Standardized Tests

Everything you need to know about the TOEFL

Sneha Arya

TOEFL, also known as Test of English as a Foreign Language, measures the aspirant's ability to use and understand the English language at the university level. In other words, TOEFL evaluates your reading, listening, speaking, and writing skills.

Before debating about whether you should take TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language) seriously, you must understand why you need to take this test in the first place.

Even though you may be conversant and comfortable communicating in English, it is still not your mother tongue so you will be considered a non-native English speaker. When you apply to foreign universities where English is the language of communication, they will need assurance about how well you know the language.

TOEFL iBT (Internet Based Test) gauges your capability to communicate in English at the university level. Besides, the test assesses your competency in reading, listening, speaking, and writing skills while performing academic tasks.

If you are planning to pursue higher studies in USA, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Australia or New Zealand, you will certainly need to take TOEFL. And since it is a mandatory test that you need to take, it goes without saying that you should give it your best. Considering that you will be already burdened with preparing for the SAT/ACT, whose test scores play an important role in your application being accepted, chances are that you will postpone preparing for TOEFL since it is a language you are fairly comfortable with. And in any case, you can’t fail in TOEFL since the test is only an indicator of your grasp on the language.

While universities set benchmark scores for other tests like SAT/ACT to be eligible for acceptance, TOEFL scores will usually not be the decider for admissions when you apply at any university but all universities are keen that applicants have good TOEFL score which translates into wanting students who are comfortable while communicating in English. Depending on where you wish to study, be sure to verify the expected TOEFL score as reputed universities expect all test scores of applicants to be excellent. 

The flip side is that there are a few universities who are willing to waive off TOEFL if you have studied in English at college/university for at least three years prior to your application. 

On the other hand, if you are not very confident while communicating in English, it is necessary that you take TOEFL seriously because this is the language of communication abroad and being able to communicate in English – verbally or in writing, will make you more self-assured and confident in a foreign country. Besides if you don’t understand the language well, you will naturally feel lost in class, as you won’t fully understand what’s being taught. You will then need to take additional study modules in English at the university.

So the bottom line is that whether you are good in English or not, it is smarter to take it seriously and prepare for the test in earnest so that your TOEFL score is a true reflection of your competence. If you are already proficient in English, by preparing well and then taking the test, not only will your score be excellent, it will also familiarize you in taking such tests. And if you aren’t good in English, then this can well become the key that will open many doors in future. 

On an average, US universities need a minimum TOEFL score of 78. But, the nature of the course and the institution that you seek admission at, can decide the importance of your TOEFL score. Reputed universities and colleges usually expect higher TOEFL scores of 100* or more.

Types of TOEFL Exams and Duration 

  • iBT- Internet/online Based Test (4 hours and 20 minutes)
  • PBT- paper Based Test (3 hours and 20 minutes) 

The Difference in iBT and PBT

TOEFL is an extremely reliant examination. It evaluates your English fluency based on reading, listening, writing, and speaking parameters. Though it may seem identical, it also has some significant differences;

  • PBT is in Written format
  • PBT is an hour shorter
  • PBT does not have any experimental questions
  • PBT does not have a speaking section
  • In PBT, listening comes before reading.
  • PBT does not have 10 minutes break

TOEFL Exam Dates

ETS conducts TOEFL exams at least every month. And the good thing is that you will have enough time to prepare for the exams. If you like, you can schedule and book a center by visiting their official site. That makes it even more flexible, especially if you have other important things to attend to. 

So How Do I Register

  • There's an online registration option, which you can access by visiting their official website. The advantage is that you can register anytime of the day and on any date because their site is open 24/7. This is way more quick and fast. All you need is a stable internet connection to register for the examination, exclusive of the registration fees. 
  • You can also make a call to a representative Phone Registration. You'll make a call to the executive of TOFEL at the exam center, and you need to do this, at least seven days before the exam. Their phone contact too is not listed on their official website, but you can reach them via their social handles, such as Twitter, so they can issue you with a valid phone contact number. Alternatively, you can visit them at their headquarters at Princeton, New Jersey. 
  • Mail registration - You can register via mail. You can fill the details and send them via email, which is a quick option. All you need is a stable internet connection and a valid email address and you are good to go, exclusive of the registration fees. And while they don't list their email on their website, you can submit your request through this form on their contact page. 

TOEFL Exam Fees

  • TOEFL exam fees for iBT ranges from $160 to $250, depending on your region
  • TOEFL exam fees for PBT is around $180 
  • $40 more for late Registration
  • Rescheduling or cancellation should be made at least a week before to get a partial refund

Exam Score Announcements

  • TOEFL (iBT) results are released online ten days from the date of examination and printed out 13 days from the date of the exam.
  • TOEFL PBT results are out in approximately five weeks.
  • Candidates can send their results to the desired Universities online through their TOEFL personal account.

TOEFL Exam Patterns

1. TOEFL iBT Exam Pattern

TOEFL iBT is a computerized English proficiency test with FOUR sections – reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Each section focuses on one primary skill, and all sections have a time limit. That said, it is also important to note the following: 

  • It gives Twenty minutes for speaking and 50 minutes for writing.
  • Reading and listening timing differs according to unscored and experimental questions. 
  • Ten minutes break is mandatory. 

2. TOEFL PBT Exam Pattern

TOEFL PBT test is for the people residing in regions without internet connection and for the individuals preferring PBT over iBT. 

The TOEFL PBT Exam is conducted in FOUR sections – listening, structure and written, reading, and writing. 

Also, PBT excludes the spoken section, hence time is reduced by one hour. Additionally, it does not have a break, so you have to complete it in one sitting. That said, it is also important to note the following: 

  • Listening Section - Evaluate the ability to understand English as spoken in North America.
  • Structure - Evaluates the ability to recognize language appropriate for standard written English.
  • Reading - Evaluate the ability to read and understand short passages, similar in topic and style in North American universities and colleges.
  • Writing - Evaluate the ability to write in English on the given topic. This section allows you to demonstrate your ability to write in English. It also tests the ability to originate, organize ideas, and support those ideas with examples.
  • Validity - TOEFL certification is valid for two years.

Resources for Preparation

ETS offers a variety of paid and free preparation materials that can help you get ready for the TOEFL test. 

Take Away

TOEFL certification enriches the listening and analyzing, attention and concentration, reading and understanding, performing and speaking, writing, and presenting skills of the candidate. As a keen seeker of knowledge, TOEFL enables you to reach the desired destination with confidence and ability to cope with the academic pressure in the foreign and unacquainted land/country.

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