The TOEFL iBT analyses test takers on their grasp of the English language. But more than that, it determines whether the student has knowledge of the intricacies of vocabulary, syntax, sentence structure and most of all; tenses.

There are three main tenses in the English language, past, present and future.

The tense of a verb is an indicator of the subject doing something, or something existing or happening. Here, we’re focusing on the present tense.

The present tense is separated into four categories:

  • Simple present
  • Present perfect
  • Present continuous
  • Present perfect continuous

These four categories are further divided into sub-categories, each with its particular use.

Simple Present

This tense is used to state any condition or action that is happening at the moment, or as a habitual action or occurrence. Also known as present simple, this tense is used in the following ways:

  • Used to define a habitual action.

Example: She has blonde hair and green eyes.

I go to work every day.

I love pasta.

  • To state something that occurs regularly or a phenomenon that exists.

Example: My shift starts at 9.

He works out every Saturday night.

It always snows in the mountains.

  • Assisting stative verbs (verbs that deal with how the subject is, rather than what the subject does.

Example: I don’t think that color looks good.

Present Perfect

This tense is used to state actions or occurrences that have been completed. This form of verb typically uses auxiliary verbs like has or have. Here are some examples of when the present perfect is used:

  • Used to define actions that started in the past, but continue in the present, and have the potential to continue in the future as well.

Example: You would have not wanted to know the details. The children have been sick since they came back from the picnic.

  • To define separate actions that happened in the past, and may possibly happen in the future

Example: We have traveled twice in the past year. He has already been to that restaurant.

  • To define recent actions that were completed but could have an influence over something that is happening in the present.

Example: They have finished the meeting, so we can go in now. The sun has set; it’s cold now.

Present Continuous

Present continuous tenses or progressive tenses are used to define actions or moments that continue for an amount of time. They are formed with the help of a relative auxiliary verb in present tense such as am, is, or are in addition to a verb. The suffix –ing is also added.

The present continuous tense is used to:

  • Define an incident that is happening right now. This tense is used for all verbs except stative verbs.

Example: I can’t go right now, I am working. I am standing right now.

  • To define actions that are not been completed but are being completed. These are temporary actions.

Example: The menu is being changed. I am taking a TOEFL course.

Present Perfect Continuous

Present perfect continuous combines perfect and continuous tenses and defines an incident or action that describes how long something has continued till the present moment. This includes the use of have and has, in addition to been. These accompany the verb and the suffix –ing. The present perfect continuous tense defines:

  • Actions that start in the past, continue into the present and could continue in the future.

Example: I have been feeling sick for the past week. The management has been lax the whole year.

How Grammar is tested in TOEFL iBT

While there is no grammar section in the TOEFL iBT test, grammar is still tested by using different formats and structures. These structures are implemented in the reading passages of the test. So, if you’re not properly trained, those passages may be difficult to understand.

Graders consider your grasp of grammar and vocabulary when they score the written and spoken responses as well. They’re trained to pick out memorized responses. As such, it can be difficult to find a way around this particular aspect of learning English. The best way to score higher with regards to tenses is by simply learning the details and displaying it in your test.

Preparing for the TOEFL iBT Test – Tips for Tenses

You’re judged on the basis of your use of correct grammar and tenses in the TOEFL iBT writing and speaking test. However, if you are not well-versed in the proper usage of tenses, this can be difficult.

When using tenses in the TOEFL test, it’s important that you follow the rules below to reduce your chances of making mistakes.

– Randomly Changing Tenses in Writing

Tenses allow you to maintain a rhythm or flow in your sentence structure. Shifting or breaking the verb tense can diminish the tone of the sentence and can make it sound awkward:

Example: I was walking toward the railway station when I hear someone calling my name. I turn around, thinking that perhaps I had forgotten something at Carl’s place. But it turns out to be my friend from school, running toward me.

Correct Version: I walked toward the railway station when I heard someone call my name. I turned around, thinking that perhaps I had forgotten something at Carl’s place. But it turned out to be my friend from school, Jenny running toward me.

– Using Present with Past Tense

In some cases, using present with past tense is allowed if the sentence makes sense. For example:

Example: I know she came home last night.

– Using Present Perfect with the Term Since or For + Time

Since is a preposition, and a conjunction which refers to time or a reason. Ideally, the present perfect tense can be used to strengthen its point.

Example: Since I didn’t know the truth, I couldn’t do anything about it.

Revised: Since I didn’t know the truth, I couldn’t have done anything about it.

Improve Your Tenses with uMasterExam

The best way to improve your grasp on the English language and vocabulary is by hiring a tutor to guide you.

uMasterExam offers our services to help you find the best tutor in your area. With a professional TOEFL tutor, you can get the guidance you need to learn the details of the grammatical structure of the language and use it to your advantage.

Use our textbooks and TOEFL preparation guide books to learn more and increase your chances of getting a greater score in your TOEFL iBT test with proper use of grammar.

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