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Preparing for the TOEFL in 20-30 Minutes per Day

We’ve already written a thirty-day TOEFL study schedule, which is helpful for people who have a few hours of free time to study every day. But for those of you who have kids, jobs, classes, households, and commutes, two hours every day can be too big a commitment. So if you’re totally lost when you try to fit half a practice test into your already-packed day, then this guide is for you. This is designed for low-intensity, long-term studying. The key to using it successfully is to be consistent. It may seem like missing one twenty-minute session won’t be a big deal, but when you’re working in such short bursts, every minute really counts.

Of course, life happens and will probably interfere with your studying at some point. If that’s the case, then try to plan ahead; it’s much easier to be slightly ahead of schedule than to be scrambling to catch up. Do two twenty-minute sessions the day before you have to miss a session. One of the reasons that this study plan works is that you review past material every single day. So if you are going to double up, try to do one session in the morning and one in the evening, rather than mashing them together into  one forty-minute session. This plan is all about seeing new information and then reviewing it just before you forget it, so even a few hours in between your sessions will help keep this cycle going.

Unlike the month-long study schedule, for this schedule you’ll need to become familiar with the format and content of the TOEFL before starting this schedule. What I’ve written below is just a tool to help you focus and get enough practice of each skill. So you need to know the test before you start, or at least take some additional time to get to know it.

This schedule will  get you through every part of the TOEFL in two weeks, and it can be repeated as many times as you want.

Materials needed: a voice recording device, a TOEFL prep book or Magoosh’s TOEFL prep, a notebook where you can keep a running vocabulary list.

Day 1: Do one reading passage and check it. Write down unfamiliar words.

Day 2: Scan the reading from yesterday and review the questions you missed. Do you understand now why you missed them? Answer two independent speaking topics (record your answers). Add to your vocabulary list any words that you needed and didn’t know to answer the questions.

Day 3: Listen to your speaking answers from yesterday and take written notes on your strengths and weaknesses. Read over your vocabulary list a few times.

Day 4: Do 3 listening passages and check them. Use the rest of your time to review anything you missed.

Day 5: Review the most difficult listening from yesterday. Do one reading passage and check your answers.

Day 6: Scan the reading passage. Do one listening passage.

Day 7: Review your vocabulary list. Plan and write one independent essay.

Day 8: Review and edit your essay.

Day 9: Do 3 listening passages. Check your answers.

Day 10: Review the questions you missed in yesterday’s listening. Do three integrated speaking questions (one of each type). Write down any words you needed and didn’t have.

Day 11: Do one reading passage. Write down unfamiliar words.

Day 12: Listen to your speaking answers and review the words you wrote down yesterday. Read/listen to the materials for an integrated writing assignment, and plan your answer.

Day 13: Write the integrated essay.

Day 14: Read/listen to the integrated writing materials again. Correct your essay.

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16 Responses to Preparing for the TOEFL in 20-30 Minutes per Day

  1. nasir October 4, 2015 at 8:06 pm #

    good lesson

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas Fink October 12, 2015 at 3:43 pm #

      We’re glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

  2. Ertson Reis December 7, 2015 at 2:42 am #

    Hey guys, yoiu reakky have some nice tips.
    I’m thinking to take the TOEFL by the end of February, so I have at least 2 month and a half to prepare. I’m feeling encouraged to buy one of your prep courses.

  3. Ertson Reis December 7, 2015 at 2:42 am #

    Hey guys, you really have some nice tips.
    I’m thinking to take the TOEFL by the end of February, so I have at least 2 month and a half to prepare. I’m feeling encouraged to buy one of your prep courses.

    • Rachel Wisuri
      Rachel Wisuri December 7, 2015 at 10:04 am #

      That’s great to hear, Erston. 🙂 Happy studying!

  4. bharathi June 26, 2016 at 10:09 am #

    i liked all your tips for toefl preperation in short time.I do not have much time to prepare for the test.i believe one month schedule would really help me. I am looking forward to buy one of your toefl courses.

