Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

For any non-English speaking person looking to study in an English-speaking nation, it might be necessary to take the TOEFL test online. There are several things that you can do to prepare yourself for any upcoming TOEFL dates.

TOEFL Test

The TOEFL test, or Test of English as a Foreign Language, is specially designed to test the ability of a student born outside of an English-speaking country to speak, read and write English at the post-secondary level.

It is estimated that more than thirty million students, from every part of the world, have taken the TOEFL test online or in person in hopes of demonstrating their comprehension of the English language. The average skill level of those who have received their TOEFL results ranges from the intermediate level through to the advanced level.

All individuals planning to relocate or spend any amount of time in an area that is predominately English can benefit from taking the test, however, the most common people who are seen studying for or writing the test are:

  • Recent graduates or students looking to pursue a degree at an institution of higher learning
  • English as a second language students
  • Those wanting to apply for scholarships or special certification
  • Those studying the English language who want to ability to track and monitor their progress
  • Workers or students applying for visas
  • Immigrants or expats who apply for, or are considering apply for, citizenship in an English-speaking country.

Nearly 15,000 universities, government agencies, and other facilities – in more than 130 countries around the globe – accept TOEFL scores for a number of different reasons, including to satisfy requirements for visa in places like Australia and the United Kingdom. The cost of the test varies, depending on the location it is being taken and there are more than fifty testing dates annually (at each authorized testing center.) Those who are unsuccessful in their initial attempt are permitted to rewrite as many times as are needed, but the test cannot be taken more than one in a twelve day timeframe.

This twelve-day retake policy is very strictly enforced. The best way to prepare for the test is to practice. Outlined below you will find a number of available resources and tips to help you prepare.

TOEFL Reading Practice

Whether you have an upcoming test date or have just begun preparation to start the process to take the TOEFL, developing your reading skills will be formative to your success. Essentially, there are two things that you can do to give yourself a head start in developing your TOEFL reading practice.  Firstly you will read through the written passages in the TOEFL, refer to the questions and begin to think about how you would respond. Secondly, you should endeavor to read as much as possible – in English – in order to hone and improve your skill level. There is no limit or restriction to the types of books or media you can read, you might even choose to volunteer at a local hospital reading to children (as a bonus, this will also help you to perfect your TOEFL speaking practice!)

TOEFL Listening Practice

Unlike other aspects of the test, there is limited ‘official’ practice material related to developing your English listening skills. And, depending on where you are from, attempting to develop your language listening skills out in the world might leave you susceptible to slang or improper verbiage. For this purpose, it is often recommended that students take advantage of academic lectures or other scholarly sources in order to practice their listening skills. One of the mostly widely recommended mediums for ESL students studying for the TOEFL is any of the TED talks. Not only are they highly thought provoking, but by listening to them, students can be assured that the information they are receiving is factual and highly articulate.

TOEFL Speaking Practice

The TOEFL speaking practice portion of the test is the one that students look upon with the most trepidation. Students can’t simply circle the right answer, or erase the wrong one – everything they say is recorded and remains part of their final answer.

Because of this, it is crucial to study – a lot!

This can be achieved in a number of different ways. Unlike the listening part of the exam, there are countless ‘official’ speaking practice methods and sample exams. But, for those not wanting to invest a great deal of money into their studies, the best method of practice is, and always has been, getting out there and having real world conversations with people who speak the language fluently. This is as easy as speaking up a conversation with a neighbor or an English-speaking friend.

It is recommended that anyone wishing to develop strong English proficiency practices speaking English as often as possible – and never less than two to three hours each week. More is always better.

There are many opportunities to practice speaking English. This could range from casual chitchat at the local coffee shop, to a hobby like a cooking class, or even through a volunteer opportunity. The point is to immerse yourself into the language, to embrace it and to step outside of your comfort zone every time the chance presents itself.

TOEFL Writing Practice

Of all of the categories in the TOELF, the opportunity for ‘official’ TOEFL writing practice is likely the most prevalent.  Everywhere you look, online or in class, there is a new opportunity to improve your writing skills – even more so with the widespread popularity of social media.

Now more than ever, people are communicating via written word (as a bonus, this also gives you a chance to practice your reading skills.) The challenge with social media platforms, however, is that too often they encourage us to pick up bad habits when it comes to grammar, abbreviations and certain ‘non words’ that have become popular amongst the under 30s crowd.

One way to improve your writing skill, and to ensure that you are paying proper attention to things like grammar, punctuation, spelling and the like is to take a creative writing course, or to take any number of the online TOEFL practice tests.

Other options include keeping a journal, something to practice writing in every day. Many students find it helpful to develop the habit of writing essays on topics that are important to them and then having a trusted advisor or teacher edit their work and review it in order to discuss areas for improvement.

Online, it is possible to find an infinite list of potential TOEFL essay topics and practice exams. The trick is to read, write, speak and listen often in order to immerse yourself in the English language and expedite your learning process.