7 reasons TOEFL applicants fail the exam: What makes it so hard and how to break the barrier


The  TOEFL exam or Test of English as a Foreign Language holds the utmost significance for students across the globe aspiring to pursue their studies in English-speaking countries. The TOEFL exam attracts millions of test-takers each year, Serving as a benchmark to evaluate their English language proficiency. This explains why the TOEFL exam attracts millions of test-takers each year and gets its reputation as one of the most widely taken English language proficiency tests worldwide. Many universities and institutions globally require TOEFL scores as a mandate for admissions, and several prominent colleges in various countries accept these scores.


Several prestigious universities Harvard, Oxford, and Toronto in Canada, the National University of Singapore (NUS), and the Australian National University (ANU), consider TOEFL scores for undergraduate and graduate programs across multiple disciplines. The courses that these universities offer are especially popular among Indian students. The courses range from Engineering, Business, Social Sciences, Humanities, Medicine, Environmental Studies, and more, making TOEFL crucial for international students aspiring to study diverse fields.


In this article, we will tackle the reasons that make TOEFL a difficult test to clear and also offer solutions to overcome these challenges. We will break down the difficulties faced by test-takers and recommend effective strategies, so aspiring students can develop an informed system to win the test. Here they are: 

Lack of Familiarity with TOEFL Format and Structure

Many students are often caught off guard by the demands of the TOEFL exam, despite knowing the syllabus. Understanding the dynamic exam format, which includes Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing sections, is crucial.  Since students do not familiarise themselves with the format, the actual demands of the exam are lost on them. They end up making mistakes like mismanaging time, relying solely on theory, and lacking speaking practice. To overcome this barrier, students should regularly take practice tests, review official resources, integrate English learning into daily life through natural ways, practice effective note-taking, and engage in study groups for discussions and feedback. Preparing for TOEFL is not really difficult once an aspirant knows exactly what to study. 


Insufficient English Language Proficiency

Insufficient English language proficiency is a common challenge for TOEFL test-takers. Strong language skills are as tricky as they are vital. Most aspirants do not fully grasp the complexion of learning a language. To learn to speak a language fluently, one must learn to think in that language.  Language learning should go beyond textbooks; exposure through art, novels, movies, theatre, and engaging conversations is essential to make English a second nature.  Identifying weak areas in reading, listening, speaking, and writing is crucial.. Students can explore language courses, participate in language exchanges, and use language learning apps to improve language proficiency. Immersing themselves in enjoyable language experiences helps build fluency and confidence. This will help enabling them to excel in the TOEFL exam and embrace English as an integral part of their lives.

Test Anxiety and Nervousness

Giving the TOEFL exam, particularly for those less fluent in English before test preparation, can lead to nervousness during the examination. Test anxiety may cause forgetfulness, confusion in word meanings, and disrupted flow due to stress. Overcoming this requires understanding that TOEFL preparation is a gradual process. Language assimilation takes time and practice before it becomes second nature. To alleviate anxiety, taking numerous mock tests is essential. Engaging in relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and positive visualization, can calm nerves and boost confidence. Regular practice and perseverance help build fluency, transforming the TOEFL exam from a daunting experience to a conquerable challenge.


Inadequate Test-Taking Strategies

Inadequate test-taking strategies prove to be song the biggest hurdles for TOEFL exam takers. Understanding the importance of effective strategies is crucial to amking sure that one approaches the exam in the right way. Many students fail due to poor approaches, such as rushing through questions, lack of time management, or neglecting to read instructions carefully. To overcome these pitfalls, adopting recommended test-taking strategies is essential. 

  • Skimming passages before answering questions allows better comprehension. 

  • Note-taking during the Listening section aids in retaining crucial information. 

  • Employing educated guessing techniques for challenging questions can improve overall scores. 

Mastering these strategies empowers students to approach the TOEFL exam with confidence, enabling them to navigate through it effectively and increase their chances of attaining positive results.


Lack of preparation and practice:

Aspirants often derail from their preparation schedules and turn up unprepared for the examination. Even the ones that prepare might not take an exhaustive approach and go all way.  Consistent practice plays a pivotal role in making sure that one is ready to crack the examinations. The ones that prepare with dedication use study materials, mock tests, and language practice tools that helpsthem build language skills and boost confidence. Individuals that show up unprepared often admit to facing negative consequences like reduced scores, limited fluency, and increased test anxiety.   They find it diffcult to deliver with confidence even what they know due to anxiety and stress. To overcome this challenge, students can try creating a structured study plan enables efficient time management and focused learning. Setting clear goals helps measure progress and provides motivation. Seeking feedback from teachers, language partners, or online communities allows identification of weak areas and improvement opportunities.

In conclusion, the TOEFL exam comes with its fair share of challenges. This might be difficult for an aspirant, especially considering that only a minor percentage od attendees clear the examination. But numbers are never worth considering since most applicants do not know the test-taking strategies, the right way to language proficiency, or even dealing with test anxiet. But don't fret. The key to cracking the TOEFL is facing these challenges head-on with the right approach and ample preparation. Embrace effective strategies, practice your language skills consistently, and find ways to develop a love for the language. It will show in the way you speak. Remember, mastering the TOEFL takes time and patience, just like learning any language. So, don't be discouraged by initial setbacks. Keep going, step by step, building your skills and confidence. 


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