TOEFL: What You Need To Know
You’re almost set to start your journey abroad. You’re collecting your papers and ticking off things on your checklist, but there’s one thing you still need to do: take the TOEFL.
If we're completely honest, then we’ll have to admit that every one of us has done a Google search or asked somebody this question: “What is the TOEFL?”
If we're still completely honest, then we’ll admit that a massive list of questions sprung from the first one. But, somehow there's still no real understanding of the how, why, when, where, what, or the who of TOEFL. You’re still confused about how it fits into your adventure of studying abroad.
TOEFL: What is it?
Before we jump into what is it, you will need to know what the letters stand for:
TOEFL: Test Of English as a Foreign Language.
In a nutshell, it’s a proficiency exam. This exam is recognized internationally and tells universities that you are capable of reading, writing, speaking and understanding the English language.
If you have plans to study abroad, then the institute you apply to will need to know that you can understand what is being taught and learn from your professors in the English-speaking academic environment.
TOEFL: What to expect?
It’s completely natural to have a million and one questions about the exam.
Studying and preparing for the exam will take time. You will need to make sure you are using your study time wisely, which is why you need to understand the test's format. The exam is split up into four different sections:
The timeframe for the different sections will vary slightly but the whole exam will be completed in four and a half hours – this means you will take and complete the test in one day. Another thing that does not change is the format of the exam. However, the topics in each exam will definitely be different.
TOEFL Reading Section
The reading section of the exam will be between 60 to 100 minutes long. This part of the exam will assess your ability to analyze written texts on different topics, like academic discussions or scientific studies.
There are three to five pieces of text – called “passages” – that are around 700 words long. You will need to read the passages before answering between 12 to 14 questions. These questions may ask you to define a word (“vocabulary test”), identify the idea (“understanding test”), or find the false statement (“comprehension test”).
Our top tip: Read carefully and read more than once.
TOEFL Listening Section
The listening section of the exam will be between 60 to 90 minutes long. This part of the examination will test your ability to understand oral information.
This section will have four to six recordings followed by questions. These questions will show your ability to understand the content that is being shared, and your ability to understand the speaker’s emotions and motivations.
You will hear two different types of audio recordings:
- Lecture recordings
- Conversation recordings
Our top tip: Take notes because the recording will, generally, only play once.
TOEFL Speaking Section
This part of the examination only takes 20 minutes. In these 20 minutes, you will be asked to complete six tasks. Remember that this part of the test is meant to give you a chance to demonstrate how you express your thoughts and ideas in spoken English. You will also need to know that you will be speaking into a microphone, so practice your microphone distance at home to make sure your voice is clear.
It’s similar to having a conversation. Two of the six tasks will ask you for your opinion on everyday topics – this is the Independent Speaking Test. The other four questions will focus on Integrated Speaking. This means you will need to listen or read something and then build a response to the recording or a passage. Taking notes during this section will definitely help you articulate your thoughts and answer quickly.
Our top tip: Remember to speak clearly.
TOEFL Writing Section
Finally, the writing section of the test takes 50 minutes. This part of the exam is your chance to demonstrate how great your writing skills are. It is here that you will get the chance to show your use of vocabulary and your grammar skills.
This is the last part of the TOEFL examination and consists of two parts: Independent Writing and Integrated Writing. You will have to write your opinion on an everyday topic, and then you will have to read a piece of text or listen to a tape before you write about it. You will have 20 minutes for the Independent Writing test and 30 minutes for the Integrated Writing test.
Our top tip: Practice listening to podcasts or reading articles and then writing about them.
Understanding your TOEFL Score
Just as the examination is divided into four parts, so is the total score. Your score will be on a scale from zero to 120.
- The reading section is scored from 0 - 30.
- The listening section is scored from 0 - 30.
- The speaking section is scored from 0 - 30.
- The writing section is scored from 0 - 30.
Along with your scores, you will get a performance feedback report. This report provides you with the ordinary test takers’ score range, which will give you a better indication of how you performed on your exam compared to the average.
Important TOEFL Questions Answered
Now that you know that you will take the test in one day and what each section entails, you probably have a few more questions that need answers.
Can I take my phone?
The answer is simply no. There are no devices of any kind allowed in the testing room.
Are there any breaks?
The exam time is long, but you will get a short break in the middle of the test so you can stretch your legs or eat a snack.
If you do need to step out for another break or use the restroom, you can – just remember that the clock won’t stop ticking and you will lose some of your exam time.
During these breaks, you will not have access to your phone at all.
Your journey will have many challenges, and many tests. Remember that every challenge is a new adventure that you can and will conquer!
About the Writer: When she's not busy running, training or enjoying a freshly brewed cup of coffee, Amy Saraireh can be found editing to fill a blank page with the things she's learned or experienced.