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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The TOEFL in a Nutshell

The TOEFL stands for the Test of English as a Foreign Language and is required for all nonnative English speakers to take prior to entering undergraduate and graduate school. The TOEFL is also used in cases of government, licensing, and certification agencies as well as scholarship programs. It is taken at several times during the year by over 600,000 candidates and is consequently the most widely used international test of English. The TOEFL suggests that nonnative English speakers should only take the test if he/she has completed 11th grade level coursework as the test is considered too difficult to take prior to this.

TOEFL measures the ability of nonnative English speakers to use and understand English as it is spoken, written and heard in college and university settings. The TOEFL is available in paper and computer forms, although paper is the most common form being administered. The paper version lasts approximately 3 hours, while the computer based test (CBT) lasts 3.5-4 hours. The CBT listening and structure sections are computer-adaptive, which means that the difficulty level of each question depends on the correctness of the previous responses. Therefore, the final score reflects not how many the candidate got right, but the level of difficulty the candidate was able to attain. Scores range from 200-800. A score of 400 is typically considered low and a score of 600 or above is considered high. The minimum score required depends upon the program that one is applying to: technical program/2 year college (400), undergraduate program (500), graduate program (550).

The Paper TOEFL tests on 4 sections:

1) Listening Comprehension (30 min.)—Contains 50 questions pertaining to taped conversations. It measures ability to understand English as it is spoken in North America.
2) Structure (25 min.)—Contains 40 questions that focus on correct sentence structure and sentence completion. It measures ability to recognize language that is appropriate for standard written English.
3) Reading (55 min.)—Contains 60 questions that are based on several short passages. It measures the ability to read and understand passages.
4) Test of Written English (30 min.)—It measures the ability to write an essay in English on an assigned topic. This includes the ability to generate and organize ideas, to support those ideas with examples or evidence, and to compose in standard written English in response to an assigned topic.

The Computer TOEFL tests on 4 sections:

1) Listening Comprehension (45-70min.)—Section tests listening capabilities. The types of questions that appear are who said what in conversations between two or more people in academic environments.
2) Structure (15-20 min.)—Section tests the candidate’s knowledge of English grammar. The types of questions that appear sentences in which the candidate must identify the erroneous word(s) and fill in the blank with the appropriate word.
3) Reading Comprehension and Vocabulary (70-90 min.)—Section tests on the candidate’s reading and vocabulary skills. The types of questions that appear are those based on 4 reading passages (usually 300 words each) and concern content, intent of the author, and ideas inferred from the passage.
4) Essay Writing (30 min.)—Section tests candidate’s writing skills. The candidate will be required to write an essay and take a position about a general topic.

It is imperative that candidate’s check whether or not the program he/she is applying for requires or accepts the TOEFL. Some undergraduate and graduate schools require that the candidate take a special English assessment test that the institution administers. The TOEFL costs approximately $140.00 and additional score reports to be sent to programs cost $17.00. Scores are good for two years after the test date.

TOEFL Test Dates
Location/ Date
Africa, Americas, Europe, Middle East, and North Africa/ March
Asia and Pacific Region/ April
Japan and Korea /May
China /August

To learn more about the TOEFL:

Register for TOEFL


TOEFL Information and Resources


English Club

Facts about TOEFL


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