Top 3 Reasons To Master Phrasal Verbs

What are Phrasal verbs?

Phrasal verbs are phrases that have a verb and another element, typically either an adverb, as in break down, or a preposition, for example, sleep in, or a combination of both, such as break up with.

What kinds of phrasal verbs are there?

There are four different kinds of phrasal verbs. Some of them have prepositions or adverbs that can move and change position, falling right after the verb, or at the end of the sentence. In addition, some phrasal verbs require objects while others do not. 

Examples of Phrasal Verbs in Sentences: 

(preposition moves around)

  • I called up Joanna/ I called Joanna up.  To call up, means to give someone a ring or to call someone, but in an informal way. 
  •  I handed in a paper/ I handed a paper in.  To hand in a paper means to submit a paper to a teacher or a professor.
  •  I checked out a book/ I checked a book out. To check out means to take a book from the library for a scheduled period of time.

More Examples of Phrasal Verbs in Sentences:

(preposition doesn’t move around)

  • I bumped into Jim. (To bump into means to meet someone by chance on the street). 
  •  She got over the illness quickly. (To get over means to recover from).
  • He picked on me about my strange outfit. (To pick on means to make fun of).

3 Reasons to Master Phrasal Verbs for TOEFL

Phrasal verbs are a useful tool to use on the TOEFL speaking exam because they often provide students with a much more efficient, exact way to communicate their opinion about a topic or to clearly express an idea.  

Reasons #1 For Using Phrasal Verbs on TOEFL 

phrasal verbs help you communicate more efficiently and accurately

  • Phrasal verbs are more efficient and express ideas with greater precision. 

Sometimes, when you say something in English without using a phrasal verb, it could take 5-6 words to say it, while a phrasal verb could express the same idea in merely a few words. 

Let’s look at some examples: 

First, let’s analyze a sentence without a phrasal verb: 

One of the most disappointing experiences of my life was when my partner decided to finalize our relationship.

We can create the same sentence with a phrasal verb: 

One of the most disappointing experiences of my life was when my partner broke up with me.

The sentence with the phrasal verb expresses the idea much more efficiently and in a more exact, natural way.  The sentence with the phrasal verb is also shorter and expresses the idea faster. 

Let’s study another example: 

A sentence without a phrasal verb:

  • I enjoy being with my friends so that we can talk about what we have been doing and share our experiences with each other.

The same sentence with two phrasal verbs:

  • I enjoy hanging out with my friends and catching up with them about their recent adventures. 

There is nothing wrong with the first sentence, but it takes longer to express and doesn’t sound as natural and fluent as the second sentence.  

Since you only have 45 seconds on the first part of the TOEFL speaking exam, it is important to express yourself and provide details and reasons to support your arguments.  Therefore, the more efficient and natural you sound when you give your reasons, the better you will score on the exam.  If you try to say something using a long complex sentence, sometimes it takes you too long to communicate your idea, you waste time, and then your score drops because you didn’t have enough time to justify your argument. 

Reason #2 for Using Phrasal Verbs on TOEFL Speaking

Phrasal verbs help you expand your vocabulary and improve your ability to communicate with a wide range of words.  

When you learn another language, it is useful to study vocabulary, synonyms, and phrases.  

For the TOEFL speaking exam, your score will increase if you paraphrase what the professor explained in the lecture.  You can use a wide range of phrasal verbs for academic purposes to do this.  

Here are a few examples:

The professor points out that stink bugs invade homes over the winter months.  (To point out means to clarify or show).  This is a phrasal verb that you could also use in your writing and TOEFL essays because it is used in academic papers and in more formal English.  

Another example of a phrasal verb is, “to consist of,” which means to be formed by or made up of.  To describe a study that a lecturer mentions, you could say, “The investigation consisted of a series of trials with a control group of rats.” This phrasal verb is also commonly used in academic English, which is truly the kind of English you need to hone for the TOEFL speaking exam.  

Also, when you describe research, you can use “carry out,” a wonderful phrasal verb that is used consistently in academic research papers.  For example, “A team of scientists carried out a study in Norway about global warming.”

So, therefore, the greater variety your response is in terms of rich, academic vocabulary, the higher you will score.  Therefore, it is important to study phrasal verbs used in academic contexts and also collocations for research and writing reports. 

