How to Prepare for Both TOEFL, SAT as an International Student

How to Prepare for Both TOEFL, SAT as an International Student

​Any student who’s ever thought about studying in the U.S. will likely face two tests along the way. The first one, called the TOEFL, is a test of English language proficiency for non-native English language speakers who want to attend universities in the U.S. The second one is known as the SAT, and is widely used for both native and non-native English language speakers for college admissions in America.

Many people would call the SAT harder than the TOEFL test. However, the two tests have some things in common. International students should be aware of those similarities before they start preparing for them, so they can study effectively for both exams.

1. Put effort into building your English vocabulary: For many students, vocabulary is the biggest challenge on both tests, because if students don’t understand the words on the test, they are not able to get the correct answers. The TOEFL test generally requires knowing fewer words than the SAT.

In order to get a decent score, students will need to prepare to learn many English words, and there is no shortcut to get to that number. I put a lot of effort into this part. I used flashcards, which I found an efficient method to learn a large number of words in a short amount of time.

One trick I used for the test is that I sorted words into two different categories. For words in the first category, I only needed to recognize the words and know what they meant. For words in the second category, I had to be fully aware of how to use the words and be able to spell them.

The first level of vocabulary words helped me understand the reading material, and the second level helped me with the writing and speaking parts. With this method, I was able to increase my vocabulary quickly.

2. Plan to take the TOEFL first: It is always good to start with the easy one. The TOEFL focuses more on language proficiency, which means that as long as students understand the language, they will be able to get the right answers.

The SAT requires a certain application of logic to predict the answer. In other words, if students don’t have a good foundation of the English language, they will have a hard time figuring out what is being asked of them and how to answer.

3. Don’t prepare for both tests at the same time: In my opinion, it would not be a good idea to prepare for both tests at the same time. The SAT is a subject test that contains a lot of academic terminology. It requires students to use reading, logic, writing and math skills, which are different from the TOEFL test.

For example, the SAT typically includes words that wouldn’t appear on the TOEFL. Therefore, students can put off studying those SAT-specific words while preparing to take the TOEFL.

The writing styles needed for each test are different, too. The focus for students on the TOEFL writing tasks is to show their ability in English, while the SAT focuses on the reasoning process with appropriate examples. This might confuse students who are practicing the two writing styles if they decide to prepare both at the same time.

4. Be mindful of the transition between the TOEFL and the SAT: Starting with preparing for the TOEFL can help build up students’ foundation of English, especially when it comes to vocabulary. Students may take the TOEFL several times before they are comfortable with starting SAT preparation.

The transition between preparing for the two exams is extremely important, and students often have a hard time adjusting their learning style between the two tests. After the SAT, it is very common to see students come back to take the TOEFL again and find the test much easier than they used to.

While these tips might help students who are going to take both the TOEFL and the SAT, the real key to success in future study as an international student is to improve your overall English skills.


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