These mistakes could make you fail the TOEFL test

Teacher and Student talking about the TOEFL test

Preparing for TOEFL iBT is a very arduous journey. Very often, students put a lot effort into the preparation stage, and participate in the test with confidence, yet, because of the neglect of little details at the test site, the result is a failure of the test!

You must have a full understanding of the ETS rules for the test day. This article will also explain some basic points to pay attention to during the test day.

Going for the test

So, tomorrow is your TOEFL test day. Just follow the checklist below to make the day hassle-free.

The day before the TOEFL iBT test: We recommend you to read the “test day guidelines” about “What to Bring” and “What to Expect” from the ETS official website. We will also briefly go through them in this article.

What to bring

Double-check if you have everything you need for the TOEFL test before going to bed the night before.

Registration Confirmation:

Do not forget to bring your registration confirmation.

Acceptable Photo ID:

You must bring an ID document to the test center for your identity check prior to taking the test. Each ID document must:
be recognized by the government or state

  • have the same name, matching precisely the name used in the registration
  • have a recent photograph that matches the test taker
  • have a clear signature
  • be active and not expired.

Acceptable Photo ID:

You must bring an ID document to the test center for your identity check prior to taking the test. Each ID document must:

  • be recognized by the government or state
  • have the same name, matching precisely the name used in the registration
  • have a recent photograph that matches the test taker
  • have a clear signature
  • be active and not expired.

Bring supplemental ID

You may be required to provide an additional ID document if the test center administrator questions your primary ID document.

The following ID documents are generally acceptable as supplemental ID:

  • Government-issued ID card
  • Student card
  • Confirmation of identity letter from your educational institution
  • Passport.

If you do not have a valid ID, you will not be permitted to sit the test, and your test fee is not refundable.

Carry some refreshments

Bring water and a snack. There is a 10-minute mandatory break, and you have to leave your test station. Use this time to go to the toilet, and refresh yourself with a snack and water.

Not to bring any valuable items

Test centers often have storage space to keep your personal belongings, but keep in mind that ETS is not responsible for any of your personal items. Therefore, avoid carrying precious items with you. Travel light and keep belongings to a bare minimum.

Below is a checklist of what to bring:

  • ID document
  • Registration confirmation
  • Food and water/beverages
  • Medications, if necessary
  • Umbrella or warm jacket, depending upon the weather.

Plan your trip to the test site


ETS is extremely strict about the timing. You must arrive at the test site at least 30 minutes before your start time. Plan your trip well, and consider the traffic situation and parking. Even being one second late may cost you the opportunity, and there is no testing site staff to win sympathy, so be sure to arrive on time.

Alarm clock

Again, you must arrive at the test site at least 30 minutes before your specified start time. It is a good idea to set an alarm clock.

Dress in layers

The TOEFL test can take up to 4 hours, so please wear something comfortable and dress in layers, so you can adjust to the weather conditions. ETS does not allow any extra accessory worn over a casual dress. This means no necktie, bowtie, hat, scarf, jewelry, cufflinks, etc.

Going to bed early

Once you have prepared everything you need for the TOEFL test, the next step is to have a good rest to prepare your body and mind for the battle tomorrow. The TOEFL iBT will last 3 hours and 10 minutes at minimum, and at maximum, it will take 4 hours and 20 minutes. Having a full rest is necessary so you will have enough energy and focus on the test

During the test

  • Check your headgear to ensure it is working correctly.
  • Read instructions carefully before clicking the start button. Your timer starts right after you click the button. Resolve all problems before clicking that start button.
  • Ensure a scratch paper and a pencil is in place for your seat. If it is missing, report to the administrator, and do not start the test.

What to watch out for during the test

TOEFL Reading

The Reading section is the first part of the TOEFL test. Before you can start, wait for the test center administrator to enter the password to begin the testing software. Because there are many test takers and it takes a certain amount of time for everyone to get started, do not rush into the question interface too quickly, to avoid interference from other test takers doing headphone and microphone testing.

Manage your time well to attempt all the questions. Do not spend too much time on a single tough question. All the questions carry equal marks. The text will remain on the screen as you answer the questions. Last but not least, you might find it useful to read the questions before jumping into the passage and trying to find the answer in the passage. Be attentive to the keywords.

TOEFL Listening

Don’t rush to start the first article (question), instead, carefully listen to the introduction, pretend it is a part of the question content and start writing. This can help you to quickly be in the best condition for the Listening part before starting on the first question.

Stay focused with your ears. You might be more comfortable and focused if you close your eyes and concentrate on the audio test content.

Keep notes short and simple. Be attentive to nouns and verbs. Never jump to the main idea in the middle of the listening. Give yourself a few seconds after listening to understand the central concept.

TOEFL Speaking

There is a 10-minute break before this section. Finish with a visit to the toilet and your refreshments as soon as possible during the break, and go back to the test room immediately. The speaking section takes only about 20 minutes, and if you have had practice with enough questions before, you should be all right. The entire section starts with a microphone test. Some test-takers might attempt to impress the ETS rater with fast speech, but speaking too quickly is not recommended. As a non-native English speaker, speaking too fast might lose clear pronunciation. If the rater cannot understand your answer, you will lose some points there. Therefore, speak loudly and clearly at a normal pace, not too slow and not too fast.

Another thing to keep in mind is that your answer does not have to be true. Be creative. It’s all about how you present the idea you have. For example, if the question asks you “Who is your childhood hero?” but you cannot think of anyone at the moment, what do you do? Do not waste time struggling; quickly make someone up! Your childhood hero could even be a neighbor who is a national athlete or a war hero that you make up.

Avoid fillers like um, ah, and er. Just pause. Utilize the 15 seconds’ preparation time to structure your answer.

TOEFL Writing

In the Writing section of the TOEFL iBT test, you will be using a keyboard (a standard QWERTY English keyboard) for the two writing tasks. It is crucial that you can type at a reasonable speed. Don’t be too slow.

The system will do a word count as you write. Your response to this task should be at least 300 words.

Completing the test

After the completion of the writing test, you should also pay attention to the YES/NO content on the screen about whether to retain the score and whether to agree to use your score as a reference. Don’t make mistakes.

If you make a mistake, don’t panic. You can correct it by paying an additional fee on the official website to reclaim your results. As you click ‘continue,’ you have completed the test. Congratulations! You will receive your electronic result after ten days.

That’s about it. I hope this article has been helpful and I wish you well for your TOEFL iBT test.

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