Every person who hopes to attend college has to take a variety of tests. All students have to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). Many may choose to take achievement tests or advanced placement tests to demonstrate their knowledge of a particular subject.

Students whose first language is something other than English must take one more test, the Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL.

What is the TOEFL?

The TOEFL is a test that measures a student’s ability to study at an English-speaking college or university. The goal of the test is to minimize the chances that a foreign student who chooses to attend school in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, or any other country where English is the predominant language spoken will be out of their depth once they start school.

Studying English in a classroom setting is not enough to guarantee that a student can handle doing college-level work in English. The TOEFL tests each student’s skills in these categories:

  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Speaking

You must achieve a certain level of proficiency in all four areas to receive the score you need in the TOEFL.

TOEFL Test Sections

There are four sections to the TOEFL test. Students who prepare for the test must make sure they are ready for all of the things they will be asked to do.

Section 1: Reading

The first section of the TOEFL Test examines your ability to read academic passages in English and comprehend them.

You will be asked to read three or four passages from academic books or other sources. After you read, you will be asked a series of multiple choice questions about each passage. The number of questions varies based upon the passages provided, but in most cases, you will have to answer between 9 and 15 questions related to each passage.

Section 2: Listening

The second section of the TOEFL Test looks at your ability to listen to conversations and lectures and understand them.

You will be asked to listen to several recordings of English lectures, classroom discussions, and conversations between students. Because the aim here is to test your ability to function in a college setting, the student conversations will focus on the kinds of subjects that students are likely to discuss: campus life, social arrangements, and so on.

After you listen to each passage, you will get a series of multiple choice questions to answer about what you heard. The recordings you listen to are likely to feature speakers with a variety of accents since you may encounter different accents when you attend school. In most cases, you will get between 34 and 51 questions in this section.

Section 3: Speaking

The third section of the TOEFL Test examines your ability to speak English clearly enough to express your thoughts and feelings.

All in all, you will be asked to respond to six speaking tasks in this section. In one of the tasks, you will have to express your opinion about a subject that is provided to you.

The other sections will require you to speak in response to both written material and recorded material. If you take the internet-based test or iBT, you will record your responses to be graded by an instructor at a later time. If you take the paper-based test, an instructor will sit with you as you perform this section of the test.

Section 4: Writing

The fourth and final section of the TOEFL Test examines your ability to write in coherent and compelling English.

You will be asked to write two passages. One will be in response to a written task, while the other will be in response to a recording. You will have to demonstrate that you can support an argument or thesis in writing. This skill is important because every paper you write in a college setting will require it.

All told, the internet-based test takes between 3 hours and 10 minutes to 4 hours and 20 minutes to complete, and you will be given a break after completing the first two sections of the test. The written test takes less time, only about two hours.

TOEFL Test Scores

Students who take the TOEFL Test have to achieve a particular score to get into the college or university of their choice. It is extremely important for each student to research and know the required score before sitting for the test. The score requirements may vary greatly from school to school.

So far, over 30 million students have taken the TOEFL Test and more take it every year. If you are planning to take the TOEFL Test for admission to college, you should make sure to register for it at least six months in advance. Places in the exam tend to fill up quickly.

Even if you think your English is very good, the smart thing to do is to take TOEFL practice tests online to familiarize yourself with the text questions. That way, you’ll have the best possible chance of success.


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