TOEFL is an acronym for Test of English as a Foreign Language. Its purpose is to determine how well you can read, write, speak and listen to the English language.
If you are a foreign student hoping to go to college in the US, you should familiarize yourself with this exam because you will likely be required to take it.
What To Know Before You Register for the TOEFL
Most international college students from non-English speaking nations have to take this test. In fact, more than 8,500 colleges in the US require it. You should ask your prospective schools if they require the TOEFL.
If the answer is yes, try to take the exam at least three months before your college application is due.
Take note that the paper-based test is being phased out, so the exam is usually administered online. This is convenient for most students, especially since the internet-based test is offered on at least 40 dates per year.
Understand the Content of the TOEFL
Just as with any other college admission exam, you should prepare for this test months in advance.
There are lots of websites and books that offer TOEFL test preparation assistance, but you can start by getting an idea of the types of questions you will encounter. This can help you determine how much you need to study.
The Reading section lasts about 60-100 minutes. You will read 3-5 passages from academic tests, and then answer 12-14 questions per passage. If this sounds daunting, keep in mind that you will receive a glossary to define key words.
In the Writing section of the TOEFL, you will be asked to write an essay based on what is read and heard. In addition, you will need to write an independent essay in support of an opinion.
The Listening section focuses on your comprehension of lectures and conversations in English. You can expect to listen to 4-6 lectures and 2-3 conversations, and then answer questions about what you just heard.
Finally, the Speaking section of the TOEFL test requires you to speak into a microphone to express your opinion on a particular subject, and then to speak based on what you read and hear.
Remember, you are not expected to sound like a native English speaker, and your pronunciation does not need to be flawless. This English proficiency test simply measures your ability to communicate like you would in a classroom.
What to Expect from Your TOEFL Score Report
You will receive a score for each of the four skills you are tested on: reading, listening, speaking and writing. In the internet-based test, each section ranges from 0-30, for a total of 120 points. You will find that more selective colleges in the US usually recommend a score of 100 or higher on the internet TOEFL test, but many schools accept scores that are closer to 60.
You can check with the schools you are applying to if you want to find out what kind of score you need. Keep in mind you can take the TOEFL test as many times as you want until you are satisfied with your results. And once you are happy with your score, it will be valid for two years.