By David Recine
If you are preparing for graduate studies in the USA, you probably need to take two American entrance exams: the TOEFL and the GRE.
You could choose to prepare for these exams completely separately. But there are a lot of good reasons to sync your TOEFL studies with GRE prep. Let’s look at the advantages to studying for the TOEFL and GRE at the same time.
Reason #1: TOEFL Reading and GRE Reading Comprehension are very similar
TOEFL Reading and GRE Reading Comprehension require comparable skills. TOEFL Reading and GRE RC both require you to read a passage and then answer multiple choice questions about the passage. The question types are similar too. Both TOEFL Reading and GRE RC ask you to understand key vocabulary words from the passage, make inferences, correctly identify details, and so on.
GRE RC prep and TOEFL Reading prep are geared toward understanding academic written English. Because of this common learning objective, preparing for TOEFL Reading and GRE together helps you build skills and strategies that work on either test.
Reason #2: GRE AWA and TOEFL Writing have one task in common
In addition, the GRE AWA Issue Essay is pretty much the same as TOEFL Writing Task 2 (Independent). The wording for these two kinds of writing tasks are almost interchangeable. A GRE AWA Issue topic could work as a TOEFL Independent Writing topic, and vice-versa. The only difference is that GRE Writing requires more in-depth analysis of important social issues, while the TOEFL lets test-takers approach a social issue in a simpler way.
As a result, practicing both essays gives you twice as many opportunities to build writing skills that work well in the GRE and TOEFL alike.
Reason # 3: Academic vocabulary is very important on both tests
Academic English words are central to the content on the GRE and the TOEFL. Together, the important vocabulary words for these exams provide a good “whole picture” of the words in written academic English. It really is hard to tell where TOEFL vocabulary ends and GRE vocabulary begins. Advanced TOEFL words and easier GRE vocabulary overlap a good deal.
For the GRE, you’ll need a command of both TOEFL words and GRE words; any academic word that appears on the TOEFL could be on the GRE. It also helps to know GRE words for the TOEFL. Mastering the GRE’s more sophisticated vocabulary gives you a good sense of word roots, word forms, and how words are used in all academic texts, including TOEFL ones.
Rule # 4: TOEFL study activities can easily be added to a GRE study plan
Having a good study plan is key to success on the GRE or the TOEFL. Because TOEFL study is simpler than GRE study, it’s actually quite easy to add TOEFL study activities into your GRE study schedule.
Suppose your GRE study plan calls for some reading practice. You could warm up with some simpler, TOEFL-like passages, and then move on to more challenging GRE-like readings. For that matter, going through TOEFL vocabulary after studying GRE words is a good way to double check your academic vocabulary level. This can help you make sure you know the whole range of words that could appear on either test.
And of course, writing a TOEFL Independent Essay is a great warmup for the comparable-but-harder GRE AWA Issue task. In fact, you could even re-work your practice TOEFL Independent essays into practice GRE Issue essays. Just add more details and depth.
To get some ideas about how you can sync TOEFL activities with a GRE study plan, check out this GRE study guide from Magoosh. Find places where you can add in some TOEFL practice. You’ll be on your way to a good score on both tests in no time!