A Comprehensive TOEFL Guide For Students Going Abroad

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Written by Pareeshti Rao

It all started with an impulsive urge to befriend Enid Blyton and be a part of the famous five! Writing since then has been my magic wand and I've used it to sprinkle words like fairy dust and express myself thereat.

September 13, 2021

Improving your language abilities and taking English language proficiency exams demonstrate to most institutions overseas that you are well equipped to attend courses. I’m sure you’ve heard of the numerous English proficiency tests that colleges accept, the most common being – IELTS, TOEFL, PTE, and others. In this article on a comprehensive TOEFL guide, we have covered all you need to know about the exam, from its background to TOEFL preparation tips & strategies.

By the end of the TOEFL guide, you will be able to understand the following aspects:

  1. What is TOEFL?
  2. Why should you take the TOEFL?
  3. Types of TOEFL
  4. What is the structure of TOEFL?
  5. Where is TOEFL accepted?
  6. Where can you take the test?
  7. What is the cost?
  8. On what parameters is it scored?
  9. Difference between TOEFL & IELTS
  10. Tips to prepare for TOEFL

What Is TOEFL?

The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is a standardised test that assesses a person’s command of the English language. Universities typically utilise TOEFL scores as part of the admissions process.

Those who take the TOEFL typically intend to study at a university or graduate school in another country. The TOEFL is open to anybody who wants to demonstrate proficiency in English for academic purposes. Anyone applying to a foreign high school, exchange programme, community college, or for a student visa falls under this category.

Why Should You Take the TOEFL?

Academic language is sometimes dense and formal, so even those who have studied English for many years may struggle in an academic setting with constant usage of new English words in every other lecture. Before admission to an academic programme, a university’s admissions committee needs to know that you can handle the course load of an English-based programme: they utilise your TOEFL score as a standardised indicator for your English abilities.

If you are an international student applying to institutions in countries where English is the predominant language, you will very certainly be required to take the TOEFL as part of your application. Many institutions accept results from other English exams as well, but the TOEFL is the most widely used English-language assessment test at the moment.

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Types Of TOEFL

The vast majority (97 per cent) of TOEFLs taken are online exams (IBTs). Students take the IBT TOEFL on a supplied computer in a testing room, generally with many other persons taking the test. 

Paper-based examinations account for only 3% of all TOEFLs (PBTs). Because the PBT does not assess students’ speaking abilities, test developers are phasing out these sorts of assessments. PBTs are only accessible in exam centres where online testing is not available. Many colleges accept just IBT TOEFL scores. So, if you’re taking the PBT, double-check your school’s foreign admissions website.

Recommended Read: Guide To Teach English as a Foreign Language

What Is The Exam Structure?

The exam is divided into four sections and takes around 4.5 hours to complete. These four components are as follows: 

  • Reading
  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Writing

Each part is graded on a scale of 30. These component scores are then summed up for a total score of 120 points.

TOEFL guide

Reading: Section 1

The reading section of the TOEFL has multiple choices. Each reading part will have three or four written sections, each with 12-14 questions. Tests with three written passages often have more questions per passage than tests with four written sections. Reading passages can include any academic subject, such as science, history, or literature.

Listening: Section 2

The listening part of the TOEFL is likewise entirely multiple choice. Each listening portion will consist of four to six lectures, each with six questions, and two or three discussions, each with five questions.

Speaking: Section 3

The TOEFL speaking section is more difficult than the reading or listening sections. Fortunately, each speaking part will always follow the same structure, so you may plan ahead of time. You will be given six speaking prompts, or “tasks,” in the speaking section. The first two assignments will be self-contained and will need you to discuss your own views and experiences. The final four activities will be integrated tasks in which you will be required to answer questions based on a particular conversation or piece of writing.

Breaking this down further for you as per this comprehensive TOEFL guide- 

  • Task 1 will inquire about your interests or views on a certain issue.
  • Task 2 will ask you to share your opinions and pick between two choices.
  • Task 3 requires you to read a brief document and then listen to a conversation between two speakers about the same topic.  You will then summarise the speaker’s points of view and compare them to the text.
  • Task 4 gives you two lectures on the same subject, one spoken and one written. After that, you’ll either summarise the content from each lecture or respond to a more specific question.
  • Task 5 requires you to listen to a dialogue between two individuals who are debating an issue with two potential solutions. You will next summarise the information and express your view. It’s worth noting that Task 5 is frequently the most challenging listening task since you have to address three things: what the student said, the student’s recommended solutions to a problem, and which option you prefer and why.
  • Task 6 requires you to listen to a monologue before summarising or answering a more detailed question regarding the material.

Writing: Section 4

The TOEFL writing section is divided into two parts: one integrated task and one independent work.

1 Integrated Writing Assignment (20 minutes): You must read a brief passage and listen to a lecture for this section. The debate will then be responded to/summarized by you. ​

1 Independent Writing Assignment (30 minutes): In this part, you will almost always be asked to pick between two alternatives and provide arguments and examples for your decision. “Do you agree or disagree that most parents are overly controlling of their children?” or “Do you think humans are inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad?’

Where Is TOEFL Accepted?

TOEFL results are accepted by 9,000 colleges in 130 countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. The TOEFL is accepted by all of the world’s top 100 institutions. If you want to attend an English language institution, your school of choice will almost certainly demand or accept good TOEFL scores.

TOEFL guide

US – The TOEFL test is preferred by 9 out of 10 universities in the United States above other English-language assessments. Furthermore, colleges in the United States obtain more TOEFL results than all other English-language examinations combined.