Here are a few collocations (words that naturally fit together and that are commonly used together) you should be aware of when it comes to talking about research:

  • To carry out research (to DO research not Make)
  • Research indicates that….(research shows that…)
  • The professor provides a full explanation of the historical account of the battle (a complete explanation)
  • The professor provides a rationale for his argument (a justification for his argument)
  • The lecturer makes the case for his new theory of environmental protection (defends their position)

Reason #3 for Using Phrasal Verbs for TOEFL Speaking

If you want to sound as natural and as fluent as possible, it is a great idea to incorporate phrasal verbs into your spoken English.  

Although they are tricky, you can’t run and hide from them because they will inevitably find you and you eventually will find them. 

So, take some steps forward to start using them in your day-to-day conversation.  

Set up a routine to review phrasal verbs and how they are used in sentences.  You can use the Anki application for reviewing phrasal verbs with spaced repetition, a brain-based learning methodology. 

The first thing to do is download the Anki application to your desktop.  Then, you can download some phrasal verb decks to study.  Once you see this screen, click on “Get Shared Decks.”

Then, you can find popular decks by searching for “Phrasal Verbs.”  If you want exam prep specific decks, you can find “TOEFL Barron’s” or “Essential TOEFL IBT vocabulary.”

Then, you can download one of the decks that has great reviews and that has sample sentences so you can study the phrasal verb in context.  Some of the decks even have audio to practice pronunciation. 

Then, you can begin studying some common phrasal verbs on a daily basis while waiting for a bus or while riding a train or even while going to the bathroom.  Instead of opening your social media apps, you can open the Anki app and study for 5 minutes a day.  

Another great option is to take my phrasal verbs email course. You will feel much more confident expressing yourself and will find yourself sounding more natural as well.  The course has a video, where I explain what each phrasal verb means and I give you a few example sentences so that you can practice pronunciation.  Then, I give you an audio dictation to practice the phrasal verb.  The course is a fantastic way for you to improve your fluency and your ability to use phrasal verbs effectively.  

which phrasal verbs do you know?
Common phrasal verbs you should know for TOEFL



5 Brilliant Writing Tips for TOEFL

Improving your TOEFL Writing Score

You are in the right place if your TOEFL writing score is lower than 25 and you don’t know why.  If you WANT to score 25 or above on the writing section of the TOEFL IBT exam, these 5 writing tips for TOEFL will help you increase your score. One of my students went from a 21 to a 27 on the writing exam using these easy, clear strategies. Read these brilliant ideas and put these techniques into practice to skyrocket your writing score and help you get into the university of your dreams.

A TOEFL IBT test taker writes down her sentences and uses variety and sentence variation
Utilizing sentence variation in your essays will strengthen your writing and your overall score on exam day.

Writing Tip for TOEFL #1: Vary Your Sentences

Avoid boring the reader by following the same, monotonous sentence pattern every time.  Study different ways to structure your sentences and practice varying your sentences in your introduction and body paragraphs. 

There are four different types of sentences in English: simple, complex, compound, and complex-compound.  

  1. simple sentences (one subject and one verb):➡️People ride bikes to work.
  2. compound sentences (a compound sentence has two or more simple sentences that are connected by one of the following conjunctions: and, or, or but) ➡️In Copenhagen, employees commute to work by bike, and cars are slowly disappearing from the roads.
  3. complex sentences (A simple sentence with an independent clause and a subordinate clause. A subordinate clause is indicated by “when, because, since, if…” and can’t stand alone in the sentence.  ➡️ Many citizens take the bus because they get to work faster.
  4. compound-complex sentences (a compound-complex sentence has two or more simple sentences (independent clauses) and one or more subordinate clauses.➡️Although the majority of people ride their bikes to work, some people take the bus, and other people go to work on foot.  

Test takers often think that in order to get a high score, they should use more compound-complex sentences because they perceive them as more impressive.  Why do they think this? One reason is that many people translate the sentence structure from their own language.  For example, in Spanish and Russian, longer sentences with multiple commas are standard.  However, when translated, those sentences are too long in English and need to be broken into multiple sentences.  

In English, it recommended to use sentence variety and vary between simple, complex, and compound, and keep the number of compound-complex sentences to a limit.

