TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language

TOEFL test is a standardised test of English Language to check a proficiency of a student’s English Language belonging to non-native English countries.  Students desirous of enrolling to Universities in the United States of America (U.S.A.) are required to undergo this test.

This test is conducted online through the Internet and therefore it is also referred to as the Internet Based Test (IBT) which was earlier conducted on standalone and thereafter LAN connected computers.

The four hour test can be taken within one to four weeks after enrolment.  The test seeks to measure a student’s basic language skills so as to assess the student’s ability to grasp and comprehend the English Language that will be the medium of instruction in institutions of higher learning.

The Test is scored on a scale of 0 to 120 point with each of the four sections (Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing) being evaluated on a scale of 0 to 30 which are then added together to arrive at a final score.  Each written and speaking question is evaluated on a score of 0 to 4 and 0 to 5 respectively.

The TOFEL scores are valid for a period of two years after which the student has to re-appear for the test.

The minimum score acceptance level of TOFEL varies from Institution to Institution with 61 being the lowest (Bowling Green State University) and 109 being Harvard’s benchmark.

The test consists of four sections that assess a student on various aspects of language, i.e. Reading skills, Listening Skills, Speaking and Writing Skills which is further elaborated as under for you to prepare accordingly:

a.       Reading > Time Duration : 60-100 minutes

  • Generally 4-6 passages from material which might generally be found in the text book of Undergraduate study program.
  • The average length of the passages is approximately 700 words
  • Questions are asked from those 4-6 passages
  • Student is tested on his ability to infer from the passages, understanding of details and information, sentence insertion, vocabulary, rhetorical purpose and overall understanding of ideas.
  • Recent test  format also requires a student to fill out tables or complete summaries.
  • One of the objectives is to assess a student’s understanding of rhetorical functions such as cause-effect, compare and contrast as well as ability to argue in favour of or against the stated arguments.
  • Passages can be general in nature and students are not required to prepare on any specific topic.

b.      Listening > Time Duration : 60-90 minutes

  • It tests the listening skills of the student to be able to comprehend the language in the context of the classroom situation
  • The paper consists of six passages.
  • Questions are based on the above six passages with each varying in length between 3-5 minutes each.
  • The six passages are split into and involve student(s) and/or professors:

a.       Two conversations between students
b.      Four academic lectures or classroom discussions

  • There are five questions per conversation and six questions per academic/classroom discussion.
  • Each passage is to be heard only once.
  • Student is allowed to take notes while listening and refer to them later.

c.       Speaking > Time Duration : 20 minutes

  • Students are evaluated on their ability to speak as well as express their thoughts, ideas, questions and enquiries.
  • There are total of six exercises to be accomplished by the test taker.
    • Independent (two) : Students have to give their opinion on familiar topics.
    • Integrated (two) : Students are given a passage to read and listen to a classroom session.  Thereafter, they have to respond to question by integrating information from both.
    • Integrated (two) : Students have to listen to two more classroom sessions and respond to questions based on those.

d.      Writing > Time Duration : 50 Minutes

  • Student is evaluated on the writing skills with respect to academic learning.
  • There a total of two exercises:
    • Independent : Student is required to write an essay, give your standpoint on a specific issue and give an argument in favour or against it.
    • Integrated : The student is given a passage to read and listen an audio.  He then has to write a essay about the points contained in the audio note and relate it with the written passage.