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A brief guide to the TOEFL exam

When searching for universities to study abroad, you must have encountered TOEFL scores in the eligibility criteria. The TOEFL is nothing but a standardized test that gauges your proficiency in the English language. Most universities or immigration requirements have a particular TOEFL score as a threshold for non-native speakers.

What is TOEFL?

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is a standardized test that tests your skills and proficiency in the English language. The Educational Testing Service (ETS) conducts the test throughout the year and is recognized throughout 130+ countries, including the USA, Canada, the UK, etc.

Types of TOEFL

The TOEFL iBT test is offered 3 different ways, so you can choose the testing option that best suits your needs and preferences:

  • TOEFL iBT test: Test on a computer at a test center.
  • TOEFL iBT Home Edition: Test on a computer at home.
  • ToEFL iBT Paper Edition: test in 2 sessions- Reading, Listening, and writing on paper at a test center, and speaking on a computer at home.

TOEFL iBT

The TOEFL test is offered more than 60 times a year in test centers around the world. To help protect the health and safety of test takers and staff, enhanced procedures have been implemented at test centers. Be sure to check with your local test center for a complete list of health and safety procedures.

TOEFL iBT home edition

The TOEFL iBT Home Edition allows you to give the English proficiency test from the comfort of your home. It is available 24 hours, 4 days a week, and you can make a test appointment within 24 hours of registering on the website.

However, for the TOEFL iBT Home Edition, you must meet the Equipment and Environment Requirements, which include rules such as:

  • Give the exam from a desktop or laptop only – tablets or mobile devices aren’t allowed
  • Use a licensed and approved operating system, such as Windows 10 or 8 and Chrome/Firefox
  • Download and install the ETS Secure Test Browser on your device
  • Run the ProctorU Equipment Check
  • Use the internal or external speaker on your device to hear the proctor
  • The computer camera must show the proctor every inch of your room, including your tabletop, before the exam

You must meet many other requirements before you can sit for the TOEFL iBT Home Edition. So, make sure to go through the rules thoroughly.

Why take TOEFL?

The TOEFL is widely accepted as one of the most reliable standardized tests to prove your English proficiency. Moreover, since the test focuses more on English in the academic setting, more than 110,000 universities in over 150 countries worldwide including USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and across Europe & Asia prefer TOEFL test scores over other proficiency examinations.

You can use the TOEFL test for admissions, scholarships, immigration & visa applications.

Therefore, if you're a student seeking admission to a degree program in an English-speaking country, you must take the TOEFL to prove your proficiency. However, this test is only required if:

  • English is not your first language
  • English hasn’t been your primary language of instruction in the past 5 years

TOEFL key highlights

Examination name: TOEFL
Full form of the name: Test of English as a Foreign Language
Official website: https://www.ets.org/toefl
Accepted by: 130+ countries, especially in the USA and Canada
Test is conducted by: Educational Testing Service (ETS)
Examination modes: TOEFL iBT, TOEFL PBT, TOEFL iBT Home Edition
Exam fees: approx. USD 190
Score Range: 0-30 in all 4 sections – Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking
TOEFL Helpline numbers: 1-609-771-7100, 1-877-863-3546
Fax: 1-610-290-8972

TOEFL eligibility

The ETS has states no strict eligibility criteria to take the TOEFL. However, since many students take the test for international admissions to degree courses, ideally, you should be 16-17 years old and have completed your 10+2 from a recognized board of education.

Furthermore, you must carry a valid passport as an identity proof to the test center. So, if you don’t have a passport, it’s best to apply for it first before registering for the TOEFL.

