TOEFL Secrets Uncovered

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Taking the TOEFL

The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) evaluates a test-taker's ability to use and understand English in an academic setting. Many colleges and universities in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia and New Zealand require foreign applicants to submit TOEFL test scores as part of the admissions process.

Why Take the TOEFL

The TOEFL is not the only English test that can be taken. Other tests include the TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication), which measures business English skills, and the IELTS (International English Language Testing System), which also measures English proficiency. However, the TOEFL is the most widely accepted English-language test in the world. More than 7,000 institutions in over 130 countries accept TOEFL test scores.

Test Content

There are two different versions of the TOEFL test that can be taken: the Internet-based Test (iBT) and the Paper-based Test (PBT). In most cases, you will not be given a choice as to which version you can take. That is decided by the test center administering the test. Some offer only the iBT, while others offer only the PBT. Both versions of the TOEFL test your ability to read, write, listen to, and speak English.

Registering for the TOEFL

There are four ways in which you can register for the TOEFL: online, over the phone, by mail, and in person at a TOEFL Resource Center. Payment must be made on the day you register. Fees to take the TOEFL vary depending on your location, but generally cost around $170 USD. Registration is usually open three to four months before the test date. It is important to register early because seats fill up quickly.

Preparing for the TOEFL

Preparing for the TOEFL in advance will ensure a better score on the test. ETS, the company that administers the TOEFL, provides many free and fee-based test preparation resources on their website, including practice questions and an official test prep guide. Students who need additional help can consult one of the many different test prep companies that offer courses and other types of TOEFL test prep resources. There are also many free resources available online for students who are on a budget.

Test-Taking Tips
  • Familiarize yourself with the test and test directions prior to test day so that you can use your allotted amount of time to concentrate on answering the test questions.
  • Take time to read each question carefully so that you know exactly what is being asked.
  • Do not spend too much time on any one question--try to pace yourself throughout the test.
  • If you aren’t sure on an answer, eliminate the answers that are obviously incorrect and make your best guess.
  • Skim reading comprehension passages to get a basic idea of what the passage is about. If necessary, go back and reread to find specific details.
  • Express your ideas in a clear and concise manner when you complete the writing portions of the test. Remove any words from your sentences that seem awkward or unnecessary.
  • Save time to proofread your writing.

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the About.com Guide to Business School. She also writes about online classes for OnlineClasses.org.
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