Sentence Variation within Paragraphs

Don’t write sentences in a  paragraph like this: ⛔️ 

Cars, long considered valuable by the human population, although expensive, are valuable assets to citizens, not only as great transportation methods but also because they are comfortable and luxurious (compound-complex). Firstly, cars help people, young and old, get safely from one place to another, and additionally are safer than bikes, especially for the elderly population (compound-complex) Vacations, on the other hand, require a lot of planning, by both family members and teenagers, making it difficult to make an action plan and foresee all of the unexpected risks, which can sometimes make traveling an exhausting endeavor for everyone involved (compound-complex). In this essay, I will defend these key arguments about cars (simple).

What is wrong with this essay? The sentences are too LONG, full of commas, and the ideas become convoluted and unclear when there are too many compound-complex sentences. 

Now, consider writing a paragraph following a pattern like this:

If I had to choose between spending money on a car and spending money on a vacation, I would invest in a vacation (complex).  Firstly, vacations create lasting memories (simple). Although vacations are sometimes expensive, they are transformative, and they help people unplug (compound). Cars, on the other hand, need constant maintenance (simple). In this essay, I will explore both sides and give reasons to support my opinion that vacations are the most worthwhile investment (complex). 

What did you notice about the sentence variety? How could you improve your sentence structure in the next essay you write? 

Exercise: Write a paragraph about the following essay topic and vary your sentence structure as much as possible. You could try writing 5 sentences using this structure: simple, complex, simple, compound, complex.

Some people prefer to prepare meals at home while other people prefer eating out at restaurants and food stands.  Which do you prefer? Use reasons and examples to support your answer: 

(suggested answer at the end of this post)


Using transition words on the TOEFL IBT helps guide the reader and creates more flow in your writing
Transition words are essential to guide your reader from one idea to the next.

Writing Tip for TOEFL #2: Use Transition Words in your TOEFL Essay

A well-crafted essay that is coherent uses transition words to help guide the reader.  These words help the reader stay interested in the essay and understand what arguments are coming next.  

Here are some transition words to use: 


  • An example that illustrates this point is
  • Specifically
  • For instance
  • In other words
  • To clarify

To Compare: 

  • Similarly
  • Likewise
  • Also
  • In a similar fashion
  • As well as

To Contrast: 

  • Nevertheless
  • Although
  • In contrast
  • On the other hand
  • However

Cause and Effect 

  • Consequently
  • As a consequence
  • Thus
  • Hence
  • For this reason

Adding more Information

  • In addition
  • Furthermore
  • What’s more
  • Moreover
  • As well as

Practice Using Transition Words in a Paragraph

Let’s practice! Add some transition words to the following paragraph to make it sound more natural and have better flow: 

People often say that loyalty is the most important quality for a good friend to have. (1) _______________, in my opinion, a good sense of humor is more important than loyalty.  I say this because sometimes loyal friends are too serious. (2) ______________ loyal friends are too clingy and call too often.  (3)________________ friends with a good sense of humor can turn a bad day into a joyful, silly day. (4) _____________ I would rather have a friend with a good sense of humor than a loyal friend.  

Exercise: Go through one of the practice TOEFL essays you have written in the past and add some transition words from the above list to the essay. Are you always using the same transitional language? Try to use a variety of transitional words in your word bank so that on exam day, you will easily remember them and won’t draw a blank.

A woman writing with an active voice in her TOEFL IBT essays
An active voice is my dynamic and emphasizes the agent who carries out the action.

Writing Tip for TOEFL #3: Use an Active Voice More Than a Passive Voice

Generally speaking, an active voice is used when the agent does the action and a passive voice is used when you don’t know who did the action or when the agent isn’t important.

🔥Active: Children learn manners from their parents.

🏬Passive: The building was constructed in 1899.

In your essay, you can vary your sentences by adding a passive sentence to your paragraph. In the social sciences, writing with an active voice is recommended more than writing with a passive voice because the writing is more dynamic. Sometimes in articles that describe science experiments, the passive voice is used more to describe how the research study was carried out.

An Example of Active Voice

Here is an example of a series of sentences you could write in the TOEFL essay:
Foreign movies depict the life of a country and they show us a little bit about the culture, the language, and the lifestyle. Movies that are made in Spain, for example, are interesting to watch because they show how people give two kisses when they greet each other. In addition, when I watch Spanish movies, I learn how people celebrate festivals in Spain.

