How to Ace Every Section of the TOEIC and Supercharge Your Career
A lot of people put their English level on their resume.
But not everyone can put a TOEIC score.
The TOEIC is your ticket to a stronger resume, more job opportunities and faster promotions.
Scoring well on this respected English exam for professionals shows not only that you have strong language skills, but also that you are a smart and committed person.
Today we will learn about the structure of the TOEIC, how to study strategically for every section of the exam and numerous reliable resources that can help you prepare properly.
What Is the TOEIC?
The TOEIC is a business English proficiency test. For over 35 years it has been one of most widely known and accepted English exams for the workplace.
High scores on the TOEIC exam can open doors for you with English-speaking companies in your home country or with foreign companies abroad.
The test is designed specifically for people who are already in the workforce or who are getting ready to enter the workforce. More than 14,000 organizations use the TOEIC exam to evaluate potential employees and find the most accomplished English speakers.
What to Expect on Test Day
The test is divided into two sections.
The first part is for listening and reading, which takes a total of two hours. The second section is for speaking and writing, which takes an hour and a half. The test is often given over the course of two days.
We will discuss the tasks in each section in-depth later in this post.
Online and Offline TOIEC Study Resources for Business English Learners
With any kind of English language test, you want to expand your vocabulary and practice reading and listening comprehension as well as pronunciation. Here are some resources that can help in these areas:
- “Barron’s TOEIC Superpack:” A comprehensive preparation book that comes with listening CDs and practice exams.
- “Kaplan TOEIC Premier:” A great resource that includes four practice tests, online components and CDs.
- “TOEIC Test:” This book focuses specifically on the listening and reading sections of the TOEIC. It includes vocabulary lists and practice questions.
Online practice tests:
- 4Tests: This website offers practice exams targeted to specific question types on the TOEIC.
- GlobalExam: This website offers a comprehensive online study course, including five graded practice exams.
TOEIC prep courses:
- ETS Official Learning and Preparation Course: This is the official TOEIC preparation course designed by the makers of the TOEIC. It offers hundreds of practice questions and interactive exercises.
- Premiere TEFL: This company offers a 30-hour TOEIC preparation course online. It includes a grammar book and help from a personal tutor.
- EF English Live: Work with a teacher in real time and focus on speaking as well as grammar by going through practice tests, simulating the real exam.
- ESE: If you prefer to work with a teacher or tutor in person, ESE offers a 30-lesson TOEIC preparation course in a physical school in Malta.
- TEFL Institute of Ireland: This is another in-person option. The school offers a 30-hour TOEIC training course in Ireland.
How to Ace Every Section of the TOEIC and Supercharge Your Career
It is important to make sure you understand the format of each section of the TOEIC so that there are no surprises on test day.
While the specific questions and topics will change from test to test, the instructions and structure remain the same. This makes studying for the TOEIC very straightforward.
TOEIC Listening Section
Time to complete: 45 minutes
This part of the test is made up of four parts. You will listen to a variety of questions and conversations and will need to answer questions pertaining to what you hear.
For example, in the “Photographs” section, you will listen to several statements about a picture and will need to choose the statement that best describes the picture. Similarly, in the “Question-Response” section, you will hear a question and then several responses. You will need to choose the best response to the question.
How to Prepare for the TOEIC Listening Section
Regularly practice your general listening comprehension by listening to podcasts (especially ones where multiple people are talking) or watching English-language movies and TV shows. This type of English listening will prepare you to identify key details in English conversations—an essential skill for the TOEIC listening section. You will also become more comfortable with natural English speaking patterns.
Spend at least 15 to 20 minutes listening to English every day. You can do this in the car or train on your way to work or after dinner you can relax with a good old American sitcom.
A nice podcast to start with is “This American Life.” It covers a variety of topics and has a very conversational, everyday English tone. While listening, I recommend keeping a notebook next to you. Write down any new words you encounter. Look up their definitions or translations later. This is a great way to expand your vocabulary.
TOEIC Reading Section
Time: 75 minutes
This section of the exam is divided into three parts: completing sentences, recognizing errors and reading comprehension exercises. The first two will primarily test your English grammar and vocabulary comprehension. The third will test your overall understanding of an English text.
How to Prepare for the TOEIC Reading Section
As hinted above, it is important to have a solid foundation in English grammar if you want to succeed in the TOEIC reading section. There are several practice resources that can help you with this:
- GlobalExam TOEIC grammar sheets: For review of the various grammar rules you will need to know for the TOEIC exam, take a look at Global Exam’s TOEIC grammar page. This website provides comprehensive overviews of the main grammar concepts you should master in order to ace the reading section.
- “13 Grammar Rules to Know” from EnglishTestPrepReview: This list provides you with some of the most important English grammar rules you should remember for the test. Memorize these rules. Know that they will appear on the exam and be ready for them.
- Testwise TOEIC grammar quizzes: Practice and test yourself. This website offers several grammar quizzes. The quizzes are free and come with a review key so you can easily check your answers. These quizzes can show you what you know and where you may need to spend some extra time studying.
Tip: If you get stuck during the reading section, pay special attention to context. Try to use the words that surround the word you do not know to deduce its meaning.
TOEIC Speaking Section
Time: 20 minutes
For each question in the speaking section, you are given a certain amount of time to prepare your answer. You will be required to respond to real-world scenarios in English. The topics encourage the use of everyday vocabulary and phrases.
How to Prepare for the TOEIC Speaking Section
The best thing you can do to get yourself ready for the speaking part of the TOEIC is to know what to expect on the exam, the format and the types of questions. Here is the official breakdown of TOEIC speaking tasks and how much time you will have to respond to each one. When practicing each one at home, be sure to use a timer so you do not run out of time on test day.
Additionally, you need to make sure you have a strong vocabulary and that you can easily bring the right words to mind in order to answer a question appropriately. Vocabulary.com’s “600 Essential Words for the TOEIC” is a good place to start.
Keep in mind:
- If you do not fully understand a question, start by identifying the key words.
- Use complete sentences in your response.
- Do not repeat too much information from the question in your answer.
TOEIC Writing Section
Time: 60 minutes
In the writing section, the first five questions ask you to write a sentence based on an image or picture. Questions six and seven require you to respond to a written request, usually in the form of an email. For the final question you will need to write an essay of at least 300 words.
How to Prepare for the TOEIC Writing Section
To best prepare for the writing section, I advise looking at some sample and practice tests. EnglishClub’s TOEIC writing practice page is a great place to start. It offers several writing prompts that are just like what you will see on the real TOEIC, but they also have example responses that you can compare with your own writing.
Another major element to consider is the structure of the essay. You should practice writing essays that follow the format below at least once a week. Here’s a helpful list of sample essay topics you can use when practicing.
- Introduction: Grab your reader’s attention with an engaging first sentence. Make sure to include your thesis statement.
- Body: Write two to four paragraphs that support your thesis statement (one paragraph for each supporting example or piece of evidence).
- Conclusion: Wrap up your main idea. Do not introduce any new information.
The night before your test, make sure you get a good night’s sleep. Try to stay calm and relaxed. On the day of the test, make sure you arrive at least 30 minutes early to the test center in order to fill out any administrative paperwork. Eat a healthy breakfast, stay hydrated and take some deep breaths. If you have studied hard and prepared, then there should be nothing to worry about.
Good luck on the TOEIC!