TOEFL- At a glance…
published by Azra P
Test of English as a foreign language popularly known as TOEFL and pronounced as “toe-full ” is an international test that assesses an individual’s proficiency in English language. It is one of the most widely accepted English language tests in the world. Unlike tests like GRE and GMAT, TOEFL not only tests your vocabulary but also your skills in reading , listening and understanding, speaking and writing in English.
TOEFL is a pre-requisite for non-native English speakers for their admission into international English speaking colleges and universities. Additionally, institutions such as government agencies, licensing bodies, businesses, or scholarship programs may require this test.
The test was first administered in 1964 and has since been taken by more than 23 million students. The TOEFL test is a registered trademark of Educational Testing Service (ETS). The TOEFL Committee of Examiners is composed of 12 specialists in linguistics, language testing, teaching or research. Its main responsibility is to advise on TOEFL test content. The committee helps ensure the test is a valid measure of English language proficiency reflecting current trends and methodologies.
What makes TOEFL stand out from rest of the exams is that it is the most widely accepted English language testing exam in the world. It is accepted in more than 6000 institutions in 110 countries which includes some of the top rated universities in the world. Also the entire test gets over on the same day which helps the test taker save time and travel costs. If you want to improve your score you could always retake the test after 7 days. The institutions always looks at the most recent score. A TOEFL score is valid only for 2years after which it is removed from the database.
TOEFL paper based test (PBT)
Structure and written expression
Test of Written English
The listening section consists of 3-4 mini talks, 60-90 seconds long with 3-5 questions each, 2-3 extended conversations, 60-90 seconds long with 3 to 5 questions each, and 30-40 dialogues, 5-15 seconds long with 1 question each.
The reading section consists of 5 passages from academic texts mostly undergraduate standard, 250-350 words each, with 10 questions per passage.
In the Test of Written English, test takers write an essay stating, explaining and supporting their opinion on an issue.
Scores for the listening and structure sections range from 31-68.
For reading, the range is 31-67. The average of the three scores is taken and multiplied by 10, to give a total score of between 310 and 677.
The Test of Written English is scored separately. The essay is independently rated by two assessors, and the average of the two scores is taken. An essay can score between 0 and 6, although 0 is only given if the paper is blank, the essay is in a different language, or the wrong question has been answered.
TOEFL internet based test (iBT)
Reading 36-70 questions 60-100 minutes
Listening 34-51 questions 60-90 minutes
Speaking 6 tasks 20 minutes
Writing 2 tasks 50 minutes
The reading section consists of 3 to 5 passages from academic texts, each about 700 words long, with 12-14 questions for each passage. There is a glossary with definitions of key words. Question types include understanding the content of the text and the author’s intent, inferring ideas from the text, paraphrasing and understanding the relationship between facts and ideas in different parts of the passage by sorting information into a category chart or summary.
The listening section consists of 4-6 lectures of 3-5 minutes, with 6 questions per lecture, and 2-3 conversations of 3 minutes, with 5 questions each.
Question types include listening for basic comprehension, recognising the speaker’s attitude, degree of certainty, function or purpose, recognising the organisation of information and understanding relationships between ideas, making inferences and drawing conclusions, making connections, recognising topic changes, examples, digressions, aside statements, introductions and conclusions.
The speaking section consists of 6 tasks. In the first task, the test taker must express and defend a personal choice from a given category.
In the second task, the test taker must defend a personal choice between two contrasting behaviours or courses of action. 15 seconds is allowed to prepare the response, and 45 seconds to deliver it.
Tasks 3 to 6 are integrated. 30 seconds is allowed to prepare the response, and one minute to deliver it. Tasks 3 and 4 involve reading a passage, listening to a passage which comments on issues in the reading, and then summarising the speaker’s opinion, or relating important information from both the reading and listening passages.
Task 5 involves listening to a passage and then showing understanding of a problem expressed, or giving an opinion about how to solve the problem.
Task 6 involves listening to a lecture and then summarising it or showing how examples relate to the overall topic.
The writing section consists of 2 tasks. The first task (30 minutes) is integrated. Test takers read a short text and then listen to someone talking about the same topic but from a different perspective. They then write a summary of important points from the listening passage, and show how they relate to the reading passage, in a suggested length of 150-225 words.
For the second task (20 minutes), test takers write an essay, stating, explaining and supporting their opinion on an issue, in a minimum of 300 words.
Each section is scored from 0-30, giving a total score of between 0 and 120.
TOEFL computer based test (CBT)
Listening 30-50 questions 40-60 minutes
Structure 20-25 questions 15-20 minutes
Reading 44-55 questions 70-90 minutes
Writing 1 topic 30 minutes
The listening and structure sections are computer adaptive, which means that the level of difficulty of a question is based on the test taker’s response to the previous one. The listening section consists of 11-17 dialogues with 1 question each, 2-3 short conversations, up to a minute long with 2 or 3 questions each, and 4-6 mini-lectures and discussions, up to 2 minutes long with 3-6 questions each.
The reading section consists of 4-5 passages from academic texts, 250-350 words each with 11 questions per passage.
The writing section consists of an essay where test takers state, explain and support their opinion on an issue.
Scores for each section range from 0-30. (Structure and writing are combined). The average of the 3 scores is then taken and multiplied by 10, to give a total score of between 0 and 300.
Some additional tips to do well for your TOEFL exam:
1. If you are a person with slow rate of reading, do not waste time by reading the entire passage. Instead try reading the first sentence of every paragraph and then read the question and find the answer from the passage.
2. Developing good writing pace really helps in the listening section. It helps you write down the exact lines of the lecture and thus enabling you to score high in the listening section. This also helps people with poor concentration in listening.
3. Speaking sections are generally considered tough taking into consideration the time limit to speak on a topic given to you out of the blue. You could always practice speaking on simple topics such as your hobby, favourite book or movie etc. Also for the case where you have to make a choice it is always better to open your speech by stating your choice first and then the reasons for selecting that choice.
4. Writing section is comparatively more relaxing as you get more time to think. Always divide your essay into paragraphs. It is always good to have an introduction, a body and a proper conclusion. Always stick to the topic and give valid points rather than being vague. A short but valid essay gives more impression than a long vague one. Try not to exceed the word limit. Never make grammatical or spelling mistakes. In cases of doubt use simple short sentences and replace the words for which you don’t know the right spelling.
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