How quickly can I improve my TOEFL iBT score?

Jaime Miller TOEFL: Advice for Studying 2 Comments

This is another tricky question.  Well, how much do you want to improve? If you want to improve your TOEFL iBT score by 10-15 points, it’s probably going to take months – not 2 or 3 hours.

Your improvement is based on five factors:

  • the current level of your English;
  • your target TOEFL score, and what your level of English needs to be to get that score;
  • the quality of your TOEFL teacher, classes and TOEFL study plan;
  • how much time you have to devote to English; and
  • the speed at which you learn (remember, and correctly use!) new information.

In the sections below, I’ll tell you how quickly my students generally improve.  I know my students – they’re going to school or working.  They have lives, families, drama and stress, and Facebook! Don’t forget Facebook!  Even people who are really motivated can’t study for the TOEFL iBT all day every day – however, my students study at least 3 hours a week in online lessons with me, and they complete another 3-6 hours of homework every week.

The Reading Section:

Most of my students come to me and need small increases in their reading scores, so “reading” is not usually the main focus of our lessons.  After taking a diagnostic test with me, and after having a couple of lessons and discussing strategies for reading, I give them reading homework.  Generally, after 4-6 weeks of my homework and practice, people see an increase of 3-5 points – depending on the topic they get.   People who study harder might see a bigger improvement more quickly.


The Listening Section:

The more you listen, the easier it gets.  Usually, people’s biggest obstacle on the listening section is their slow note-taking.  After 4-6 weeks of structured and productive listening practice, you can improve your score 3-5 points.


The Speaking Section:

Student Type #1:

If your current TOEFL iBT speaking score is 9-12 points out of 30, but your target is 16-20 points, we should work together.  In a number of situations, I’ve worked with a student for 6-12 hours of online lessons (plus homework!) and helped them increase their speaking scores by 3-11 points.   If you are this type of student, it can take 2-4 weeks to start seeing a noticeable increase in your speaking score.


Student Type #2:

If you’ve already taken the TOEFL iBT many times, and your current speaking score is 22-24 points out of 30, but your target is 26+ points, you seriously need to evaluate your accent and clean up your personal grammar/vocabulary mistakes.  Group TOEFL classes will probably not help you very much and just studying social or general English will also have a limited effect.  You really need to focus on your comfort describing TOEFL situations and private lessons will ensure that you improve as quickly as possible.

Improvement at this level varies widely. Students who have destroyed all their confidence in themselves, and who have ETS / TOEFL “Rage/Anger” from repeatedly taking the exam improve more slowly because they lack motivation and confidence — it takes me time to build that back up in you. You might need to devote 16-24 weeks to studying English 8-10 hours a week in a productive way.

Students who are optimistic, confident and excited to work with me generally improve much faster. In fact, I watched more than one student change his/her scores from 24 to 27 in just a few weeks.

If you think you are Student Type #2, I suggest that you read my other article, “Why am I stuck at 23-24 on TOEFL speaking?


Student Type #3:

Even if you’ve never taken TOEFL before, if you come to me with (1) confidence, (2) a clear, American-sounding accent, (3) good listening skills and (4) strong grammar, you can expect that with 12-24 hours of online lessons with me (plus homework!) you will be getting a 26+ on TOEFL speaking.

Alternatively, I’ve guided many people’s self-study TOEFL practice.  We do this by starting with an “Escape TOEFL-Hell Session” — which gives you a very clear and precise “road map” of how to improve.  You can choose to study with Speaking Confidence or Right Notes, or you can use your own TOEFL practice material.


The Writing Section:

Students who take consistent online lessons with me (and who finish all of the homework that I give!) usually get 24+ on the TOEFL iBT writing section.  If you can quickly learn and start using the new techniques, grammar and vocabulary that I teach you, then your progress will happen in just a few weeks.  If you need a lot of repetition or don’t review our lessons (I mean, if you keep forgetting things), it will take longer.

Student Type #1 (from above) usually needs 16-20 weeks to improve their writing scores to this level.  Student Type #2 (from above) usually needs 6-12 weeks to improve their writing.  Student Type #3 (from above) usually needs just 2-3 weeks to improve – but if your spelling is really weak or you can’t type quickly and you need to practice using an American keyboard, add 3 or 4 weeks of daily practice.


What guarantee is there that I will improve?

If you are like 99% of the world, you can absolutely improve your English and your TOEFL score.  In the 5 years that I have been teaching full time, and from the hundreds of students who I’ve taught, I can tell you that it is very rare to meet a person who never improves their English, even from private lessons.

Will you give yourself enough time to improve as much as you want?  Will you study with an effective English / TOEFL program?  Will you stay motivated?

Motivated  people who work with our teachers do make progress — and if they have a higher level of motivation, they improve more quickly.

The other guarantee I can make you is this: If you do nothing, your English will stay exactly the same. And if your English stays the same, so will your TOEFL iBT score.

To master the score-maximizing techniques and accelerate your progress, you can schedule a package of online lessons with one of our TOEFL teachers here.