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TOEFL Tuesday: Is the TOEFL iBT Hard to Pass?


This is a tough question to answer because it depends on your English level and your native language.

What Type of Hard?

The TOEFL uses academic English, which means many words used on the test are Latin-based. That means the academic vocabulary of the TOEFL is easier for students who speak Latin-based languages such as Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Italian. The readings and lectures often use vocabulary that students who learn conversational English might have more trouble with. So if you have trouble with academic vocabulary, the TOEFL may be harder for you than it is for somebody who is comfortable with that type of vocabulary.

Compared to the GRE/GMAT/SAT

Universities that require the TOEFL often require GRE, GMAT, or SAT scores, so you might be studying for one of those tests, too. And those other tests have more difficult vocabulary and reading, in general, because they are tests for native English speakers.

Of course, they’re also very different exams in that they test logic, not just language skills, so it is hard to compare them to the TOEFL, which is only about English skills. Since the TOEFL includes speaking and listening, some students have trouble with it even if they are comfortable with the reading sections of other tests. But in general, the TOEFL is much easier.

TOEFL vs. the News

News articles are similar in difficulty to the TOEFL reading. If anything, it is a bit more difficult because it has more idioms than the TOEFL does. Magazines and newspapers like the Economist and the New York Times are a bit more difficult than TOEFL reading: if you can read English news comfortably, you will do well on TOEFL reading.

TOEFL vs. English TV Show

English TV shows can be very hard to understand when listening. The TOEFL, in comparison, is easier. People speak slower in TOEFL listening and use less slang and fewer idioms. But again, because it is a largely academic test, there is academic vocabulary that you might not hear on TV, so it can be a challenge in that regard. But for the most part, English TV is much more difficult than TOEFL listening.

Read more on the difficulty level of the TOEFL here!

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