What is the TOEFL?!

The TOEFL (pronounced “toe-full”), formally known as Test Of English as a Foreign Language, is a test that measures the ability of a non-native English speaker to use and understand the English language as it is read, written, heard, and spoken.  The test is designed and administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS). More than 27 million people from all over the world have taken the TOEFL test to demonstrate their English-language proficiency.

The TOEFL is a four-hour test consisting of four sections:

  1. Reading: The Reading section measures your ability to understand non-technical reading material. It consists of 3-5 passages, each about 700 words in length, and asks you questions about the passages.  The passages are related to academic topics; they consist of the type of material that you may find in an undergraduate university textbook. This section requires understanding of concepts of rhetorical functions such as cause-and-effect, compare-and-contrast, and argumentation. Prior knowledge of the subject in the passage is not necessary to know the correct answer.
  2. Listening: The Listening section measures your ability to understand spoken English. It has 6 passages that are 3-5 minutes in length, and questions about the passages. The passages include two student conversations and four academic lectures or discussions.  The conversation involves two speakers. The lectures do not expect you to have background knowledge in the subject of discussion. Each conversation and lecture is heard only once. You may take notes while listening and refer to your notes while answering questions. For each conversation you are asked 5 questions and for each lecture you are asked 6. The questions are designed to measure the ability of understanding main ideas, important details, organization of information, etc.
  3. Speaking: The Speaking section consists of 6 tasks: two independent tasks and four integrated tasks. In the two independent tasks, you will answer opinion questions on topics you are familiar with. You will be evaluated on your ability to speak and convey your ideas clearly. In the integrated tasks, you will read a short passage, listen to an academic course lecture about campus life and answer a question using the information you listened to. You will be evaluated on your ability to effectively understand and convey the information from the reading and listening materials. You may take notes as you read and listen and may use your notes to help you prepare your responses.  You will be given a short preparation time before you have to begin speaking.
  4. Writing: The Writing section measures your ability to write in an academic setting. It consists of two tasks: one integrated task and one independent task. In the integrated task, you will read a passage on an academic topic and then listen to a speaker talk about the same topic. You will have to write a summary of the important points in the listening passage and explain how they relate to the key points of the reading passage. In the independent task, you will write an essay that states and explains your opinion on an issue. You will need reasons to support your opinions and choices.

You will have a ten-minute break after your first two sections, so you can get up and stretch and re-focus yourself for the next two sections. Make sure you get a good night of rest the night before and eat a healthy breakfast the morning of. Additionally, try not to cram in all of your studying the week before the test. Plan out your studies ahead of time so that you are relaxed and well prepared before going into the exam.

The TOEFL is scored in a simple way.  Your overall TOEFL score will range from 0 to 120 and is calculated by combining your TOEFL scores on each of the four sections.  The individual sections are graded separately.  You will receive four TOEFL scores ranging from 0 to 30 in the categories of reading, listening, speaking, and writing.

Those who take the TOEFL include students planning to study at a higher education institution, scholarship and certification candidates, English-language learners, and students and workers applying for visas. You may take the TOEFL as many times as you want, but you cannot register for another test date that is within 12 days of your original appointment. The cost of the TOEFL test ranges from $150 to $225.

TOEFL scores vary in importance at different schools.  Many American colleges and universities require the TOEFL test scores from non-English speaking students in order to admit them to a program. Other factors that schools consider include academics, work experience, letters of reference, and scores on other standardized tests (IELTS, SAT, etc.).

Students must sign up to take the TOEFL at a test center on a designated test day. ETS offers free test preparation materials on the website, including sample test questions and an 8-week planner to help set up your study schedule and stay on track in order to prepare for the exam.  Before worrying about the TOEFL test, make sure the school you are interested in requires it

Visit the TOEFL website for more information at www.TOEFL.org

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