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TOEFL Tip #111: Study WITH Distraction

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on July 22, 2011

In our recent post about study skills, we suggested that one key for a successful TOEFL study session was to eliminate distractions as much as possible. Work in a quiet space or wear headphones to block out noise, turn off your mobile phone, and ask friends and family not to interrupt you. This approach will help establish your study habits, and will make each session more productive.

However, as your test date approaches and your skills improve, you should switch strategies. Test centers can be loud, so you should study with distractions in the two weeks leading up to your test date. TOEFL test centers are not intentionally noisy, but the circumstances of taking the test, plus common technical glitches that must be resolved, can disrupt your concentration if you’ve not studied with noise in the background before. By practicing the TOEFL with distractions, you will be better prepared on test day. There are a variety of possible distractions on test day, but you will not be able to stop your test until the distraction is over. Once you begin your exam, you must continue with each section, except for the scheduled break.

First, new people might come in to start the test after you have begun your exam. The test center staff has to get that person set up, explain directions, and so on, while you are trying to focus on the test material. This might happen several times.

Second, there may be a technical problem with a computer in your room. Because students have to finish the TOEFL on the same computer that they start on, the staff has to fix any computer with a problem WHILE everyone else is still taking their tests. One of our students reported that during his reading section, there was a test center employee on the phone with ETS for 15 minutes, trying to resolve another student’s computer problem.

Third, not everyone moves through the TOEFL at the same pace. People who started the test before you will move on to the speaking while you’re still in the listening section. People who started after you will be talking while you’re trying to concentrate on your writing.

So, what can you do about distractions at the test center? Many centers have earplugs, but you should also consider bringing your own. You want the earplugs to be comfortable, and you should practice having them in your ears so you are used to the way that they feel (if you’ve never used earplugs before, they can feel a bit odd at first).

In addition, during the 2 weeks leading up to your test date, make a point if studying WITH distractions around you. Study in a café or another location where people come and go frequently and talk loudly. Have the radio or television on in the background. Tune the radio or TV to an American news station or talk show, so you can hear a variety of American accents. Finally, study in the same room with your children (or younger siblings) – their play will likely create bursts of noise and movement. Knowing how to ignore distractions such as these will keep you calm on test day when something is inevitably loud.

Categories: Listening,Reading,Speaking,Test day,TOEFL Preparation,Writing

6 comments so far. Leave a comment.

  1. Nayelly Lemus Rios

    wrote on October 13, 2011 at 11:50 am

    You are right, it is good to know some tips that we have to deal at the moment we want to do the TOEFL exam. I have already do four times but I got trust because the reading part is the last and I di not have time to finish, tho only thing as a consequence of distractors like voices, the headphones etc.

  2. Strictly English TOEFL Tutors

    wrote on October 13, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Your Reading section was LAST? Do you mean *Writing*?

  3. Yalcin Yayla

    wrote on November 2, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    By using the strategies that are are written here in this informative writing,one can make enourmous amount of improvements.Therefore,I as a student and a friend of yours Yalcin Yayla suggest you all to read this article and take notes on the instances that seem important to you.Lastly,I would like to say thanks to ones who made an effort to write this and appreciate the great work that has been done here.

  4. StrictlyEnglish | Blog » Eliminate Unnecessary Distractions

    wrote on January 20, 2012 at 8:51 am

    [...] we advocate for studying with distractions, that is a strategy that should be done only LATE in your study process, toward the end, when you [...]

  5. hai

    wrote on May 29, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    You are right!
    When I was doing Speaking Section, other had break time, they got in and got out. Some students went across my position. So I couldn’t concentrate on some Speaking questions.

  6. Strictly English TOEFL Tutors

    wrote on May 31, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    That’s why we have tutoring classes specifically designed to teach the strategies you need to avoid distractions! :)

    2 hours for only $152!

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