English is one of the most widely used languages in the world for speaking and writing. For purposes of studying, working, and immigrating, individuals are typically required to demonstrate their proficiency in English. The Test of English as a Foreign Language is one of the most widely utilized exams to assess the fact. To date, there are more than 35 million people who have taken the TOEFL test.
As it relates to education, TOEFL is a standardized test that measures the English-language ability of a non-native speaker who wishes to enroll in English-speaking universities. In assessing a person’s ability to understand the English language, it tests a student’s skills in the areas of reading, speaking, listening, and writing.
Most universities and other institutions in more than 150 English-speaking countries—including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand—set a standard of language mastery for international students before they can be admitted. TOEFL is accepted worldwide and administered in over 11,000 universities and institutions, making it the global premier English-language test.
TOEFL is also preferred by nine out of 20 universities in the United States.
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All About the TOEFL Test
By passing the TOEFL, students are certified as capable of carrying out their academic coursework in a purely English curriculum. To a certain degree, it guarantees the student’s successful completion of a degree program.
TOEFL helps the examinees succeed through these features.
- Examinees choose their test schedules, with test time options in the morning and afternoon.
- Registering is easy. Applicants can register online within 2 days before the test.
- A free practice test is available to help examinees prepare for the exam day.
- The test is shorter than most other types and can be accomplished in one day.
- Unofficial reading and listening scores are available at the end of the test.
- Scores are fair and unbiased because they are marked by a combination of AI and humans.
The test requires examinees accomplish these sections to validate their English language proficiency:
- Read, Listen and Speak to respond to a question
- Listen and Speak to respond to a question
- Read, Listen, and Write a response to a question
A standard TOEFL internet-based test (iBT) takes between three hours and 20 minutes and four hours and 10 minutes to complete. This includes a 10-minute break. The Reading section usually consumes 60 to 80 minutes, while the Listening part can take as much as 90 minutes. The Writing section can take 50 minutes, which is considerably shorter compared to the other sections.
The reading component of TOEFL involves three to four passages and 12 to 14 questions for each section. The TOEFL Listening part consists of four to six sample lectures and two to three conversations. TOEFL Speaking is typically composed of two independent tasks and four integrated tasks, while the Writing section involves a 20-minute integrated task and an independent task that takes 30 minutes to finish.
The sectional scoring for each component is given a scale of 0 to 30 in one-point increments. The sum of all scores in the four sections brings the overall scores of 0 to 120.
The Origins of TOEFL
Formed in 1962, TOEFL was first developed by the National Council on the Testing of English as a Foreign Language. The organization was made up of a group of educators and government officials. Their goal for creating TOEFL was to provide an English-language assessment for international students who want to study in the U.S. It was made possible through the grants from the Ford and Danforth Foundations.
When first offered for students in 1964, the TOEFL test was administered by the Modern Language Association, which was focused on promoting the study of language and literature. The original version of TOEFL adheres to the conventional wisdom of language instruction back in the day. It included five components, namely reading comprehension, vocabulary, listening comprehension, English structure, and grammar. The entire test consisted of multiple-choice questions.
Everything changed in 1965, however, when TOEFL was put under the administration of the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and the College Board. A non-profit organization, ETS was founded to administer the standardized tests of its constituent members. Since 1973, TOEFL has been managed by ETS, and the 15-member committee of the TOEFL Board made up of educators, public officials, and representatives of private foundations.
One of the significant changes in TOEFL was the inclusion of two crucial evaluating factors—speaking and writing skills. These skill sets, Test of Spoken English (TSE) and Test of Written English (TWE), were added to the standardized exam in 1980 and 1986, respectively. The two make up what they now call the “suite” of assessments.
The test then featured both multiple-choice questions and graded responses. While the methodology remained, the medium with which students took the exam had changed from the original paper-and-pencil test to the computerized version. It was a significant development back then, setting a precedent for the modern-day TOEFL, which is now internet-based.
The present-day examination was borne out the educators’ concern on the insufficient assessment of the functional English-language capabilities and synthesis of English-language skills. Wanting to improve these areas, they created the TOEFL iBT in 2005.
This new examination model intended to evaluate the students’ ability to communicate in university settings, including their capability to manage their coursework and the day-to-day situations commonly encountered by students. Instead of focusing on the distinct language skills, they shifted their emphasis on communication and comprehension in verbal and written form. It was composed of four sections: reading, listening, speaking, and writing.
Since 2006, the TOELF test has discontinued the computer-based test in favor of the TOEFL iBT. The paper-based test was available only in selected locations, usually areas where internet testing is either prohibited or impractical. It is said this will eventually be discontinued for good.