Canada –  The TOEFL test is preferred by more than 80% of graduate schools in Canada above other English-language assessments. TOEFL scores are more common at Canadian colleges than all other English-language tests combined. 

Australia & New Zealand – TOEFL iBT results are recognised by all Australian and New Zealand institutions, as well as by all Australian and New Zealand immigration authorities.

France & Germany – The TOEFL test is preferred by French and German colleges, which get more TOEFL results than any other English-language test.

UK – TOEFL iBT results are accepted by all institutions in the United Kingdom, including the top Russell Group universities, offering a fair and unbiased alternative.

Where Can You Take The Test?

The TOEFL iBT test is administered over 60 times each year at secure, authorised test centres worldwide. There are over 3,000 TOEFL test centres worldwide, and you may find one near you by visiting the official TOEFL website. You may also take the TOEFL iBT Home Edition test from the comfort of your own home. Test appointments are accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Each exam date has a registration period that lasts 5-6 months. It is strongly advised that you register as soon as possible to guarantee that you obtain a spot for your preferred day and location.

What Is The Overall Cost?

The exam fee varies depending on where you take it, but it generally runs from USD 180 to USD 325. This includes your registration cost, score report, and 4 score reports, mailed to colleges of your choice. Late enrollment, postponing and cancelling a test all incur extra expenses.

On What Parameters Is TOEFL Scored?

Each component (Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing) is scored from 0 to 30, giving a total score of 0 to 120 for the whole test. At the end of the exam, you may check your unofficial Reading and Listening results. Your official exam results will be accessible to you around 6 days after you take the test and will be valid for 2 years. Your score report will also include MyBest scores, which are the sum of your greatest scores for each part from all legitimate tests taken in the previous two years.

Differences Between TOEFL & IELTS

TOEFL guide

  • TOEFL is more closely associated with the US.  Most nations and universities, including the UK and Australia, however, accept the exam. Due to fraud incidents some years ago, TOEFL is no longer recognised in applications for UK student visas. IELTS is mostly used in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand for jobs, immigration, and study.
  • With combining listening, reading, speaking, and writing tasks, TOEFL contains several integrated components in its test. In IELTS, each skill is assessed independently.
  • In the reading and listening parts of the TOEFL, the majority of the questions are multiple-choice. IELTS offers a wider range of question types, and candidates are frequently required to write in answers.
  • Only high-level academic materials are used in TOEFL reading. Although IELTS is still a high-level exam, it includes a mix of journal and magazine articles. In addition, the General Training readings are less challenging.
  • TOEFL is mostly used in educational and academic settings. The General Training section of the IELTS exam is slightly simpler in terms of writing task 1 and reading.

Tips To Prepare For TOEFL

When you prepare for TOEFL, you are likely to find the process intimidating and sometimes even lose your incentive to study properly. That’s something we have covered you on. As TOEFL is a decisive component for your ticket to university, it’s important to prepare carefully. Here are some recommendations for preparation as per our TOEFL guide.

Knowing the Purpose: To be adequately prepared, you must first understand why you are taking the test. You may be taking the test for the following reasons:

  • Using an approved exam to determine your level of English
  • To be considered for a university scholarship, you must first fill out an application.
  • For training or a job that meets your immigration needs

Before you take the TOEFL, be sure you understand why you’re taking it. You may then utilise this information to help you focus your study time more effectively.

Set Score Targets: Different goals demand various minimum scores. To begin, make sure you understand the minimum score required to achieve your goal. Then decide what score you want to achieve. This is your recommended (ideal) score. Make sure that your ideal score is achievable. This implies choosing a score that you’re likely to get rather than an excessively high one.

Taking Notes: You only get one chance to listen to audio clips on the TOEFL. Then you’ll have to give answers, talk, or write on the topic you heard about. Because you won’t be able to repeat the audio, you’ll need to improve your note-taking skills. The goal is to learn to take notes in real-time so that you don’t miss anything the speaker says. Engage with a range of audio clips of varying durations and levels of complexity, then listen to the tape again to check whether your notes are accurate. Being able to comfortably take notes and document all pertinent information in real-time will be extremely beneficial not just on the TOEFL test, but also in your future studies.

Take Practice Tests: When studying for the TOEFL, you nearly usually have a certain score in mind. You can only tell whether you’re getting close to your TOEFL goal by taking practise exams during your TOEFL preparation time. Practice exams will also help you acquire a sense of the test atmosphere, question patterns, and time limitations that you’ll experience on test day.

Learn to Touch-Type: The writing part of the exam asks you to type your answers on a computer using a QWERTY keyboard that you are unfamiliar with. stYou won’t have much time left to produce an excellent essay if you spend all of your time struggling with the keyboard. Although it appears to be a basic talent, many individuals fail to prepare for it. Before your exam, be sure you can type rapidly in English on a QWERTY keyboard. There are several free online programmes available to assist you in learning touch typing.

Did you know that your scholarship eligibility will be determined by your test scores or your college GPA? So if you’re planning to apply for scholarships to study abroad, your test scores will make a difference to your application. While many students wonder if test scores matter for scholarship applications, it is a well-known fact that scholarships favour those holding great academic records, who have performed well in their tests, and/or those in financial need! So, acing your TOEFL test is your key to get into uni with the chance of holding a scholarship.

Thank you for reading this Comprehensive TOEFL Guide. If you’d like to read more, here are some blogs that might interest you –

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