!

Naushad UzZaman said...

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If you need any suggestions, feel free to contact him. He will be happy to give you suggestions. Contact information can be found at:

21 March, 2008

Anonymous said...

Hi Naushad,

Your review is very nice and hilarious. I liked it a lot for being not that long and descriptive.. I Just want to say "Thank You for Sharing your exprience"

nancy john said...

Thanks for providing information it is very useful for students

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