What is TOEFL?
TOEFL is one of the most popular standardized exams in the world. Standing for 'Test of English as a Foreign Language', this exam is important for individuals whose native language is other than English and who would like to study in North American colleges or universities. TOEFL results may also be requested by potential employers during job application process. TOEFL scores show how well candidates understand English while listening and reading, how well they write and how good their grammar is.
It is important to remember that TOEFL is used for American English. So if you're applying to a British university or a job in the UK for example, you will most likely have to take another test. TOEFL score is valid for 2 years only, and afterwards the score is erased from the TOEFL database.
Preparing For a TOEFL Test
In terms of preparation, TOEFL isn't much different from other language tests. You need some study guides and practice tests to know what to expect from the exam. It is also good to use some computer based TOEFL practice tests. These will help you improve your English skills as well as to get used to taking a language test on the computer (TOEFL is mostly Internet based).
During your TOEFL exam, you will have to write an essay. Make sure you're clear about the essay structure (main thesis and supporting arguments, clear paragraph structure etc) - this is one of the biggest things people lose points for. When you register for your test, you will receive a free TOEFL essay sample, but it also helps to look up more examples of the TOEFL essays online, as well as to research common essay topics. Remember that the TOEFL essay isn't about creative writing but about being able to make a clear point, putting your thoughts in writing clearly and avoiding grammar mistakes.
When it comes to the listening and reading comprehension, be sure to spend enough time practicing. There are lots of TOEFL practice exams available, and they are vital for your test preparation. Your ultimate goal is to secure the highest score possible.
What Is it Like to Take a TOEFL Test? And Where Can I Do It?
Computer based TOEFL exam, also known as CBT, was discontinued in 2006, and has been fully replaced by the IBT (Internet-based TOEFL). The IBT is available in more and more TOEFL testing centers worldwide, while the paper based version of the test isn't so common anymore. You will have to visit the TOEFL website to find your nearest testing location.
IBT includes all four sections of the test. The listening section lasts 45-70 minutes, and you will need to make sure that understanding American English isn't a problem for you.
The structure section validates your ability to understand written English and use grammar properly. It takes 15-20 minutes. In the writing section, you will be given 30 minutes to write an essay. The reading section will test your vocabulary and reading comprehension skills - you will be given 70-90 minutes to complete it.
The PBT (paper based TOEFL) is becoming less and less popular, but is still available in locations where the IBT isn't available. The structure is the same as in the IBT, however, exam takers are given more time as they need to fill out the paper form with answers as opposed to just clicking the mouse.
Understanding TOEFL Scores
Internet based and paper based TOEFL are scored differently - which is important to remember to avoid confusion. The IBT is scored on scale of 0 to 120 points. Each of the four sections receives up to 30 points, hence the ideal IBT score is 120.
The PBT scores range from 310 and 677, based on three sections: Listening (31-68), Structure (31-68), and Reading (31-67). The Writing section is scored separately on a scale of 0-6.
American colleges set different requirements for the TOEFL scores for their admission process. The most prestigious colleges, including the Ivy League, have the IBT score of 100 as their minimum requirement. Meanwhile, less fancy schools aren't so demanding, and have their minimum required TOEFL (IBT) scores starting from around 70.
When preparing to take your TOEFL test, remember that your ultimate goal is to get the highest score possible. This can only be achieved with sufficient practice - especially with the sections that give you trouble. And, just like with any other exam, it is important to concentrate and keep calm while taking the test.