When test day rolls around, you want to have as few unknowns as possible—and I’m not just referring to the content of the exam. You want to know the TOEFL format, the setting, and what you have to bring with you, and, if possible, it’s good to know what score you can expect to leave with. By taking a practice test (or two or three) before the real thing, you strengthen your chances of scoring you can and find out what you might need to improve. Plus, if something goes wrong on test day, your practice tests can help you decide whether a TOEFL retake will really improve your score.
Taking a Mock TOEFL Test
Now, if you want the most authentic experience possible, you have a couple of options. First of all, you can sign up for a mock test. Mock tests give you a test experience that, if you didn’t know better, you wouldn’t be able to distinguish from the actual TOEFL. Once you sign up for a mock test, you go to a specified location on the specified day and sit a full-length examination in a room with a proctor and other highly motivated students like yourself. If you decide to take this route, be aware that some organizations may offer only paper-based tests. If the format is important to you, be sure to ask about this before registering. The second option you have for a really authentic practice test is to visit http://www.ets.org/toeflpractice. Here you can buy online, scored practice tests written by the test-makers themselves. At $44.95, these tests aren’t cheap, and they can’t be saved; the test must be completed in one sitting, after which it cannot be retaken or viewed.
Using the Official TOEFL Guide’s Practice Tests
If you’re like me, you already paid about $20 for the ETS Official Guide, and you’d rather get all the practice you need from that one book than from multiple sources. This is the best place to start, certainly! There are tons of TOEFL practice tests out there, both online and in print form, but very very few are of good quality, and although any practice test is better than no practice test, I recommend that you stick with the Official Guide, since it will give you the most authentic questions and format, especially if you take the tests using the CD that comes with the book, not on paper.