The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) Exam is intended to measure a student’s ability to understand and use English at a college level. Over 6,000 colleges, government organizations, and businesses accept TOEFL test scores worldwide. The TOEFL Test serves a similar function to other standardized tests (such as SAT and ACT Tests) in that they used by colleges and universities as a factor in admissions. Different institutions place varying degrees of importance on standardized tests, such as the TOEFL, and use them along with other factors such as GPA, class rank, community service, recommendations and extracurricular activities.
While it may not be relevant for native English speakers, the TOEFL, or Test of English as a Foreign Language, is an extremely important exam for non-native speakers. In order to gain entrance to many universities in an English-speaking country, students must take and pass the TOEFL. This standardized test is not mandatory for every school in English-speaking countries, but it is accepted and even required by most major universities.
Since 1964, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) has designed and administered the TOEFL. ETS is a private non-profit organization that sends official scores and reports directly to universities on behalf of each student. The TOEFL is one of two major English proficiency tests (along with the IELTS) that are widely accepted around the world.
HOW TO STUDY FOR THE TOEFL
When it comes to studying, everyone has different needs, timelines, and study habits. That said, there are plenty of great TOEFL resources to get you started out on the right foot. If you’re searching for ways to prepare for the TOEFL.
EXAM OUTLINE - WHAT’S ON THE TOEFL IBT?
Needless to say, there are plenty of ways to prepare for the TOEFL, but it is extremely important that you know what to expect on the day of the test. In addition to knowing the types of questions on the test, you will also want to know how the TOEFL is administered, your allotted time, and all of the DO’s and DON’Ts for the test day.
There are technically two different forms of the TOEFL: the TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT. The latter is a paper-based exam that has mostly been phased out, though it is still offered at many ETS testing centers. However, the vast majority of students end up taking the TOEFL iBT, which is administered online via testing centers.
Though each version of the TOEFL is administered in a different format, both tests are largely the same. The TOEFL is comprised of 4 distinct sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. Let’s take a closer look at each section to better understand the structure of the examm.
Like any exam that tests your linguistic abilities, the TOEFL includes a reading section to analyze your reading comprehension abilities. This section includes passages of reading material from a wide variety of sources and topics, ranging from literature to science. Following each passage, you will need to answer questions to ensure that you understood the reading material.
Allotted Time: 60-80 minutes
Number of Questions: 36-56
Type of Questions: Multiple-choice
The listening section is often considered one of the most challenging parts of the TOEFL. Listening comprehension is particularly difficult in a second language, and this section consists of 4-6 lectures and 2-3 conversations, each followed by comprehension questions. The material generally covers academic topics, ranging from the arts to life sciences.
Allotted Time: 60-90 minutes
Number of Questions: 34-51
Type of Questions: Multiple-choice
In the speaking section, students must respond to questions, speak on a predetermined topic, and read passages aloud. This section tests your ability to communicate effectively on a variety of academic topics. Though it is certainly a challenging section, it is also the shortest in terms of time allotment.
Allotted Time: 20 minutes
Number of Tasks: 6
Type of Questions: Spoken
The writing section tests your ability to use correct grammar, vocabulary, and writing structure. Additionally, you must construct a coherent argument in two distinct essays. One essay is based on a reading passage, while the other is based on a writing prompt. The speaking and writing sections are the only ones that do not include multiple-choice questions.
Allotted Time: 50 minutes
Number of Tasks: 2
Type of Questions: Essay
TOEFL ADMINISTRATION - WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO REGISTER
The TOEFL is administered on specific dates throughout the year. Most years, there are more than 50 dates on which you can take the exam, so it is pretty easy to find a test day that works for your schedule. Additionally, the ETS gives you three ways to register: online, by phone, or by mail. You can learn more about the registration process and fees on the ETS website.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE TOEFL?
TOEFL tests must be taken at an authorized ETS testing center. Generally, you should expect to spend between 4-5 hours at the testing center on the day of the test. You should try to show up at least 30 minutes prior to your test time, as you will need to sign in and show your I.D. to the test administrator.
You will spend between 120-170 minutes on the first two sections (Reading and Listening) before taking a 10 minute break. The allotted time and number of questions varies for the first two sections, as some of the questions are experimental and do not count toward your final score. The number of experimental questions varies for each test.
After the 10 minute break, you will move on to the final two sections (Speaking and Writing). You are allowed to take notes during the test, however you cannot speak to anyone else. Like most standardized tests, you will need to notify a test administrator if you have any questions or problems.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE TO TAKE THE TOEFL?
The ETS requires all students to show a valid form of ID in order to register and take the TOEFL. You can learn about the exact requirements for identification right here. Generally, you are eligible for the TOEFL as long as you can present an unexpired, government-issued ID with a recent picture. For students who are under 18, it is recommended that you bring your parent or guardian with you on the day of the test. If you are 15 or under, both you and your parent/guardian must present valid ID at the test center.
TOEFL SCORES - HOW ARE THEY CALCULATED?
Each section is scored individually out of 30. Then, the scores are combined for a final score out of 120. For the speaking and writing sections, each task is scored on a scale from 0-4 (speaking) or 0-5 (writing).
Internationally, the average TOEFL score is 82. Most universities set a minimum acceptable score, which varies for each school. The minimum acceptable scores are significantly higher for graduate level applicants. Though your target score will largely depend on the type of university you want to attend, a score of 94 or higher will put you in the top 25% of all test takers.