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TOEFL Exam : Expert Introduction to the Test in 2019

Who needs to take the TOEFL? What is the TOEFL? Why do universities (and sometimes organisations) ask for TOEFL scores? So so many questions - for which, we've gathered the answers!

raja kondapalli
11th Jun 2019
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Spiderman reading for toefl


What is TOEFL exam?


The full form of the 'TOEFL' Exam is Test of English as a Foreign Language. Guess what? The TOEFL is conducted by the ETS (Educational Testing Service) - the very same organisation responsible for the GRE test as well!


What does the TOEFL test seek to do? Short answer : It measures your fluency in the English language. Naturally, a TOEFL score is required for Non-native English Speakers to gain admission to colleges/universities in the U.S and Canada. As of June 2019, there are a numerous colleges and universities that accept TOEFL scores.


But did you know? There are several ways in which the TOEFL exam is administered :


  • TOEFL iBT, or the Internet-based test is the most commonly-used approach. This test can be taken in many cities across the globe. The total score for the TOEFL iBT is 120.


  • TOEFL PBT, or the Paper Based Test is administered in countries where access to the internet is not prevalent. This test is conducted 6 times a year at different test centers where the iBT is not available. The total score here is 677. It differs from the iBT in that there are three sections in this paper based test - they are listening comprehension, structure and written expression and reading comprehension.


  • TOEFL CBT or the Computer Based Test. The maximum TOEFL score you can get on this test is 300.


TOEFL iBT pattern:


Since the most commonly-administered test is the TOEFL iBT, let's take a closer look at what exactly this test entails. In other words, the TOEFL exam pattern.


There are basically 4 sections in the TOEFL iBT. Each section is testing a different skill - there's Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing. Each section is worth 30 points (bringing the total score to a 120) but the way each section is scored varies greatly.


1. Reading Section:


You will encounter anywhere between 36 and 56 questions on this section and the time limit for this is 60 to 80 minutes. You will receive a score in the range of 0 to 30. This is the first section that you'll come across on the TOEFL iBT.


For this section, you'll be asked to read 3 or 4 passages from academic texts and then answer questions. As you might have guessed, this sections tests your ability to understand academic reading material written in English. After all, if you plan on moving to a country where English is the primary mode of communication, this makes sense.


2.Listening Section


The second section you'll encounter is the Listening Section. It comes with 34-51 questions and you're given 60 to 90 minutes to answer them. The Listening Section tests your ability to understand spoken English as it is used in colleges and Universities.


In this section, you'll be made to listen to 4 - 6 lectures or conversations. Post that, you'll be asked questions that you'll have to answer based on what you listened to.


3.Speaking Section


The third section is the Speaking Section. Before you're asked to tackle this section, you'll be given a 10 minute break. Use that break to recover your energy before you move forward.


The time set aside for the Speaking Section is 20 minutes - you're given 6 tasks that you need to elaborate on. You have to express your opinion on a topic given in each task. This section tests your ability to speak in English in an academic meeting.


Once again, you'll be scored on a range of 0 to 30.


4.Writing Section


This is the fourth and final section of the TOEFL exam. Around 50 minutes long, you're given 2 tasks to answer out of which one is an Integrated task (meaning you'll have to listen to an audio clip or read a price and then write something) and the other is an Independent task (you're given a task and asked to elaborate on it by writing an essay).


The scoring for this section is also 0 to 30.


TOEFL Validity:


Finally, a bit of good news for you - your TOEFL score is valid for two years from the day of your test. So go ahead and take that test now, it's valid for the next two years.


Additionally, you can re-take the test if you're unhappy with your score the first time around. But you will need to wait a minimum of 12 days before you can take it again. The TOEFL test is conducted around 50 times a day.



TOEFL Exam Fee:


The TOEFL test fee varies according to the country you're taking it from. On an average, you can expect to pay anywhere between $160 to $260. In India, the test fee is ₹12,487 which is around $180.


Make sure you register in time. If you want to register even after the registration window for that date has closed, you need to pay an additional $40 as a late registration fee.


Competency Level Based On Score:


You know know what the TOEFL is, what it's used for, what you can expect to encounter on the exam. But there's still one very important question that needs answering - what's a good TOEFL score?


This varies from section to section.


Reading Section and Listening Section:


For these sections, if your score is between 0 and 14, your level of competency is low and if it's between 15 and 21 it is considered as intermediate level.


Finally you'll be considered as highly competitive if you are in the range of 22 to 30.


Speaking Section:


The following information gives you an idea of how competent you are in Speaking based on yous scores.

  • 0-9 : Weak
  • 10-17 : Limited Competency
  • 18-25 : Fair
  • 26-30 : Good


Listening Section:


Similarly for the Listening section:

  • 1-16 : Limited Competency
  • 17-23 : Fair
  • 24-30 : Good

Before we round up, I would like to state that there is no need to panic when thinking about the test. With adequate practice and the right resources, you can and will do well on the test.


Good luck!

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