  5. Wala ALHABBAL February 5, 2017 at 3:14 pm #

    I am a pharmaceutical graduate from a well recognized foreign university.
    When I tried to further my education and enroll for the Masters at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond VA, the official told me that I should first take the TOFEL exam. It means that I have never taken it before. Can you provide a lead in that direction? How and where I should study for the exam as well as necessary details for a first starter. Needless to say that my goal is to obtain the TOFEL certificate; one which would be accepted by accredited universities like VCU.

    • David Recine
      David Recine February 6, 2017 at 5:35 am #

      Hi Wala,

      Happy to help you get started. 🙂 How long should you study for the TOEFL exam? That depends on your current English ability in the areas of reading, listening, speaking and writing. It also depends on the score you need, and the score you’re currently able to get on a practice test.

      The first thing you should do is take an authentic TOEFL Practice test from ETS. You can do this through ETS’s free Quick Prep resource, or through one of ETS’s official books (the Official Guide to the TOEFL, Official TOEFL iBT Practice Tests Volume 1, or Official TOEFL Practice Tests Volume 2), or through TOEFL Practice Online.

  6. shamta July 8, 2017 at 8:14 pm #

    I have my TOEFL on 15th of JULY. Till now I have watched a few video lessons and a little practice of reading and listening section. I want to know if I can just practice and not watch the videos for next week, will it be good for me?

    • David Recine
      David Recine July 10, 2017 at 7:12 am #

      It’s definitely possible that practice-only (no videos) could be your best choice in the next week. It’s an especially good idea to focus on practice if you’re close to your target score– that way the extra practice can push you over that line.

      Certainly a valid option. Of course, use your judgement. If you are not sure about a test strategy or English language principle, revisiting the videos a little can also be helpful.

  7. Srividhya October 26, 2017 at 5:32 am #

    I have three weeks to prepare for Toefl and I have to prepare for GRE as well which is one week after toefl. Can you please suggest a study plan for me?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 27, 2017 at 12:11 pm #

      Hi Srividhya,

      It’s definitely tough studying for two tests at the same time. Generally, I recommend studying for the TOEFL first and taking that test before moving on to the GRE. It’s easier to study for one test at a time because the TOEFL and the GRE are very different tests. If at all possible, I recommend that you give yourself more time to study for the GRE. However, if that’s not possible, you’ll have to study for both at the same time. In order to get a sense of what is required to study for both these tests at the same time, check out this combined study schedule: The GRE is much more difficult than the TOEFL, and they require different strategies and knowledge. I recommend that you devote as much time as possible to studying each test on a daily basis. The combined study schedule is meant for four months, but you can condense the tasks to ensure that you get through as many as possible!

  8. Harold February 19, 2018 at 10:15 am #


    Preparing for the TOEFL in 20-30 Minutes per Day would be effective if I study it for three months?


    • David Recine
      David Recine February 21, 2018 at 10:43 am #

      As Kate mentioned, this schedule can be repeated as many times as necessary. Since it’s a 14-day cycle of TOEFL activities, you could do the entire cycle twice in 30 days. That would be more effective than just doing the schedule once, of course. But would the 30 day approach be effective enough to allow you to pass the TOEFL? That really depends on your current level of English/TOEFL performance, and how quickly you’re able to improve. The Reading and Listening passages in this plan can help you measure your abilities and improvements. But if possible, you may also want to set aside a few hours to do a full TOEFL practice test every week, or at least every two weeks.

  9. Reena November 8, 2018 at 4:04 pm #

    I have a very busy schedule being a mom and having a job makes it really hard to study every day
    I have been studying for the TOEFL for over a month now and I feel I am so very bad in the speaking and writing section and I Don’t know how to evaluate my answers and know my mistakes!!
    I am planning on having the test in 5 weeks and I need to know is there a website or a way when I can take practice speaking and writing tests, I mean to get my answers rated by someone who can tell me my mistakes?

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