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TOEFL courses and tutoring


How to prepare for the TOEFL

Hi, I am Dr. Nanhee Byrnes, the creator of this place. I aced the TOEFL when I applied to US graduate schools from Korea, and I have spent a lot of my time in America studying English and how people learn it.  I know how to help you prepare to ace the test yourself.

Take a mock test to expect your actual score

The TOEFL is not an easy test as it requires you to master all aspects of the English language: reading, listening, writing and speaking. TOEFL questions are based on college level study materials, and some questions presuppose that you already have the critical thinking skills that are taught at US colleges. To score high in the writing and speaking sections, you need to use formal English, not conversational English. Even native English speakers can struggle to score well on the TOEFL.


To make a study plan for the TOEFL, you first need to know your TOEFL aptitude, that is, to evaluate your English skill level in light of the TOEFL. To do that, you should take a mock test. There are a few freely available mock test platforms. (Contact me if you cannot find any.)

Minimum required score 

The maximum TOEFL score is 120, where the maximum score of each section is 30. Depending on schools or license, the minimum scores for consideration can vary between 80 and 104. This is an overview of minimum scores based on the types of schools:


Minimum score…

…for admission to:


Majority of US universities and graduate schools


Highly competitive US universities


Highly competitive MBA schools


Dental schools

94 / 26

For a pharmacy license, you need at least 94 total and 26 on the speaking section

Your plan of action 

With the expected score, what you need to do depends on the schools you plan to apply to and your application timeline. Here is how you should proceed, depending on your mock test score.

100 or higher

You are ready to take the actual test (except for the pharmacy license that requires a minimum speaking score). However, if you are applying to highly competitive schools or want to make your application shine, you should study for the test to reach the goal of 110. If you are applying to a graduate school and requesting TAship consideration, your goal in speaking should be 26 or higher. 

80 to 99

Depending on your schedule, you might want to spend a few months preparing for the test to make your application more competitive. Even if the school requires a minimum score of 80, some admission committee members could find your application inadequate if you have an extremely low score on a certain section. Additionally, if your overall TOEFL score is much lower than those of other applicants, it will hurt your chances for admission.

Lower than 80 

If your score is below 80, you’ll need six months to a year to prepare for the TOEFL fully. A low score can be an indication that you need to improve your test-taking technique. So, to be motivated and in the game, you might want to take a long-term course that is designed to build TOEFL skills methodically and to help you check on your progress as you learn.

Expect a challenging learning curve

This learning curve applies to anyone who has tried to master a skill. 

How to take your skills to the next level

There are many free TOEFL websites where you can study for the TOEFL by yourself. If you are a disciplined person with good study habits and a good foundation in English, you can increase your overall score by 15 points through self-studying. However, to increase your score more than 20 points or to increase a score in one section significantly, you’ll need guidance from someone like me, a TOEFL expert who has analyzed all TOEFL questions in all sections and reverse-engineered what you need to do to ace the test. I can show you the best strategies to prepare for all the sections and how to fine tune the strategies to make them yours. As the above learning curve suggests, your learning will have ups and downs. You cannot evaluate where you are on your own, especially when you are in a plateau or slump. I can measure your progress and offer usable feedback on your work so that you are on track in your preparation for the TOEFL.


My guidance will also be useful for someone who struggles in specific sections. In general, people who have studied English tend to find the reading section manageable, but the speaking section difficult. On the other hand, people who have used the language tend to think the speaking section is easy, but find the reading section difficult. To score high in reading and listening sections, you have to know what the clues are in the passages or lectures, and then know how to use the clues to identify correct answers. To score high in writing and speaking, you have to know what the correct written and spoken responses are to the prompt questions. In addition, you have to practice the delivery of your answers using correct grammar, diction, pronunciation, word stress and sentence stress. I can teach you all of these skills in a way that is personalized to your own challenges.

Dr. Byrnes’ TOEFL courses

I offer courses in all four sections of the TOEFL. Educational studies have shown that students learn best in a “flipped-classroom” model, where students listen to lectures at home by themselves and do their problem-solution homework in class. My courses utilize this model. In my course, you study pre-made lectures by yourself (for the reading section). Then in the class (through zoom-style sessions), you solve past TOEFL questions while I observe your methods and provide better techniques. This is why all my courses are made just for you. This method is especially useful for speaking and writing since using this method, we can come up with authentic response formats that you are comfortable with. To reinforce the format, you then do assigned homework (for writing, speaking and listening), which is graded following the ETS TOEFL rubric, if applicable. 


To see whether my courses are for you, I offer one complimentary consultation meeting.


TOEFL Reading course and tutoring

  • 50 hours of course work (lectures + exercise questions + exercise review)

  • Strategy lectures based on the pattern recognition of correct answer types

  • Lectures on how to use clues in the passage and option choices for each question type.

  • sets of exercise questions that require the same strategies to answer

  • 2 Google-Meets (1.5 hour per meeting): designed to ensure your progress in the course and help you perfect your techniques to find correct answers quickly. 

  • All just for $50.00 



TOEFL Writing tutoring

  • 4 Google-Meet meetings (1 hour per meeting) where we discuss how to write an independent essay and an integrated essay that respond to the writing prompt questions correctly. Meeting activities can vary depending on the student's writing level.

  • 4 sets (one independent essay and one integrated essay) of writing homework assignments that are graded based on the TOEFL writing rubric.

  • All just for $50.00 


TOEFL Listening tutoring

  • 4 Google-Meet meetings (2 hour per meeting)  

  • You learn how to take notes while listening to lectures

  • We Review both lecture and conversation styles

  • Listening homework assignments that are graded

  • All just for $50.00 


TOEFL Speaking tutoring

  • 4 Google-Meet meetings (1.5 hour per meeting) to do the mock tests and do the reviews of your responses to make sure of the correctness of your responses.

  • Advice on pronunciation, connected speech, and prosody to improve the intelligibility of your speech provided (if necessary) .

  • 4 sets (4 questions a set) of speaking homework assignments that are graded. 

  • All just for $50.00 




TOEFL iBT® Test Structure

The TOEFL iBT® test takes a total of 3 hours to finish. The total possible score lies between 0 and 120. The scores of TOEFL listening and reading, which are in the forms of multiple choice questions, can be accessed at the end of the test. Responses from the speaking and writing sections are scored by a combination of AI scoring and ETS-certified raters. The scores of speaking and writing are delivered to you within 10 days.

Reading Section

  • 3–4 passages, each 700 words

  • 10 questions per passage

  • Time: 54–72 minutes

  • Score scale: 0–30

Listening Section

  • 3–4 lectures, some with classroom discussion, each 3–5 minutes, 6 questions each

  • 2–3 conversations, each 3 minutes, 5 questions each

  • Time: 41–57 minutes

  • Score scale: 0–30

Speaking Section

  • 4 tasks

    • 1 independent task to express an opinion on a familiar topic

    • 3 integrated tasks based on reading and/or listening

    • 20 - 30 seconds for preparation, and 40 - 60 seconds for oral response 

  • Time: 17 minutes

  • Score scale: 0–30

Writing Section

  • 2 tasks:

    • 20-minute integrated essay based on reading and listening

    • 30-minute independent essay task to support an opinion on a topic

  • Time: 50 minutes

  • Score scale: 0–30