While the paper-based test still includes the writing assessment, the speaking test is not a component of the exam, a significant problem for those who want to make the most of their university experience. Moreover, the majority of the test centers all over the world exclusively offer TOEFL iBT.
The Purpose of TOEFL
Usually geared toward non-native English speakers, TOEFL aims to assess the English-language skills of university applicants and others who need it for a variety of requirements. Through this exam, takers will be able to demonstrate their suitability for university study in which English is the medium for the curriculum, a must for English-speaking countries. The minimum score requirements are often set by individual universities, schools, and departments.
Incoming university students who apply for admission can check whether they need to take the TOEFL exam and what the minimum test score should be. Some schools have higher expectations in terms of sectional or composite test scores. One excellent example is Princeton University’s rigorous English Language Proficiency Policy. Applicants who score less than 28 on the speaking component of the TOEFL will be evaluated by the university’s ELP staff and might be required to complete remedial English courses.
Some universities are not as strict, however, as the minimum test scores largely depend on their intended course of study.
Administration of TOEFL
A non-profit organization, the Education Testing Service (ETS), aims to advance quality and equity in education for all people worldwide through the power of learning. They work with education institutions, businesses, and governments to conduct research and develop assessment programs. Currently, they develop, administer, and score more than 50 million tests every year in more than 170 countries.
They have been administering the TOEFL exams for decades. They connect the TOEFL program to the fields of international higher education and English language learning, teaching, and testing around the world. While the ETS administers the TOEFL test, the TOEFL Board ensures that ETS staff are aware of the trends in student mobility and the needs of higher education institutions. They advise ETS to ensure that the TOEFL program is in a better position to serve students and institutions.
Under the TOEFL Board is the Committee of Examiners composed of experts in language teaching, testing, and research. They provide insight into the trends and developments in the various areas of the English language and offer advice on test content and research related to the TOEFL test.
Who Needs TOEFL?
While TOEFL is mainly intended for students who wish to study at a university or attend a graduate school program in an English-speaking country, there are cases where non-students also take the exam for a variety of purposes.
Young students who are moving into an English-speaking country and about to enter high school are known to take TOEFL. The same is required for those who want to attend a 2-year community college program. It is, however, more common for students who want to attend a university or a graduate school program.
Not all universities or colleges ask international students to take a TOEFL. Students who plan to attend English language programs to learn English are not required by some universities either. The test is only required for those whose primary language is not English or, in some cases, when their primary language of instruction in the last five years is not English.
The TOEFL can also be waived by some schools if the student reached the scoring thresholds of the English reading, and writing sections of the ACT or SAT. Those who took TOELF in the past two years do not have to retake it either. TOEFL is also an exception to those who have earned a diploma or degree from an English-speaking country.
Apart from the students, people who are already working can take the TOEFL exam if they need to move to another country, mostly English-speaking ones, to get their license or get certified in a particular field.
Prospective immigrants also take the TOEFL test to demonstrate their mastery of the English language, which is a visa requirement.
If you need a formal assessment of your English proficiency, the TOEFL test is for you. It is also usually taken at the request of employers.
Two Ways TOEFL Helps You Attain Your Goals
The TOEFL test benefits students and professionals. The good thing is, this English proficiency exam is convenient and accessible. To date, there are more than 4,500 test centers located in 165 countries all over the world. Unlike other tests, TOEFL can be accomplished in one day, making it more cost-effective.
Here are some end-results of successfully passing the TOEFL test:
Attend a dream university.
Students take a step closer to their goals with TOEFL. It is a lot easier to get noticed by universities with a good TOEFL test score!
It is often one of the essential requirements for admission for international students. The process of preparing for an exam helps students improve their English skills and gain more confidence in communicating and comprehending the language. This critical factor can make or break their university stay. Knowing the language can make their university experience easier and a lot more enjoyable.
TOEFL test scores are widely preferred by universities. TOEFL is considered highly accurate in assessing the taker’s English-language proficiency. This test is known to provide the scores more accurately than others, making it easier for universities to come up with a decision on admissions and determine whether the applicant has what it takes to succeed.
Students who wish to take a TOEFL test will find it easy to take advantage of online tutorials and study materials. They do not need to go to another city for available review materials, as everything can be accessed online. This way, they can prepare for the test without spending a lot of time and money.
Carve out a career.
Whether seeking to get certified or licensed in English-speaking countries or pursue a scholarship to further their studies, students and professionals will need to have strong English skills that can help them communicate and learn better. Their mastery of the language can prove to be a huge stepping stone for a future career where English is the primary language of communication.