Notice that all the sentences in the paragraph are active and the verbs “depict,” “watch,” and “learn” show a clear agent who carries out the action.

One Passive Sentence is Fine
*However, there is one passive sentence, “Movies that are made in Spain…” In that sentence, the director who made the movie isn’t important, hence, the passive voice is used. So, you could have one passive sentence in the paragraph to vary the structure to make a general claim.
Practice: Use the following prompt to craft your introductory paragraph. Use the active voice and experiment with one sentence with a passive construction.

Some people prefer watching foreign movies while others prefer watching movies that were made in the country they were born in. Which do you prefer? Use reasons and examples to support your answer:


three different types of adverb phrases that can be used to show strong, somewhat strong, and weak opinions about a topic
These adverb phrases are useful in your TOEFL essay because they are more formal and can be used to clarify your opinion.


TOEFL Writing Tip #4: Use Adverb Phrases in your Independent Essay

The TOEFL is testing your ability to use varied, rich vocabulary and academic language. Therefore, it is a good idea to have a notebook with synonyms and adverb phrases for your essays that you can easily reference and use in your practice essays. The more you use them, the more natural it will become to use them on the day of the exam and in your future academic writing assignments at the university of your dreams. Think about these phrases like frosting on a cake. The frosting makes the cake taste more delicious. These phrases make the sentences more pleasing to read.

Adverb Phrases in Use
Here are a few example sentences with adverb phrases that you could use in your TOEFL independent essay:

  • Perhaps some students prefer to live on their own in college, while others conceivably prefer having roommates. (expresses an opinion that isn’t very strong). ➡️Notice there is no comma after perhaps.
  • Presumably, other students prefer to live with a roommate so that they can have someone to talk to at the end of the day. (indicates a somewhat strong opinion)
  • The best experiences from college are definitely celebrated with other people rather than by yourself. (communicates a very strong opinion)
  • Undoubtedly, technology is changing the way the human brain works. (communicates a very strong opinion)


Paraphrasing is an important skill on the TOEFL IBT writing and speaking exams
There are many ways to practice your paraphrasing skills to prepare for the TOEFL exam.


Tip #5: Paraphrase on the TOEFL IBT Writing Section

It is crucial to learn how to paraphrase effectively on the TOEFL IBT writing and speaking exams for two main reasons:

    1. Putting sentences in your own words shows your advanced language skills.
    2. Paraphrasing is an essential skill to have for communication at the university level.

What you learn in this section will not only help you raise your score on the exam, but it will also help you excel in your academic program. Some people rely on apps like Quilbot to paraphrase in their day-to-day academic writing, but you can’t use your phone on the TOEFL exam, unfortunately.

paraphrasing should follow a specific protocol and this is a list of the dos and don'ts of paraphrasing
If you want to learn how to effectively paraphrase, make sure you follow these important steps to put the TOEFL passages into your own words.

If you say word for word and copy exactly what the lecturer said or if you repeat the words that are in the reading passage, you will lose points and your score on the TOEFL IBT will suffer. You could also get a zero on the exam. Check out UW Madison’s Writing Center’s great tips on paraphrasing! Also, you might find Purdue’s Online Writing Center’s example of paraphrasing useful as well.

Paraphrasing Means Putting Things in Your Own Words

If you can restate the text or the lecture in a slightly different way and use a variety of language and grammatical structures, you will get a higher score on the TOEFL. Paraphrasing requires practice and if you follow a clear, simple structure for paraphrasing, it will become so much easier and you will be ready to implement your paraphrasing skills on exam day.

To paraphrase, you can substitute the key words with synonyms by focusing on the most important information expressed in the sentence. It might help you to identify the subject and verb of the independent clause to get started. You can change the word order, change the voice from active to passive, and even eliminate some words if they aren’t essential to the meaning of the sentence.

this shows one way to paraphrase for TOEFL, which is to substitute key words with synonyms
The first step is to paraphrase is to underline the key words in the sentence. Then, you can substitute those words with synonyms.


Paraphrasing Practice Exercise 1a:

The first step in paraphrasing is to underline the key words in the sentence. Then, you can substitute the key words with synonyms. For this reason, it is helpful to generate some lists of synonyms as you write and prepare for the exam.

