I will not discuss about TOEFL iBT's basics; research about the test on Google. This is my experience of taking TOEFL iBT for the first time! :)
You can just register at the official TOEFL website. No worries, just register because you will not be charged for anything yet. After you are done registering, if you just want to check the test centers availability, log in to your account first. Then, click register for a test - > TOEFL test -> I agree to the statement (no worries just do this) -> check your city's test centers.
I scheduled my test to be on Sunday, 1st February at TBI Dago. I only chose my home and HKUST as the only scores report destination. You can actually send four free scores reports to any destination! It was extremely expensive and I vowed to myself that I need to get a good score in this test. $180 was around Rp2.200.000,00 at that time... Again, I paid the fees by using PayPal (well the PayPal is linked to a credit card, so it is actually paying by a credit card xD). After the registration was done, I spent the January's holiday weeks to spend some time to prepare for the test (along with preparing for SAT Subject Tests).
I strongly recommend you to open this kaskus thread. It has a lot of suggestions, especially for recommended e-books, TOEFL simulation software, and preparations. I downloaded four test simulation programs: Barron's, Longman's, The Offficial Guide's, and Cambridge's. I personally only used the The Official's Guide's for all sections. As I was afraid of the speaking test, I also did all the speaking sections in the other programs. I additionally did few reading and listening practices using the Longman's.
To get these programs/e-books, search them on kickass.to.
These are some preparations that I have done for each particular section:
I cannot tell you how long I spent for the preparation. For the reading, I think I already studied probably six months before the test, mostly studying new vocabularies. I also regularly read English news. I did two tests on Longman's Test and I scored perfect on both. Then, I just ignored my concern on the reading section as I thought it would not be a problem at all :).
I can tell you that I SUCK at listening. Though my English knowledge is much better than my friends', I still think they hear and understand English conversations better than I do. I only trained a month prior to the test by using Longman's and The Official Guide's program. Well, all of the conversations are spoken with slow-spoken and clear English. This was why I thought the real TOEFL's listening would be easy as well, aanndd I stopped training. Nevertheless, IT WAS WRONG. Speakers in the real TOEFL's listening sections talk soo fast. The answer options can also ask you two choose 3 from 5 answers. I think you should also try other programs like Barron's or Cambridge's which offer harder listening section.
Trained the skill one month before the test, and I definitely feared this one most. I devoured all speaking questions on all of the three programs that I have. Even until now, I am not able to answer the first two questions (experience/opinion and preference) smoothly. The questions were like, "what is your best childhood moment", and I was like, wtf, could I really pick a childhood memory in a 15 seconds interval? -_- But anyway, for the other four questions, with a lot of training, I managed to convey my ideas more clearly. Practices do extremely help!
I took a writing class in campus, and I think this is already sufficient for my writing skills. It was a mistake, nonetheless. I should have tried to write a lot of independent essays to make me brainstorm faster.
I also learned how the integrated task is and how to tackle it. The reading passage will usually (as what happened in my test) offer three solutions/opinions, and the lecture will reject/support all of it. You just need to explain each point in both passages in one paragraph. Here is one template that I used on the test:
-The reading said a b c; however, the lecture disagrees with the passage by presenting these following reasons.
-First, the lecture asserts that a is..
-Second, the lecture declares that b is..
-Third, c is .. according to the lecturer
-To conclude, the lecture sums up points which make the reading passage's assertions doubtful.
So there is one of my friend who asked me "Should I take a TOEFL course?" The answer depends on each test taker, but for me, I think you do not have to. Most of the preparatory courses are super pricy! If you only want strategies, you can look them up on the internet. The only way to ace this test is by practicing regularly.
3. Test Day
It was so sh*tty actually because I forgot that there is always a car-free-day in Dago every Sunday -__- Therefore, I could not park my motorcycle at TBI directly. I parked mine at my campus, ITB, and walked along the street for fifteen minutes until I arrived at the test center. There were approximately 10 people in the test center. All of the guys look 'smart', and this fact made me quite nervous.
I was asked to enter the test room for a briefing. After that, we all went out from that room and queued to be photographed and checked about our identities. Then, we were all assigned into chosen computers. I got the computer number one (idk whether it was chosen randomly or it was because I registered earliest). The first thing that you will do is that you will confirm your identity shown in the monitor and then you will be given a task to speak answering the "Describe the city you live in" question. You can answer anything actually, even singing alphabet as the girl beside me (she looked like she retook the test.) did. It was hilarious xD It is actually for the microphone's volume adjustment.
