Among all the English Proficiency Tests like TOEIC, IELTS, TOEFL, OPI, designed for different purposes, TOEFL is the most widely trusted English Test designed for non-native English speakers wanting to study in an Anglophone country. TOEFL is owned and administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and is considered by over 10000 institutes and organizations worldwide.
Test of English as Foreign Language, or TOEFL, is highly accepted and preferred by universities in countries like the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, and Germany. Some Countries like the UK prefers other English Tests, like IELTS, but due to worldwide popularity, one eventually ends up taking TOEFL. In this article, we have covered general Information about TOEFL and then talked about the best ways to prepare and get a good score in the test. The article concludes with some tips by our seniors who had appeared for TOEFL and have been admitted to prestigious universities around the world.
Who sits for TOEFL – Typically, those who take the TOEFL want to attend university or graduate school abroad. But anyone who needs to demonstrate a mastery of English for an academic purpose can take the TOEFL. This includes anyone applying to a foreign high school, exchange program, community college, or for a student visa. IITB students who sit for TOEFL mostly need it along with GRE/GMAT. Check out our earlier article on GRE – GRE – Exam Prep Series
When should one take it – As dates are distributed all over the year, it gets difficult for the student to decide the exam date. Generally, the students start preparing for TOEFL when they are done with the GRE/GMAT. GRE also demands preparation for language measures which helps students in TOEFL. According to the students we talked to, once you take the GRE/GMAT, 20-25 days are more enough to prepare for the TOEFL but this may vary student to student. You can schedule your dates when it suits you best.
How much would it cost – The registration fee for TOEFL is around $180(~13000 INR). For this fee, you are allowed to fill four recipients institutes to whom you want to send your TOEFL score at the time of registration. If you want to send score reports to more than four recipients, it is going to cost you $20(~1500 INR) for each Additional Score Report. Other than this, you will have to bear the cost of preparation material too.
Where are the Exam Centres – In India, a student can sit only for a computer-based online test known as the TOEFL Internet-Based Test(TOEFL iBT). It is conducted worldwide on 50 dates over the year at multiple centres., There are 12 centres in Mumbai, 6 in Pune and 1 in Nashik, near IIT Bombay. Exam dates vary with the test centre. Check out the ETS website for the latest test centres and test.
Examination Format and Scoring
TOEFL internet-based test (TOEFL iBT) is scheduled for 3 hours and is designed to measure the ability of non-native English speakers to use and understand English as it’s read, written, heard and spoken in the university classrooms. Accordingly, it has 4 sections – Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. For each section, you get a score scaled to 30.
Reading – In the reading section, the candidate reads paragraphs up to 800 words and answer 9-10 questions based on that. The time limit for the section varies from 54/72 minutes depending on whether it has 3 or 4 paragraphs. Most questions are worth 1 point but the last question in each set may worth more than one point.
Listening – In this section, the candidate has to answer the questions after listening to audio clips. But unlike reading paragraphs, he can only listen to the clip once. The clips are related to one of the educational subjects and include some terms the student is not necessarily familiar with. That’s why it’s suggested taking notes to remember the overall flow.
The section has 2-3 conversations between two people and 3-4 lecture parts on a topic with 5 or 6 questions respectively. The total time is about 41-57 minutes and 28-39 questions are to be answered, depending on the number of clips. In some questions, the student has to select an answer based on an audio snippet from the clip. A few questions are worth more than one point. Read the written guidelines carefully.
Speaking – In this section, candidates encounter 4 speaking tasks, one independent and 3 integrated. For integrated tasks, before answering the question, they learn about the situation/topic in the form of reading and writing. After the question and some seconds of preparation, they must clearly and impressively answer the question in a limited time. The allotted time for this section is 17 minutes.
Multiple ETS-certified test scorers evaluate the responses and give marks between 0-4 for each task. Responses are scored on a student’s ability to speak clearly and coherently and to accurately convey information about what you have either read or heard. The sum of marks for each task are scaled to 30 accordingly.
Writing – There are two tasks spanning over 50 minutes. The first task(20 minutes response) is an integrated task. The paragraph given for the question reads a discussion on an academic topic. Then the student listens to a speaker discussing the same topic from a different perspective. The second task(30 minutes response) is an opinion task, the student has to write his opinion on a general question and support it through the essay. The response is evaluated on grammar, accuracy, completeness, organization, and development of the essay.
The student’s response is evaluated on a score of 0-5. While human trained raters anonymously give the judgment for content and overall context, eRater (automated scoring technology) is used for linguistic features like grammar and spellings. Using both is the best way to ensure consistency and fairness among different responses.
Some students might get extra tasks in reading or listening sections for experimental purposes. There is no way to figure out that out of all the tasks which one is not graded, so it’s suggested to treat every question as it adds to student’s scores.
Now comes an obvious question arises that what is a good score in TOEFL. The score you must target in the exam depends on the university you are planning to apply. No university demands a score of more than 110, so we can say that’s a safe score. You can check the mapping here – https://magoosh.com/toefl/2014/toefl-scores/
An exam as important as TOEFL, no doubt there are countless resources available to prepare for the exam. ETS itself has a range of material including a free edX prep course, free example tests, and a free test planner. Other than that, the official guide, tutorials, and real-time sample tests scored within 24 hours of the test are also available at affordable prices. Candidates who have earlier prepared for GRE find the reading and writing sections in TOEFL easier. These are advised to be prepared from the ETS material. Consulting seniors will help to save your money.
For the listening section, the student needs to practice how to take notes from the audio. You must take care you don’t miss any points while taking notes as you can only listen to the audio once in the exam. Learn TOEFL with Daniel is a good YouTube channel to practice listening.
There are not many free tests available for you to analyze your speaking skills. The best way to practice is to record your response and ask your friends for feedback. You get 20 seconds for preparing your response. Don’t try to form a full 45 response. Write points in the order you want to answer. Try to frame the next sentence as you are answering the question in the allotted time. This may need a good practice if you are not very used to English speaking in day to day space.
After Practicing for particular sections, always take full sample tests before going to the exam to get familiarize with every aspect. One ETS sample test is available at $45(~3000 INR), they are the best sample tests available as they are scored by the same process as your final test. You can always go for alternatives like Duolingo or Magoosh.
Final Exam Test is always surprising and different from your practice. If you know what to expect on the exam day beforehand, it is easier to make provisions. Here are some directions laid out by our seniors you can follow to avoid any abrupt consequences.
Representation of what the actual test centre may look like
Here are some things to care about, on the day of the test–
- Notes – Don’t miss any points from the audio clips as you can listen to them only once. Note down the flow, names, places, and keywords. This will help frame your answers better.
- Noise – Don’t except pin-drop silence at the exam centre. Multiple students speaking at the same time will surely produce hindrance. It is advised that you practice listening and speaking with some noise in the background.
- Speed – If you complete the reading and listening sections the earliest, in that case, you would be successful in avoiding disturbance from others. Noise cancellers are made available, but those won’t be very effective when everyone starts speaking.
- Be an early bird – Unlike GRE, free TOEFL slots may not be available just 10 days before your desired date. So, it is suggested you check out the centres and available dates as early as possible.