In this article, we will analyze the most frequent mistakes of students in the TOEFL in the format of harmful advice – we will write how to prepare in order to fail the exam for sure. But do not worry: then we will tell you how to do it right.

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is a test of English language proficiency. Its results are mandatory for admission of non-English-speaking applicants to universities in the USA and Canada, as well as Europe and Asia. In addition, many employers request a TOEFL when hiring foreigners. Like any exam, TOEFL is a test for which you need to prepare in advance. To get high scores, you need to make as few mistakes as possible. we compiled a list of the most common mistakes in THE TOEFL and presented them in the format of harmful advice. And we also prepared a surprise at the end of the article for the most patient.

Student Mistakes During TOEFL Preparation

As already mentioned, it is necessary to prepare for the TOEFL in advance, and the preparation should be specific. Read what mistakes people most often make in the period before the exam.

Harmful advice #1

Thoughtful exam preparation and effective time management are overrated. You will already succeed, the main thing is to decide the tests yes Netflix to English switch. And then everything will be written.

Harmful advice #2

Prepare for the exam on samples of tests from two years ago. A couple of years – just nothing that could have changed there? For years, the Unified State Exam remains approximately the same, and in TOEFL all tests are made according to a single system.

And that’s not the case. General recommendations from 2017 or 2018 can be useful, for example, the advice to constantly practice oral speech will never become obsolete. But many aspects of the TOEFL have changed since then. In 2019, the exam has undergone global modifications. First, the testing has become shorter: instead of 3.5 hours, it now lasts only 3. This is a definite plus for those who pass, because in the listening, speaking and Reading parts there will now be fewer tasks. True, there will be less time to give an answer, but the difference is not so significant as to worry about it. Watch the video to learn even more details:

Harmful advice #3

Read as many tips as possible for each question, test descriptions and watch all the videos from those Indian dudes with instructions on how to take the TOEFL correctly – they know exactly what they are doing. Score on the practice, because it is much more important to get acquainted with the opinion of experts.

And that’s not the case. Everything is good in moderation. Of course, you need to be well informed about the structure of the exam and know what awaits you in each of the sections. But watching another video like “How I Passed TOEFL with a Glass Spoon and the Power of the Earth” is a form of procrastination. For every unit of content consumed, there should be twice the amount of practice. So you will learn to apply the acquired knowledge and understand how to build your strategy on the exam. 

Harmful advice #4

When preparing for an exam, use English only during classes. You are already very tired of this foreign language, why additionally overload yourself with watching TV shows in English, for example. The brain will overtrain, and nothing will be handed over.

If you do not live in a native speaker environment, even with the most intensive PREPARATION FOR THE TOEFL, the amount of native language in everyday life will significantly outweigh the amount of English. To show yourself perfectly on the exam, you need to bring your language skills to automatism and regularly speak and think in English. You can fully immerse yourself in the language at home.

Harmful advice #5

As a preparation, it is helpful to write yourself down in the process of speaking, and the longer the better. Two or three minutes – what difference does it make if all this time you do not switch to Russian and practice the oral part? Well, in writing, in theory, there is also a certain number of minutes that you need to keep within, but this is all empty. Time limits don’t matter to a syllable genius like you. Therefore, you can score on alarm clocks when preparing for both the oral part and the written part.

Many students completely forget about the time limit during preparation. Writing yourself down is a really good practice, but set a timer before you start to stop after the allotted time. The same applies to essays: teach yourself to write them in a strictly limited number of minutes. No one has an extra couple of minutes on the TOEFL itself, you can’t ask the examiner to take pity by frantically filling out the last passes or blunting with a verbal answer.

Harmful advice #6

Perform mock tests as quickly as possible, look at the scores and instantly move on to the next one. Do not waste time analyzing the results – this will only slow you down, and you need to fill your hand as soon as possible.


Often people make the same blunders over and over again because they don’t think about their mistakes. Anastasia notes: “It is necessary to analyze the results. Why did I make a mistake, in what issues are most often mistakes, why did I make them. If there is not enough vocabulary, you need to expand the vocabulary. If a student has problems with the type of questions — for example, Sentence Insertion question, summary question (they are usually the most difficult) — it is necessary to deal with them. At the TOEFL Intensive, we cover these types of questions. For a Sentence Insertion question, for example, there is a very simple strategy – general to specific. It helps to resolve the issue much faster.”

It’s also a good idea to record your results after each test and keep a spreadsheet to see progress or lack thereof. Remember that the results at home should be consistently higher than those that you want to get on the exam. For example, if you aim for 110 points, you need to do the last five tests at 113-115. During the exam, many people write worse than at home due to stress.

Harmful advice #7

When choosing literature for preparation, give preference to entertainment portals like BuzzFeed or LADbible, read social networks and blogs. There is no need to delve into the wilds of academic research. Maybe you won’t get anything like that on the exam itself.

And that’s not the case. Many students understand that academic literature is their weakness. However, instead of filling this gap, they simply avoid reading complex studies in the hope of luck. This is (suddenly) the wrong approach to the exam. Overpower yourself and read the dry scientific literature. It may not be as cool as Reddit, but the TOEFL isn’t a picnic or a trip to Disneyland.

How not to do on the exam itself

Okay, we figured out the preparations. The worst thing ahead is TOEFL in its own person. The next part of the list is about the mistakes that students most often make directly on the exam.

Harmful advice #1

Use complex words in your essay and while speaking. “Therefore”, “reiterate” and other phrases, as in scientific research, will show how smart and cool you are. Yes, this is big brain time.

