You are allowed to have up to three pieces of paper at any time to write notes and ideas during the TOEFL exam. Other high stakes tests often allow for use of paper as well. If you are not using this paper, you are hurting yourself. This paper is often called “scratch paper.” If you use up all your paper during the TOEFL test, raise your hand and the test administrator will bring you more. This should happen every time you take the test!!

Taking notes of the TOEFL listening sections and using the scratch paper to prepare your writing and speaking is very important. If it is difficult for you to do it, don’t give up. Deciding that you’re just not going to take notes or use the paper is not a good solution for the average test-taker. Practice, practice, practice, at home! Use listening material — especially the listening CDs or listening material that comes with TOEFL books and practice resources — to take notes.

Write down key words on your scratch paper in the 15 seconds you have to prepare your independent speaking responses.

Brainstorm and/or write an outline on the scratch paper as a way to start the written sections.

While you use this scratch paper, remember these 5 important points:

1.) Write KEY WORDS, not full sentences. You don’t have time to be writing sentences.

2.) Write fast & messy. Only you need to be able to read your words.

3.) Use symbols and abbreviations to reduce writing time. For example, don’t write “money” — instead, you should use the $ symbol.

4.) Use numbers to indicate transition words or phrases you will use in your speaking or writing. For example, in your notes, the number “1” means “first of all.” #2 means “in addition,” or “furthermore,” etc. #3 can mean “finally,” or “last but most importantly,” etc. Doing this saves you time from writing all those words.

5.) In the listening section, often the main idea is the first thing you will hear. This means you should be ready to take notes RIGHT AWAY… so be prepared and practice practice practice starting weeks or months before your test date!

Have questions or want specific advice? Just ask us!