Academic English & TOEFL Prep Academic Vocabulary and TOEFL

Academic Vocabulary and TOEFL


In my many years of designing and teaching TOEFL preparation courses, I found that there is one underlying skill that all my high-scoring students had in common – strong Academic Vocabulary. Every section of the TOEFL test depends on it, directly or indirectly.

Academic Vocabulary and TOEFL Reading

In the Reading section, you actually have to answer a number of questions directly related to vocabulary. You need to pick synonyms for particular words, in the given context. These questions make up more than 20% of all the questions in the Reading section.

Knowing the most common or most widely used meaning of the word is often not enough.  You need to know more than that – other possible meanings, word forms and collocations. If you have done some TOEFL Reading practice , you’ve probably already discovered that the correct answer choice (for the vocabulary questions) is rarely the one that seems most obvious or most familiar.

Academic Vocabulary and TOEFL Listening

When it comes to the Listening section, the stronger your Academic Vocabulary, the easier time you’ll have following and understanding the lectures. These academic materials make up more than 1/2 half of the section; out of  six listening materials scored for you, only two are campus related conversations; the remaining four  are actual, grade 12 level, lectures. Consequently,  it’s impossible to score more than ten out of thirty points without the knowledge of the key terms.

Academic Vocabulary and TOEFL Speaking

As for the Integrated Speaking, you will not only better understand the reading and listening prompts, but you’ll also be able to produce a higher scoring answer, if you can use the appropriate Academic Vocabulary in your speech.

Prior to August 2019, the Academic Speaking questions used to comprise one third of the Speaking Section.  A good command of the Academic Vocabulary often meant the difference between scoring in low twenties , and getting more that 24 or 26 iBT points, which is a requirement for many Professionals in the Medical, Legal and some other fields.

Now that the Academic Speaking questions make up 1/2 of the Speaking Section, it is crucial to have advanced knowledge of the Academic Vocabulary.

Academic Vocabulary and TOEFL Writing

The same goes for the Integrated Writing. Remember that, although you do have access to the reading prompt the entire time you are writing your Integrated Essay, it’s not a good idea to copy directly.  Instead, you are encouraged to paraphrase the key points from this prompt, whenever possible.

The listening prompt is likely to be an even bigger challenge – you will only hear it once, and unless you can follow and take notes efficiently,  as well as show your understanding of the key concepts in a well written Integrated Essay, it will be near impossible to score high in the Writing Section (as this essay counts for 1/2 of the section score)

Academic Vocabulary and TOEFL – how to learn

First of all, it’s important to understand that no vocabulary can be learned over night. It takes time, repetition  and application to acquire new  vocabulary. Unfortunately, this is not likely to happen  when you rely on memorizing word lists or study using resources that don’t provide in-depth understanding of the Academic vocabulary. In addition, it is  of utmost importance to have a lot of practice in applying the newly acquired vocabulary to your speaking and writing.

The good news is – a place where you can learn Academic Vocabulary efficiently, actually does exist. It’s our ACADEMIC VOCABULARY WORKSHOP, the ONLINE version of our offline Academic Vocabulary Masterclass.


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When You choose to join us, you choose to keep informed on the changes in our services and resources, before they become public knowledge. You also choose to become a member of a small group of highly motivated International Professionals. This “membership” often comes with some ‘perks’ – links to free education and special discounts on our services and resources.

Our Blog Topics

1. #AcademicEnglish

2. #TOEFLReading

3. #TOEFLSpeaking

4. #TOEFLPrep

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