TOEFL registration

There are three ways to register for the TOEFL exam:

Online application

You can register for the TOEFL online via the official website. Just follow these simple steps diligently:

  • Visit the TOEFL official website
  • Log into your account or create a new account on the website
  • Fill out your TOEFL test-taker profile carefully
  • Select a TOEFL exam date
  • Choose a convenient TOEFL test center or opt for the TOEFL iBT Home Edition
  • Complete the payment process
  • Take a printout of the acknowledgement receipt

Offline application

You can visit any local TOEFL test center to fill out the application form and register for the test. Additionally, you can download and print the application form online, fill it out and mail it along with the exam fees to the address given.

TOEFL registration via app

The official TOEFL app allows you to register and book an examination date in the blink of an eye. Fill out the application form, select an examination date and complete the payment online to confirm your registration.

TOEFL exam pattern

The TOEFL exam pattern divides the entire test into 4 sections: Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking.

TOEFL reading

The reading section requires you to go through 3-4 academic passages of about 700 words and answer the questions based on them. There can be approximate 30-40 questions.

Total duration: 54-72 minutes

Score range: 0-30

TOEFL writing

The writing section requires you to complete two tasks:

  • A 20-minute integrated task based on what you read and hear
  • A 30-minute independent task supporting an opinion

Total duration: 50 minutes

Score range: 0-30

TOEFL listening

The listening section is broken down into two parts:

  • Listen to 3-4 lectures and classroom discussions, each approximately 3-5 minutes long and answer 6 questions each
  • Listen to 2-3 casual conversations, each around 3 minutes long, and answer 5 questions each

Total duration: 41-57 minutes

Score range: 0-30

TOEFL speaking

The speaking section requires you to complete four tasks:

  • One independent task where you voice your opinion on a familiar topic
  • Three integrated tasks based on your reading and hearing skills
  • Respond to a question for 1 minute with 30 seconds of prep time

Total duration: 17 minutes

Score range: 0-30

TOEFL score

The TOEFL scores range between 0 to 30 for each of the four sections of the test. You can break down these scores into:

Speaking

  1. - Advanced: 25-30
  2. - High-Intermediate: 20-24
  3. - Low-Intermediate: 16-19
  4. - Basic: 10-15
  5. - Below Basic: 0-9

Listening

  1. - Advanced: 22-30
  2. - High-Intermediate: 17-21
  3. - Low-Intermediate: 9-16
  4. - Below Low-Intermediate: 0-8

Reading

  1. - Advanced: 24-30
  2. - High-Intermediate: 18-23
  3. - Low-Intermediate: 4-17
  4. - Below Low-Intermediate: 0-3

Writing

  1. - Advanced: 24-30
  2. - High-Intermediate: 17-23
  3. - Low-Intermediate: 13-16
  4. - Basic: 7-12
  5. - Below Basic: 0-6

TOEFL result

You can access your TOEFL result on the official website approximately six days after giving the test. Once you receive an email announcing the publication of your results, you must log in to your TOEFL account using your credentials and view the results. You can also download a softcopy of the results for print.

TOEFL iBT score

The score range for the iBT is 0-30 in each of the 4 sections. Hence, the maximum you can score is 120. However, the average TOEFL iBT score is around 85. So while a 95-100 is considered pretty good, any score above 100 is impressive.

TOEFL PBT score

On the PBT, the TOEFL score range is from 310 to 677. The average score on this test is 550-589.

TOEFL exam dates

The exam dates for the TOEFL vary depending on the method you choose for the test. For example,

  • The ETS offers the paper-based TOEFL exam twice a month, and you can apply for it at least 2 days before the exam.
  • The TOEFL iBT test is offered more than 60 times yearly at authorized TOEFL examination centers.
  • The TOEFL iBT Home Edition test is available 24 hours and 4 days a week. You can book an appointment 24 hours after registering.

TOEFL exam centers

There are hundreds of TOEFL test centers and locations worldwide. ETS currently offers the TOEFL paper-based exams in official test centers across the United States, Columbia, Mexico and India. However, there are plans to extend more centers worldwide. If you wish to find the nearest TOEFL test center near you, check the official website.

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Frequently asked questions

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