Ultimate guide to the TOEFL exam

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Prodigy Finance - July, 25 2023

8 min read

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TOEFL is the definitive language proficiency test designed to test your prowess in English. The complete form of TOEFL is "Test of English as a Foreign Language".

What is TOEFL?

TOEFL is a standardised test to assess your academic ability to understand and use English. A go-to test for non-native English speakers, it assesses your reading, listening, speaking, and writing skills.

TOEFL comes in two versions—TOEFL iBT and TOEFL Essentials. The iBT is the more commonly taken test and assesses reading, listening, speaking, and writing skills for academic purposes. Meanwhile, TOEFL Essentials focuses on core language skills for non-academic purposes. Both tests offer opportunities to demonstrate English language proficiency.

Who Should Take the TOEFL Exam?

The TOEFL exam could be your golden ticket if you aim to pursue higher education at a prestigious university or even from a humble community college in an English-speaking country.

Besides helping you in your scholarly pursuits, TOEFL can significantly assist you if you aspire to work in an English-speaking environment. Some employers rely on your TOEFL scores to gauge your English proficiency and decide whether you can be the perfect member they are searching for.

How to Register for the TOEFL Exam

Thankfully, registration is a fairly straightforward process; all you need to do is follow these steps:

  • Visit the official website for detailed information and registration
  • Check available exam dates and choose the one of your preference
  • Create an account on the ETS TOEFL website and fill in your login details
  • Complete the registration form with personal details and identification documents
  • Select a preferred test centre from the options provided
  • Choose between TOEFL iBT (Internet-based test) and TOEFL PBT (paper-based test)
  • Select preferred booking slots for your test as popular time slots may quickly fill up
  • Deposit the exam fee as per the fee structure on the website
  • Following the registration and payment process, review the confirmation email for test details
  • Note down the registration number, or keep a printout of the confirmation email

TOEFL Exam Fee 2023

Test typeTOEFL Exam Fees (In USD)
Test type

TOEFL iBT

TOEFL Exam Fees (In USD)

$195

Test type

TOEFL iBT (paper-based)

TOEFL Exam Fees (In USD)

$195

Test type

TOEFL Home test

TOEFL Exam Fees (In USD)

$195

Test type

TOEFL Essentials

TOEFL Exam Fees (In USD)

$195

Test type

TOEFL Late registration fee

TOEFL Exam Fees (In USD)

$40

Test type

TOEFL Rescheduling fee

TOEFL Exam Fees (In USD)

$60

Test type

Reinstatement of cancelled TOEFL scores

TOEFL Exam Fees (In USD)

$20

Test type

Additional TOEFL score reports (per institution)

TOEFL Exam Fees (In USD)

$20
(each for speaking)

Test type

Speaking and Writing Section score review

TOEFL Exam Fees (In USD)

$160

Test type

Speaking or Writing Section score review

TOEFL Exam Fees (In USD)

$180

TOEFL Test Eligibility

The TOEFL exam is accessible to all individuals without specific eligibility requirements. Completing the High School 10+2 level from a recognised examination board is the only minimum prerequisite. While individual institutes may have their own criteria, TOEFL does not impose specific selection requirements.

Specific categories of international students may be exempt from providing TOEFL scores as some institutions do not require them, especially in the following cases:

  • Non-native speakers who possess a degree from English-speaking countries
  • Non-native speakers who have completed a 2-year course conducted in English
  • Non-native speakers who have taken the TOEFL exam within the past 2 years
  • Non-native speakers who have successfully engaged in academic work at schools where English is the medium of instruction in an English-speaking country

TOEFL Exam Dates

The TOEFL exam is conducted every month in major cities across the nation. Candidates must book their exam slot well to secure their desired test centre and preferred date. Candidates can also take the "TOEFL at Home" test, which offers flexible scheduling options. Test dates and times for such a test are available 24/7, and it is possible to book slots for your test as quickly as 24 hours after registration.

Though the test schedule for the entire year is not currently available on the ETS website, dates for the next 3 months (June-August) have been released. These dates provide a reliable indication of the test availability pattern throughout the year.

TOEFL test structure, subjects, and band distribution

TOEFL Exam Pattern

The TOEFL exam syllabus comprises 4 key sections that assess various language skills, and each has a unique flavour:

  1. **TOEFL Listening: ** This section evaluates your ability to understand spoken English. You will encounter lectures, conversations, and classroom discussions. Pay close attention and demonstrate your comprehension skills.
  2. **TOEFL Reading: ** Get ready for an intellectual feast as this section assesses your reading skills with passages from various academic subjects. You will need to comprehend the main ideas, details, and structure of the texts.
  3. TOEFL Speaking: Time for your voice to shine! In this section, you will tackle tasks that simulate real-life situations. Your clarity and coherence are crucial in expressing personal opinions, summarising reading passages, and engaging in conversations.
  4. TOEFL Writing: This is where your writing prowess takes centre stage. Craft essays that present well-structured arguments backed by evidence. You will be asked to express opinions, summarise passages, and synthesise information from listening and reading materials.
Section Questions and Time
Section

Reading

Questions and Time

No. of Questions: 30–40

Time: 54–72 minutes

Section

Listening

Questions and Time

No. of Questions: 28-38
Time: 41-57 minutes

Section

Speaking

Questions and Time

No. of Questions: 4

Time: 17 minutes

Section

Writing

Questions and Time

No. of Questions: 2

Time: 50 minutes

TOEFL band distribution

Once you have completed the exam, your performance will be evaluated and assigned scores. Each section, comprising Listening, Reading, Speaking, and Writing, will be scored on a scale of 0 to 30. These individual scores shall then be added to give you a total score ranging from 0 to 120.