Ding dong, the reading section began. Oh well, I was quite sad because I only got three passages. That means... I would have to face three additional listening passages -_- I must warn you that the reading questions here are MUCH HARDER than Longman's and even the Official Test's questions -_- There are a lot of word inferences like (not really tough words) don, confounded, elaborate, etc. These are easy for me though as I acknowledge these words very well. The passages are also somehow boring. The only question that I was quite unsure is a summary of the Dinosaur passage. I think that was the reason why my reading score did not reach perfection huehue.
I was given one hour to answer all 42 questions. I was left with 7 minutes after I was done answering the questions. I did not do anything but just try to concentrate myself to listen the next section carefully until the time was up..
OMG I WAS DUMB TO ONLY LEARN LISTENING FROM THE LONGMAN'S GUIDE AND THE OFFICIAL GUIDE :((
I hate listening and I was forced to face nine passages -_- Well, the first three listening passages went well literally. But really, although the lectures were still interesting, the speakers talked really fast, and they often cut each other's speech.
Then the fourth listening passage popped out.. It was a conversation between a black lady (as depicted in the picture lol) and a mechanic. It was really damn hard to understand what the lady was saying. Her accent was bizarre... The mechanic also talked really really fast and he often interrupted the lady's speaking. Of the five questions, I could not answer three questions :( I was truly hoping that this was only an additional listening passage (it will not be graded).
Thankfully, the other later listening passages went on normally. Unlike the practice tests where I usually scored perfectly, I was doubtful on perhaps one question per passage. Oh God, how much my scores are going to be?
Again, if you think you suck at listening like I do, you might want to allocate a lot of time to train your listening skills with harder practice materials.
It was a sad break actually as I lamented my performance on the listening section.. But well, life must go on. I only brought my Teh Kotak outside and waited for 10 minutes. Later, my name was called and I began the last two sections..
There were a lot of guys speaking simultaneously answering the questions. I read a lot of blogs and most of the writers complain about the noisy situation. Nonetheless, the situation was not as chaotic as I first thought. Wearing the headset is sufficient to prevent you from the distractions. There might be some distractions, however. For instance, there were two a**holes in my room who spoke like they were delivering a public speech even though their accents and pronunciations were really disgusting. The girl beside me already started her speaking section, but her voice was low.
The microphone volume adjustment task emerged for the second time. After that, I started the speaking section! The first question asked me about "Do you study in a group, study in (uhh I forgot), or study by yourself?" and I managed to answer this question well as I once spoke about this in a practice test. However, the second question was sh*tty: "Some people want to be fashionable, some don't. Which one do you prefer?" I do not want to tell you my answer because it was completely ridiculous -_-
The other questions were easy for me. You just need to make good notes and voice your notes clearly. I can assure you that I did not speak fluently like an answer example in the Youtube (it was actually too smooth for a test taker haha). I answered like "The ancient civilization, has, has, two, umm, blablabla." I do not really know the criteria of score of 4, but I hope that my last responses were excellent enough.
The first one is the integrated task. Easy as pie! I even finished the task for 13 minutes :P
The independent's topic task was unfortunate for me. I was very clueless, and I believe I would screw up my scores :( The question asked you to agree or disagree to this statement: "TV gives more negative influences than positive ones to young poeple." I was utterly brainless that after I decided to oppose the statement, I altered the whole plan to support the statement -_- Indeed, I wasted a lot of time, perhaps around 8 minutes. Anyway, I finished the essay with 315 words in it. Then, the time ended and I was allowed to leave the test room.
At the end of the test, I was really scared of my scores, especially the Listening and the Writing sections. What if my listening score were only 20... Well, let's hope that the total scores are at least 90...
It was really on the 10th day after the test (11th February). I somehow woke up at 3.00 am for no reason. Then I checked my phone and, uh, there was this sent email from ETS at 1 am. I was quite reluctant as I wonder whether I should view the scores or not. If I got bad scores, then I could not sleep, and if I got great scores, I could not sleep either xD. Well, I finally decided to view the scores while I was pooping in the bathroom to try make everything just normal (?).
Unbelievable actually.. I got 106!
As I predicted, I only got "fair" score (2.5-3.5) on the independent writing. I also got "fair" score on the first and second questions of the speaking sections. Others are dubbed as good.
Unlike the old tests in which you could only view the score, for the 2015 tests (and onward probably), you can also download a PDF report on the website! This one will need time though. I got mine on 18th February, that is one week after the scores. Take notes that this is only your temporary record, as on both pages of the PDF, there is this "not an official report" sentence. The official one would be the delivered results later or the one that you asked to be delivered to your desired destination.
Update: Yay, I received the letter after approximately one month! I always thought that it is going to be a hard-paper certificate, but well it is just a usual letter...
Finally, that's everything I can tell you. I hope this post will help you facing the test! :D