Here at Magoosh, we pride ourselves in giving you all things TOEFL. This includes advice on admissions, immigration, jobs that require TOEFL scores, different formats and versions of the exam, study tips for ESL and the exam itself, and so much more. With all of this information, sometimes it’s hard to know exactly where to start. Today, we bring you a cheat sheet of the very most important info you need to know about the exam.
Do you need to take the TOEFL?
So it looks like you might need to take the TOEFL. But do you really need to take it? Some schools, immigration offices, and professional licensing boards may accept exams you’ve already taken, such as the IELTS, Eiken, or a previously taken TOEFL exam from less than two years ago. In that situation, it’s always good to double-check with the agency that is requesting TOEFL scores from you.
If you are planning to take the TOEFL specifically to get into a school, you should also check to see whether the school actually requires the TOEFL, or whether it offers alternative forms of testing. Some campuses offer their own unique exams after you arrive. Other campuses offer conditional acceptance to students who haven’t taken or passed the TOEFL yet. These policies vary from campus to campus; check with the schools you’re applying to if you’re not sure what the options are.
And of course, whether or not you need to take the TOEFL depends a lot on which country you’re from. International students from Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, the UK, and Ireland are universally regarded as Native English speakers and don’t need to take the TOEFL. People from South Africa and quite a few other countries are also sometimes exempted from taking the TOEFL. Also note that if you are form a non-English speaking country but hold a US Green Card, you may not need to take the TOEFL.
Should you take the TOEFL?
As mentioned above, schools often provide alternatives to the TOEFL, as do many immigration offices and state licensing boards. But even when TOEFL alternatives are available, there’s still a chance TOEFL is your best option. A good TOEFL score can open more doors to you in the future, and you may also find that you prefer taking the TOEFL over dealing with conditional acceptance or taking an alternate English exam. So when you’re presented with TOEFL alternatives, weigh your options carefully.
What TOEFL Score Will You Need?
Magoosh provides a number of helpful posts about the TOEFL score requirements for top universities (including NYU, Yale, Stanford, MIT, UCLA, and Harvard). If you’re considering the TOEFL for immigration purposes, Australia has different score requirements based on the type of visa you’re seeking. Similarly, professional licensing boards have different TOEFL score requirements, depending on the job.
Are you ready to start studying for the TOEFL?
The TOEFL is designed for people who have an intermediate to advanced level of English ability. If your English ability is fairly low in one or more of the TOEFL skills (Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing), you may need to improve your English before you start on your TOEFL prep studies. For more help in figuring out whether you are TOEFL ready right now, check out this post.
What is Your TOEFL Deadline?
It’s important to know exactly when you need to take the TOEFL and how much time you have to study. Look into the application deadlines for different schools. Remember that ETS mails out score reports thirteen days after your exam. From there, it can take anywhere from 1 to 6 weeks for your scores to arrive to your school. (Delivery to schools outside of the USA take longer.) When you calculate the deadline for taking and passing the TOEFL, take those delivery times into account.
Sometimes your deadline can be flexible. You may not absolutely need to get into school the very next semester. And in the case of TOEFL for the purposes of immigration or professional licensing, there isn’t a time sensitive admission process at all. In this case, you should carefully set your TOEFL deadline based on how much prep time you personally need in order to get a passing score.
What’s on the TOEFL?
The TOEFL has four sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. The subject matter of these sections focuses on academics. In TOEFL Reading, you’ll read passages that are similar to those in first and second-year university textbooks. For Listening, you’ll hear conversations that take place on campus and relate to student life, and you’ll hear classroom lectures. In Speaking and Writing, some of the responses you give are based on academics and student life, but there are also a few tasks that focus on your personal life and opinions.
How is the TOEFL Formatted?
The TOEFL iBT has a four-section format. The Reading Section generally has three readings, each followed by 12-14 questions. There are usually six audio tracks in Listening, followed by 5-6 questions each. Reading and Listening questions are all multiple choice, although specific question formats can vary. Speaking has six tasks, four of which are integrated, involving reading and listening along with speaking. Writing has one integrated task as well. The second Writing task is “pure writing,” with test takers writing a personal essay based on a short written question.
The less-common TOEFL PBT is formatted somewhat differently. Go here for details.
How is the TOEFL Scored?
TOEFL scoring of the Reading and Speaking sections are based partly on the actual percentage of questions you get right. This is called your “raw score.” Your raw score is then adjusted based on the relative difficulty of the questions you were given, and based on other factors that ETS can be a bit secretive about. Generally though, your raw score will be very close to your actual score on these sections. (Read Lucas’ in-depth explanation of the overall TOEFL scoring system here.)
How Do You Register for the TOEFL?
To register for the exam, you’ll need to create an ETS TOEFL account. From there you can log in to the online registry platform and book a test date. Registering by phone and mail are also options. Links, contact information and instructions for registry can be found on the ETS TOEFL registration web page.
How is the TOEFL Administered, and Where Can You Take It?
The TOEFL is most commonly formatted as a computer and Web-based exam known as the TOEFL Internet-Based Test (iBT). ETS lists its many iBT test center locations here. There is also a paper-based test. Although the TOEFL PBT is in the process of being phased out by ETS, it’s still available in quite a few places. Read more on the details of PBT availability here.
How Do You Report TOEFL Scores?
You can choose a school or other agency to send TOEFL scores to when you register for the exam. You can send up to four scores to schools or agencies free of charge. Sending scores to additional recipients costs extra. Use your TOEFL school code in the TOEFL registration system to send scores to a specific school. If your school code isn’t in TOEFL’s system or you want to send your scores to a non-academic agency, you can specify a name and address. Full details on TOEFL score reporting can be found here.
In some cases, it’s also possible to instantly share your scores with a school electronically. This can be done if your school participates in one of the TOEFL’s electronic score-sharing services. Go to the official ETS website and check with prospective schools for more information.