And that’s not the case. You’re not defending a doctorate after all. Native speakers do not use heavy constructions and abstruse lexemes in their speech (agree, it sounds strange, that’s the same in English). Instead, opt for simple words, short sentences, and ideas that are easy to explain. Use informal vocabulary, such as copula words but, also, so, colloquial expressions (I’m really into, a no-brainer), and phrasal verbs. However, there is no need to slide down to slang either. In both cases, you may have your score reduced for effective word choice.


A set of cards with phrasal verbs on the Quizlet website

Harmful advice #2

Learn as many words as possible to shine on the exam. After each trial test, you should have 100-200 new words written out, and all of them need to be memorized. That’s the only way people pass the TOEFL.

And that’s not the case. Of course, it is useful to write out unfamiliar expressions, but do not overdo it. 10-15 new words after each test is more than enough. Teacher Anastasia advises to learn vocabulary as follows: “It is better to break words into three parts: for Reading / Listening, Writing and Speaking. In the application with Quizlet cards, you can learn words for reading and listening – academic vocabulary and various rarely used words, for example, axe, radiocarbon dating, alimentation, biodiversity hotspots. It is not necessary to cram them strongly, it is enough just to memorize the meanings.

Words for Writing and Speaking need to be learned more diligently. They should be in active vocabulary. For the written part, these can be phrases to tackle an issue, stress buster or words like to decline, expenses, expenditure, to boost and others. And for the oral part, you need colloquial expressions, phrasal verbs and idioms. It is best to write down not the Russian translation of words, but simpler alternatives in English that you know. For example, to decline = to decrease, a great many = a lot of. These expressions should be used in essays and oral answers. For example, each essay should have about five new words. If you use the same word three times in an essay, it will be remembered for a long time. “

Harmful advice #3

Don’t get too hung up on mistakes in speech and writing. The main thing is to show yourself as an expert in the topic under discussion, and articles and verb forms are the tenth thing.

And that’s not the case. Speech marks, incorrect intonation, too fast or slow pace of speech and pronunciation, like the Russian villain from a Hollywood movie, greatly affect the final score. It’s cool if you understand the topic, but when you present it in clumsy English, the overall impression is greatly spoiled. You need to work on the intonations and smoothness of speech, otherwise the examiner may misunderstand you or not understand you at all. In order not to pause in the conversation, it is enough to read aloud for 5-10 minutes every day. In addition, do not skip our articles and watch videos to reduce the number of errors in the language – some blunders are very often made even by native speakers, but with the proper amount of practice you can get rid of them.

In the written part, too, you should not allow blunders. If you make one mistake in each sentence, you definitely can’t see above 25 points. Typically, students stumble on articles, punctuation, the difference between that and which, the use of Gerundium and passive voice.

Harmful advice #4

Summarize the topics in the essay when you are sure that you are writing about a generally accepted phenomenon. For example, “People suffer from computer addiction”. Well, in the age of technology, everyone has a dependence on the computer, so you can generalize.

And that’s not the case. Not all people suffer from addiction. Like any other action, it does not necessarily apply to all individuals on the planet. Generalizations should be avoided. For example, add the words most/many, adverbs usually/often/generally, and modal verbs can/might/could/may.

Harmful advice #5

When writing an essay, do not pay too much attention to formal logic. TOEFL is a test for humanitarians that checks language proficiency, why are there any deductions? Maybe you can also learn statistics with mathematical analysis?

The examples in the essay must exactly match the argument. You should always make sure that the chain reason – explanation – example in each paragraph is built as logically as possible. You are not expected to create complex cause-and-effect relationships, but a reasonable pattern must be present.

Harmful advice #6

Score on the templates that need to be used in the oral part and when writing an essay. You are still a creative person, there is nothing to drive yourself into the framework. Reviewers will admire your flight of thought so much that they will forget about all the templates and give the highest scores.

The answer is always evaluated according to certain criteria. Essays must necessarily consist of four paragraphs, and in the first question of the oral part there can be no less than two arguments. Although no, maybe, of course, but then your score will be less than you would like. A clear structure of answers is as important as your writing and speaking skills, so pay special attention to studying it.

In Anastasia’s practice, there was a case when one student prepared with another teacher and scored only 20 points three times in the oral part because she did not use templates. The teacher conducted three lessons with the girl, explaining everything about the templates and the principles of their application. As a result, the student scored 27 points, although her speaking skills remained the same.

Harmful advice #7

Integrated speaking questions — run-section. You need to have time to write down everything that is said in the listening under dictation, and then start Taratoria to squeeze all the details into 60 seconds. Nicolas Cage never dreamed of how fast you could be!

And that’s not the case. The very idea of Integrated speaking questions is to compress the information received as much as possible and isolate only the most important thing. In most cases, a good score for these questions directly depends on the entries you’ve made. For example, in the second question, if you make the right notes and add a template, you can almost read out the entire answer, which will allow you to speak without pauses and mistakes and get a high score.

The list goes on and on, because all the errors in one article will not fit. However, we can share another important tip that will help not only pass the TOEFL, but also any other language proficiency exam: work on self-confidence, way of thinking and learn to control stress levels. As Jonathan observed, “Your ability to read, listen, speak and write in English is only half the battle. The second half (perhaps the most important) is your attitude to the process, faith in yourself, the ability to cope with nerves. As well as the ability not to be distracted by mistakes, not to give up and believe that you can prepare and get a high score. Preparation for the exam requires moral stability in addition to good English. So students need both.”