How To Prepare for TOEFL or IELTS for Arabic Speakers?

“To learn a language is to have another window to view the world.”

In today’s era of fast-paced development, industrialization, inter-connectivity, and diversity, knowing a common language is what binds us in variety. English is one of the most widely spoken languages worldwide.

IELTS and TOEFL are two crucial international accreditations for English. They are accepted by education and working organizations worldwide. Students and working professionals both require either one of these for applying to work/study overseas. Learning an entirely new language is complex, and Arabic speakers encounter numerous obstacles while preparing for IELTS/TOEFL. This is because of the opposite dynamics of both languages in terms of reading, writing, listening, and speaking.

Here is a short guide for Arabic speakers to smoothly tackle hindrances in their preparations and enhance the chances of obtaining a better score.


Writing in English for Arabic speakers is an arduous task, as the text is right to leave for the latter and the opposite for the former. The idea is to begin reading materials of primary level and gradually scale up. Diving into course books head-on can be frustrating. Graded reading helps improve your spelling, too, as you are required to pay close attention to every word you read. Being aware of your current level and ingrained habits due to Arabic practices can help identify errors readily.

In Arabic, there is no differentiation between upper- and lower-case letters. If you commit errors due to mixing them up, be patient. Try understanding when to use which case. This comes with having proper punctuation. 

It would be customary for Arabic speakers to apply Arabic punctuation rules, resulting in lesser full stops and excessive commas, with colons and semi-colons being non-existent. Remember, the examiner will keenly lookout for your signposting and punctuation to assess your writing proficiency.  

  • Write whenever possible and get it reviewed by your tutor. This way, you become increasingly aware of your habitual mistakes.
  • Maintaining a separate record of your recurring errors can help you identify them while writing a piece next time, making sure you avoid them. Avoid writing run-on sentences as these are acceptable in Arabic but not so in English without proper punctuations. Begin with short complex sentences and later move on to a longer, more punctuated writing style; once your foundation is clear, the chances of error dip.
  • Grammatical precision and correctness are essential to ace the Writing section. Arabic speakers tend to entirely omit the present verb ‘be’ and struggle with the present perfect aspect. It can be a life-saver to keep “be” in mind while writing in the present tense. It’s not “I going.”; it is “I am going.” Solving questions on identifying grammatical mistakes can boost your knowledge in the same.
  • When it comes to essays or reports, try avoiding the repetition of ideas. Use one paragraph to express a particular point or opinion. Redundancy and repetitiveness may fit well in Arabic, but in English, it is unnecessary.
  • Do not make excessive use of superlatives. To avoid these, try solving simple exercises from basic grammatical books. Ask your tutor to provide short, practical worksheets regularly, and don’t feel shy to ask about your mistakes; this will further help you achieve high scores. Online English lessons tutor is invaluable and convenient for the complete learning process.
  • Remember, most importantly, do not think in Arabic while translating and writing in English. This would only worsen your structure and make it linear, avoiding the “Introduction, Body, Conclusion” format. You wouldn’t want that.

Listening and Speaking

Reading and writing lay the basis. However, you should not focus on only one aspect. Try to fit all four categories in your daily tutoring to have a sufficient and complete understanding. You are not learning only for the exam; it is for the rest of your life.

Speaking fluent English for Arabic speakers can be confusing as there are considerable variations in sounds. Arabic speakers tend to pronounce the silent word and add in extra small vowels while speaking in English. Regular periodical practices can help you understand these subtle differences and work on them. 

Talking to your tutor or in front of the mirror helps. Pronunciation can be enhanced while reading aloud the words, allowing you to listen and register them simultaneously. Preparations done in reading and writing will take care of the punctuation and pause aspects of speaking.

In listening, paying close attention to mouth shapes can improve your understanding of different words and correct-incorrect pronunciation. Recording yourself speak and then listening to it helps one notice inconsistencies. This also improves your flow of thinking and comprehension while listening to someone, even your tutor.

Everyone seems to stress on accent too. However, the accent is not a mandatory criterion in these exams so long it does not create communication gaps. Focus more on the delivery of words and better perception. Avoid using wordy and complex words in the speaking round to minimize errors and convince the examiner. Do not rush. Take time in preparation. Fluency and confidence will come.


The pointers mentioned above are signposts to help you better learn and prepare for IELTS/TOEFL. The core process rests upon your willingness and perseverance to bag an outstanding score and land that desired university or workplace. Above all, believe in yourself.

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Steve has been living in Saudi Arabia since 2013 and writing about Saudi rules, regulations, guides, and procedures since then.