Taking practice tests is a useful form of preparation for most standardized tests, but it is especially useful for the TOEFL. For any test preparation regimen, practice tests are a good early step to show you where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Later on in the process, they help you learn the format of the test and familiarize yourself with the types of questions. They also help with time management- it’s important to get in the habit of answering TOEFL questions at the appropriate rate. With the TOEFL, there are some additional benefits.
The first has to do with endurance. Few tests or classes last as long as the TOEFL, which can take up to 4.5 hours. It might take you several practice tests to become comfortable with sitting still and focusing for such a long time. It’s important to take practice tests without any interruptions or distractions in order to build your stamina.
The second reason is that the TOEFL has some unusual features that you would not encounter in a typical study situation. For example, unlike in a normal word processing program, the TOEFL writing section does not have a “spell check” feature, so you will need to get used to writing English with only words that you know how to spell. Furthermore, on the TOEFL listening section you will only hear each audio clip once. Most English listening courses train you to listen at least twice, hearing more details the second time. Since you won’t have that opportunity on the TOEFL, you need to get used to listening very carefully the first time.
Over the course of your TOEFL preparation, you should take at least 3 to 5 TOEFL practice tests, spaced between two weeks and one month apart.