What is a good TOEFL test score?

Generally, a score above 100 is considered competitive and demonstrates a high proficiency in English. Scores in the range of 90-100 are also considered quite good and are often sufficient for admission to many universities and institutions. However, it is essential to note that the definition of a good score can vary depending on the context and the specific requirements of the course or job you are applying for.

TOEFL preparation resources and tips

Several trusted titles are available regarding TOEFL books. Crafted by expert authors, these textbooks offer comprehensive content, practice exercises, and valuable tips to help enhance your performance.

One notable series is "The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test", published by ETS (Educational Testing Service). ETS TOEFL is the organisation responsible for creating the TOEFL exam. You can rely on this guide for its accuracy and relevance to the TOEFL test. It provides:

  • An in-depth understanding of the test structure, question types, and scoring criteria
  • Authentic practice questions and full-length TOEFL practice tests give you a firsthand experience of the actual exam
    A free online TOEFL Course offering a series of interactive modules, instructional videos, practice exercises, and quizzes to help you prepare

Another acclaimed resource is "Barron's TOEFL iBT", a comprehensive study guide and a valuable companion in the TOEFL preparation journey. It offers:

  • Detailed explanations, practice exercises, and strategies to effectively tackle each question type
  • Several TOEFL practice tests and audio tracks to help simulate the TOEFL experience and assess your progress

"Kaplan TOEFL iBT" is another popular option known for its comprehensive content and effective strategies. It provides:

  • In-depth coverage of each section, offering practice questions, vocabulary-building exercises, and skill-building activities
  • Online resources such as additional practice tests and video tutorials to further enhance your preparation

6 tips to optimise your TOEFL preparation

  • Familiarise yourself with the exam format, instructions, and structure
  • Create a study schedule and set achievable goals
  • Practise regularly with sample questions and timed TOEFL mock tests
  • Improve reading and listening skills through authentic English materials
  • Practise speaking and writing to enhance fluency and coherence
  • Seek feedback and review your performance to identify areas for improvement

TOEFL books and where to get them

You have several options to acquire your TOEFL preparation material:

  • Official TOEFL test prep materials can be accessed on the ETS TOEFL website. The website offers a dedicated section for test preparation with information on the official guide, practice sets, online course, and other resources
  • Materials can be purchased or accessed for free, allowing customisation of the preparation approach
  • Local bookstores and educational retailers often carry TOEFL preparation materials, including recommended titles
  • Online platforms such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and major book retailers offer a wide range of TOEFL study guides
  • Consider checking with your local library, as they may have TOEFL books available for borrowing

TOEFL exam online (Home Edition)

TOEFL now offers an online version in addition to the traditional paper-based format. How convenient is that?

This online option allows examinees to conveniently take the exam from home, eliminating the need to travel to test centres. To take the online TOEFL, you will need a computer, a reliable internet connection, and the necessary software, all detailed on the official TOEFL website.

Scheduling the online exam follows a similar process to the traditional TOEFL, wherein you register and choose a suitable date and time. During the online exam, you will be monitored through video and audio recordings to ensure the fairness and validity of your scores. The online TOEFL consists of the same sections as the traditional version: Listening, Reading, Speaking, and Writing, with the format and question types unchanged.

TOEFL results and validity

How to check TOEFL scores

Once you've completed the TOEFL exam, the anticipation builds as you eagerly await your scores. The official TOEFL score report will be available approximately 10 days after the test date. You can access your scores online through your TOEFL account or receive a printed copy via mail if you have opted so.

TOEFL score validity

The TOEFL test scores are typically valid for 2 years from the test date. During this period, your TOEFL scores are recognised and accepted by numerous universities, colleges, and organisations worldwide as proof of your English language proficiency. It is important to note that some institutions may have their own specific score requirements; hence, it is advisable to check with them directly.

How to send TOEFL scores to universities?

You can send your TOEFL scores to universities and other educational institutions. You can select up to 4 recipients to receive your scores for free during registration. Additional score reports can be sent for a fee. Remember to carefully review and select the recipients to ensure your scores reach the desired destinations.

The fee for reporting TOEFL scores to each recipient is $20.00.

TOEFL vs IELTS: Which is more accepted?

Both the TOEFL and IELTS are widely accepted English proficiency tests, but their acceptance may vary depending on the institution or organisation. Generally, IELTS is more commonly accepted in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, while TOEFL is preferred in the US and Canada. Do check the specific requirements of the institution or organisation you plan to apply to determine which test is more widely accepted in that particular context.

To conclude, it is important to strive for your personal best when it is a matter of achieving high TOEFL test scores. Everyone's journey is unique, and improvement is very much possible with dedicated effort and practice. Analyse your scores, identify areas for improvement, and use them as stepping stones to reach higher levels of English language proficiency.

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