The TOEFL, along with the IELTS, is one of the most demanded tests when applying for universities abroad, especially in countries such as USA, UK and Australia. If you are thinking of applying to any of these countries, you might just have to clear this test to get admission or when you are applying for a student visa. While most of you are aware of the IELTS, the TOEFL still remains confusing to many students who are preparing to write the exam. So, we have prepared the ultimate guide for you to start familiarising yourself with the TOEFL test.
What is TOEFL?
TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is a standardised academic English test designed to assess a student’s ability to read, write and speak in English. Like the IELTS, it is composed of four sections – reading, listening, speaking, and writing. But unlike the IELTS, the TOEFL is a suite of tests, the most popular among them being the TOEFL iBT and the TOEFL Essentials.
The TOEFL iBT is a 3-hour long rigorous test while the TOEFL Essential is a much cheaper and easier English test with a less academic focus. Make sure to contact your university and clarify which version of TOEFL they accept.
The four major sections of the TOEFL are,
The reading section (60-100 minutes long) is designed to assess your ability to understand and analyse written texts on various topics like science or about comparing several points so view. They can either be scientific, historic or even philosophical. Each of these texts will be followed by 12-14 questions which would as you to define a word (intended to test your vocabulary), identify an argument or an idea (intended to test your understanding of the passage) and find a false statement (intended to test your overall comprehension of the passage).
These passages could be difficult as the tests you will get are often complex in nature. Make sure you are familiarised with the pattern of the questions and learn how to work with unfamiliar words by properly trying to infer their meaning by reading the passage.
The speaking section (20 minutes) includes 6 tasks which is designed to asses how well you can express thoughts and ideas in the English language. You will be given two different types of audios- recordings of lectures and recordings of conversations. You will have around four to six academic lectures and two to three casual conversations. Each of these audio bits will be of three to five minutes long followed by 5 to 6 questions on the contents of the recording.
You will only be able to hear an audio or lecture once. But don’t be alarmed! Some questions will allow you to hear a part of the recording to listen to again. But try not depend on this. Practice listening to audios of conversations and lectures and you will do well in the exam! Make sure you get comfortable listening to different accents like American, British, New Zealander and Australian. If you regularly practice, there is no need for you to worry!
The speaking section of TOEFL is in fact the newest addition to the exam and one of the most important parts of the exam. It is designed to test your ability to speak the language. Unlike the IELTS, in TOEFL you won’t have an interviewer who asks you questions and listen to your answers. Instead, you will have a microphone where your voice is recorded and examiners will assess your answers later. But this would make it more challenging! You will have little time to answer and even less time to prepare before you talk. So, remember to practice timing our answers. You will do your best if you know what to expect.
There will be a total of six tasks in which two of them will ask you express your opinion on a common topic. This is called independent speaking test. Here, you will either be asked to listen to a recording and speak on it or read a long passage.
The integrated speaking section will require to discuss something that you read and hear and answer questions on the given passage. You will have around 30 seconds to prepare after which you will need to start recording your answer into the microphone.
Try not to obsess over your accent as it is not important and make sure to take notes. Don’t worry, you will do just fine!
All your preparation in developing your English skills comes together in the last and final section of TOEFL. It is designed to asses your writing ability, grammar knowledge and vocabulary usage. Much like the speaking section, the writing section also an integrated writing task and an independent writing task.
For the independent writing task (30 minutes), you will be asked to write an opinion on a casual/common topic. For the integrated writing task (20 minutes), you will write an essay based on additional reading and listening material.
The ideal way to practice TOEFL writing is writing as many practice essays as you can. Remember that it is not the opinion that is assessed but how well you support your argument and explain your answers. Learn how to use connectors like “therefore”, “however” and “although”.
How is the test scored?
The iBT version of the test is scored on a scale from 0 to 120 while the essentials are reported in half bands from 1 to 12. You can take the TOEFL as many times as you want but no more than once every 3 days.
Keep in mind that TOEFL is a hard test, arguably much harder than the IELTS. But don’t worry! Make sure you register for the exam well in advance. Give yourself at least four months to prepare and study and you will be fine!