1a. “People tend to be healthier than they used to be because they are more aware of ways to follow a healthy diet.”
Step 1: Underline the key words:
1a. “People tend to be healthier than they used to be because they are more aware of ways to follow a healthy diet.”
Step 2: Generate a list of synonyms for the underlined words:
Step 3: Substitute the key words with synonyms:
“Members of society are likely to enjoy better health than they did in the past because they are more conscious of sticking to a well-balanced diet.”

this resource is available to help you practice paraphrasing for the TOEFL IBT exam
This is a google slides presentation with 44 slides that allow you to practice and master the skill of paraphrasing.


Practice with Paraphrasing for TOEFL: YOUR TURN

Practice paraphrasing the following sentence:
1b. Underline the key words in the sentence and paraphrase them:
“Parents take their children to museums in order to teach them about humanity and the history of our world.”

👀✏️An Important Tip: Some words can’t be paraphrased!!! Some words are absolutely essential to the meaning of the sentence and can’t be paraphrased. Words like “literature, math, the moon, keystone species…etc.” Also, proper nouns can’t be paraphrased. These words have a very specific meaning and there are few if any synonyms to replace them. For that reason, it is important to focus on finding synonyms for some, but not all of the words in the sentence.

This image shows ways to paraphrase the sentence by changing the sentence structure
Change the sentence structure and express the second idea first in the paraphrased sentence.

Step 1: Change the structure of the sentence
In this case, you can move the second clause to the beginning of the sentence and perhaps start with a transition word or start with the “ing” form of the verb.
Here is an example paraphrasing exercise using this method:

2a. Public transportation is an effective and cheap form of transportation because the costs are lower than owning your own vehicle.
Use transitional language to start the sentence such as:
As a result of….
Due to the fact that…

Start with the second idea first:
Due to the fact that many drivers have additional expenses that come with owning cars, public transportation is a viable and less expensive option.”

Paraphrasing Exercise with Answers 2b
Now, try to paraphrase the following sentence by changing the order of information in the sentence:

“Nowadays, people ride their bikes to work more than ever because bikes are a healthy option and an efficient form of transportation.”
(answer key at the end of the blog)

Paraphrasing Practice Exercise 3a: Change the Parts of Speech
Step 1: Change the parts of speech of words in the sentence.
These kinds of tables are really helpful for paraphrasing tasks on the TOEFL exam. Why? Because one way of paraphrasing a sentence is to use the same word, but in a different part of speech.

Why is this Rich Vocabulary Important for the TOEFL?

Knowing different parts of speech can help you describe a concept in a similar way by making small changes to the sentence.
Let’s practice:
Paraphrasing Practice Sentence 3a
“There is little scientific evidence that there are life forms on other planets.”
Let’s refer to the table above to help us use the adverb “scientifically” and substitute it for scientific.
For example,
“Life on other planets can’t be scientifically proven.

Paraphrasing Exercise 3b
Try using a different part of speech from the table above to paraphrase the following sentence:
“For women, the biological clock indicates when to have children.”
(answer key at the end of the blog)


Use these Clear Writing Templates:

Many TOEFL coaches recommend using a template to help you organize your answer. It is a great idea to follow a clear structure so that your essay is easy to follow and has a well-supported argument.  For the independent essay, create a thesis sentence that clarifies what you are going to argue in the essay. Then, create an outline sentence that describes what you are going to discuss in the body paragraphs.  The independent essay needs to be at least 300 words and you have 30 minutes to write it.

General overview sentence+ thesis statement + outline sentence:

➡️ Living alone or living with roommates is an important decision college students have to make. Some people think that it is best to have the support and companionship of roommates, while others believe people are more productive when they live alone. In my opinion, living with roommates helps students develop social skills, adjust to the university lifestyle, and prepare for life after graduation. (In the outline sentence, list the 3 main ideas you will discuss in your body paragraphs)

⭐️Each body paragraph should address 1 main idea with supporting details about that 1 main topic.  If you digress from the main topic or if your examples don’t match the topic of your paragraph, you will get a lower score.

