The Exams We Prepare For: TOEFL


TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language. It is designed, administered and graded by ETS (Educational Testing Service), a US-based education company with offices around the world. It is internationally recognized as a reputable and reliable exam. Over 35 million English-language students have taken it!  To take the TOEFL, you will need to go to an ETS testing centre. Fortunately, testing centres are located in more than 150 countries around the world. If you need to check if your home country is on the list, you can go to www.ets.org/toefl/score-users/about/country-list.    

Why take the TOEFL?  The TOEFL is possibly the most well-known English-language exam in the world. It is widely used for applying to English-medium universities.   It can also be used for migration. While the TOEFL is no longer accepted as part of visa applications to the UK (you would need to take the IELTS or PTE for the UK), it is currently accepted for certain visas for Australia and New Zealand, and for certain USA visas.    

Which universities will accept TOEFL results?  The TOEFL is accepted by more the 11 000 higher-education institutions across the world. These include universities in the UK, USA, Australia, New-Zealand, and Canada. You can check if the university you want to apply to is on the list here: www.ets.org/toefl/test-takers/ibt/where.  https://unsplash.com/photos/LLfRMRT-9AY  Along with enabling you to comply with a university’s language requirements, the TOEFL is also focussed on preparing you for actually attending that university. That means that studying to sit the TOEFL exam is also getting you ready to actually attend the university of your dreams.    The TOEFL test (and therefore its practice material) uses the type of content a student is likely to encounter in a lecture hall or in an academic journal.     

What can I expect when I sit the exam?  

The four core skills (reading, listening, speaking and writing) are assessed.   The reading section can take up to 72 minutes. You will be reading passages and responding to questions. When your done with that section, you can move on to the listening section, which you can spend up to 57 minutes on. You’ll be expected to answer questions about short university lectures or classroom discussions.  You can take a 10 minute break after this section. Following the break, you will complete the speaking component which lasts only 17 minutes. You will be asked to speak about a topic assigned to you, or engage in discussion on material you’ll be presented with. Writing is the last section and you’ll get up to 50 minutes to complete it. You will need to type a response to a passage you will read or listen to.     

How can I prepare?  

You will need to commit to your studies to do well on the TOEFL. Since the test will assess your ability to understand and use academic language, you will need to make sure your academic English is up to scratch. Prepare by exposing yourself to the kind of content students typically encounter at English-medium universities. You might want to spend a few hours every week watching online lectures from well-known universities. Read as widely as you can and make sure you include academic material.   Taking a one-on-one class with a teacher can save you a lot of time. A trained and experienced teacher will be able to draw-up a sensible and effective learning plan – pointing out your blind spots and giving you guidance on improving your core skills. They will also be able to curate the content you use to prepare for the TOEFL. The TOEFL definitely counts among the exams that require very careful preparation and organized learning.

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