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TOEFL Pacing

Announcement! As of August 1, 2019, the TOEFL Reading, Listening and Speaking sections will be shortened. The TOEFL will also make changes to its prep materials and scoring system. Because of this, some of the info in our blog posts may not yet reflect the new exam format. We cover all the changes here.

Would you rather work very slowly and leave large portions of your test incomplete or work quickly and risk making a lot of stupid mistakes? Luckily, if you practice pacing, you’ll never have to make that decision.


Figure out your ideal pace, and practice it

As you take practice tests, try to figure out a way to break down your time. I could give you guidelines, but it really depends on you. Do you tend to scan a reading quickly, then return to it in greater detail after having seen the questions? Or are you the kind of person who reads very carefully the first time around and then can answer the questions almost from memory? If you fall into the former category, you may do best when you have five minutes to read the passage initially and fifteen minutes to answer the questions. If you prefer a more in-depth initial read-through, perhaps ten and ten will work better for you (I don’t recommend allocating less than half of the available time to the questions themselves).  If you practice working under this schedule, you’ll be able to refine it and get used to using the timing that does best for your test-taking style.


Allow yourself short breaks

Since the TOEFL is so long, your mind is bound to wander. Within limits, it’s better to take a short, intentional break than to struggle to concentrate throughout the entire test. So when you start to get tired, wait until a realistic time (for goodness’ sake not during the listening section!), and give yourself 10 seconds to recuperate. Even those few seconds can help you pay attention for the rest of the test.


Practice endurance

Even though two or three 10-second breaks may help you more than they hurt you, it’s obviously not ideal if you take a 10-second break every question or two. You can train yourself to have a longer attention span, making these breaks less necessary and the test much easier to get through. And the good news is that you can do this outside of your official “study” activities. If you’re reading a book, read a few pages beyond when you want to stop. Instead of surfing the web and stalking your friends on social networks, choose any one longer activity to do. Listen to the radio for an hour when you’re not doing anything else. Avoid multitasking, and you’ll definitely increase your attention span–you may even find that you’re more productive in other areas of your life!


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