The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is a standardized test for measuring the English language proficiency of non-native speakers. The TOEFL test (also known as the colloquial TOEFL test) originates from the USA. In the meantime, universities in almost all English-speaking countries accept it as proof of language proficiency for admission to studies.
The Educational Testing Service (ETS) organizes the TOEFL. This U. S. company specializes in the development and implementation of standardized language and admission tests.
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Trial versions of TOEFL
Since its introduction in 1964, the TOEFL has gone through various phases with different test versions:
- The paper-based TOEFL (TOEFL PBT) to be completed manually
- The computer-based TOEFL (TOEFL cBT)
- The Internet-based TOEFL (TOEFL iBT)
While ETS offered the different test versions in parallel for a while, the company abolished the computer-based TOEFL completely a few years ago. The paper-based TOEFL, which has recently been used mainly in regions of the world without a stable, comprehensive Internet service, is also slowly “creeping out”.
Test contents and test procedure of the TOEFL
The TOEFL iBT
examines four areas of competence:
- Read (Reading)
- Listening comprehension (Listening)
- Speaking (Speaking)
- Writing (Writing)
The test is scheduled to run for a total of four hours and thirty minutes.
In this TOEFL examination area, the examination unit lasts sixty to eighty minutes. Here you can answer multiple-choice questions on several passages from academic texts.
This unit lasts sixty to ninety minutes. The candidates answer multiple-choice questions on lectures, discussions and conversations they have heard about computers and headset.
Twenty minutes are available for this area. Here, based on written and auditory tasks, it is necessary to formulate one’s own opinion on a topic of everyday life orally.
The TOEFL exam unit for writing is 50 minutes long. Here the candidates write freely formulated answers to written and auditory tasks. Here, too, the point is to support one’s own opinion argumentatively.
In the areas of reading or listening comprehension, the test may contain additional questions that are not included in the score. These questions are used by the ETS to make different test versions comparable and to test new test questions under real conditions. If an area contains such additional questions, you will be given more time to answer them.
TOEFL rating scale
In each of the four TOEFL examination areas the candidates receive a score between 0 (low) and 30 (high). The total score consists of the sum of all single scores (section scores) and can therefore be between 0 and 120 points.
There is no “passed” or “failed” in the TOEFL iBT. Each institution of higher education shall set its own requirements with regard to the number of points required for admission. This score may vary depending on the level and subject studied. Find out in advance at the university of your choice what score you need!
It is possible to repeat the TOEFL to improve your score. However, you can only take the TOEFL once in twelve days. There are no other restrictions.
The TOEFL score is officially valid for two years. If the completion of the test is longer than expected at the time of application, the universities generally no longer accept it. The reason: the test result loses its significance over time. There is no longer any guarantee that the applicant’s language skills will still correspond to the level of the test result after this period.
Preparing for the TOEFL test is also advisable if you have a very good command of English, as it is not enough for the TOEFL iBT to focus solely on language skills. It also depends on stress resistance and good time management. It is helpful to deal with the TOEFL test setup and the respective requirements in the individual test areas. So you will not be surprised on the day of the test and you will be able to concentrate better on the test contents.
On the official TOEFL website, the organiser ETS offers various learning aids to prepare for the TOEFL. For example, some practice questions are available free of charge. There are also more detailed learning materials that are subject to a fee, such as the Official Guide to the TOEFL test or an online preparation course.
TOEFL test centres and examination dates
There are numerous test centres around the world where you can take the TOEFL. In Germany, Austria and Switzerland there are now quite a number of places to choose from. There you can take part in the test at about fifty dates per year. An overview of all test centres and upcoming exam dates can be found on the official TOEFL website.
Registration is possible online, by telephone, by post or in some regions in person at the test centre. The registration period ends one week before the respective examination date. However, it is advisable to register several months in advance, as the examination dates are sometimes booked up early. When planning the examination date, take into account above all the deadlines of the universities for which you are applying. The evaluation currently takes about 14 days.
TOEFL costs and payment options
The fees for the TOEFL iBT vary slightly:
- Germany and Austria: US$ 240
- Switzerland: US$ 250
Payment of the fees is possible by credit card, E-Check, Paypal or check.