Body Paragraph 1: (Living with roommates helps students develop social skills) + details and evidence

    • students learn to share chores
    • living with others pushes students to communicate with roommates about doing chores

Body Paragraph 2: (Adjusting to the university lifestyle) + details and personal example

    • roommates help each other adapt to the changes of going to school
    • friendly support to carry out tasks didn’t overwhelm me when I had roommates’ help

Body Paragraph 3: (Preparing for life after graduation) + details and explanation

    • entering the job force requires good social skills
    • working with others is a skill people strengthen by living with others

Conclusion : (Transition language … To summarize, to conclude, in summary….restate the thesis statement and the outline sentence by paraphrasing the key ideas you argued in the essay.

Transition words for the conclusion : To conclude, In conclusion, In summary, In closing, To sum up…


THE TOEFL Integrated Essay Template

The Introduction

  • The reading and the lecture both address _____.
  • The author of the article holds the opinion that ______.
  • The lecturer refutes the claims made in the article.
  • The lecturer upholds the argument that_____.

The Body Paragraphs

Use the following templates for the body paragraphs:

  • As stated by the author of the reading passage,   _____.
  • The article supports this with an example of____.
  • The lecturer opposes this specific argument and claims that ____.
  • Furthermore, the lecturer explains that ______.

  • Additionally, the author mentions ______.
  • In the article, the author posits that _____.
  • The lecturer, on the other hand, contends that ______.
  • He/she delves into this point by asserting ______.

  • Finally, the author claims that _____.
  • To support this point, the author explains that ____.
  • Nonetheless, the lecturer’s point of view is  _____.
  • He/she mentions that _____.

You don’t need a conclusion.

Your TOEFL integrated essay should be about 280-300 words in length and you have 20 minutes to write it.

    • Summarize the reading passage, then transition by explaining if the lecturer supports or disagrees with each point in the reading passage.


Watch An Instagram Live on the Independent Essay with Marina @wikimarina and I @movingenglish.



The Best TOEFL Writing Template for Any Prompt
TOEFL Writing Integrated Task Youtube Tutorial


It is essential to learn how to paraphrase effectively to succeed in the TOEFL writing and reading sections. If you follow some of the tips on this blog post, you are sure to get a higher score and avoid repetition. The truth is that nobody wants to read a boring essay. Remember you can: 1) Substitute the key words with synonyms. 2) Change the structure of the sentence and bring the second idea to the front of the sentence. 3) Use a different part of speech of the same word to creatively paraphrase the sentence.

Overall, if you take these five tips into account and start using these strategies to write a clear essay, it will help you tremendously to achieve your goals. Here are some more tips from the official ETS website about improving your writing skills
Do you have my freebie yet? Download the 2021 TOEFL speaking exam guide:


Sentence Structure
Some people regularly cook at home (simple). Others prefer enjoying the culinary options around town because they believe it is more adventurous (complex). I prefer making my own food at home (simple). Going to the local market with friends and looking up inspiring recipes motivates me to take care of my health (compound). Therefore, I will explain why it is more convenient and healthy to eat at home and why I use food preparation as an excuse to take care of my friends and family with the added benefit of socializing around the dinner table (compound-complex).

Transition words:
People often say that loyalty is the most important quality for a good friend to have. (1)However, in my opinion, a good sense of humor is more important than loyalty. I say this because sometimes loyal friends are too serious. (2) In addition, loyal friends are too clingy and call too often. (3) On the contrary, friends with a good sense of humor can turn a bad day into a joyful, silly day. (4) For this reason, I would rather have a friend with a good sense of humor than a loyal friend.

Practice question 1b)
“Parents take their children to museums in order to teach them about humanity and the history of our world.”
Here is a sample paraphrased sentence, although it isn’t the only option:
“Parents accompany their children to museums for the purpose of educating them about human society and global history.”
: Practice question 2b)
“Nowadays, people ride their bikes to work more than ever because bikes are a healthy option and an efficient form of transportation.”
Despite the fact that this isn’t the only option, is a sample paraphrased sentence:
“Due to the fact that bikes are fast and help riders stay physically fit, people are currently commuting to work in greater numbers.”
Practice Question 3b.
“For women, the biological clock indicates when to have children.”
Considering the fact that there are millions of ways to reword this sentence, this is one potential option:
“Biologically speaking, women often feel a sense of timing for having children.”

Check out these great links below related to ESL and education:

How to Develop Amazing Personal Connections

How to make Grammar Practice Fun in English

Ways to Make English Language Learners Feel Comfortable in your Classroom

Interested in blogging? Here are 7 Helpful Tips on How to Blog Like a Boss