What to Expect from TOEFL

Many U.S. colleges and universities require their applicants, whether international or not, to take one or more standardized tests, including one in particular called the TOEFL.

TOEFL, which stands for test of English as a foreign language, evaluates the ability of an individual to use and understand English in an academic setting. Nearly one million individuals of all ages take the Interned-based test (iBT) or the Paper-based Test (PBT) TOEFL test each year. International students can expect to complete portions reading, listening, speaking and writing in English, with a 10-minute break after two portions have been completed. Each examination is about 4.5 hours long and is scored using both an automated system and human raters to ensure that an accurate picture of an applicant’s ability is obtained.

Once the test has been complete, scores are usually posted online within two weeks, and scores can be sent out to universities and institutions where the applicant is applying upon the student’s request. Once the test has been taken, a TOEFL score is valid for two years. After two years, the score is considered invalid, since a candidate’s language proficiency could have changed since the date of the test.

International students taking the TOEFL should prepare in advance before they sit down at a computer or travel to a test center to take the test. A number of preparation materials are also available that can help individuals prepare for the test in advance, including books, guides and online practice tests. However, if an undesirable score is obtained, students may retake the TOEFL as many times as they wish. For more information on TOEFL, test dates and locations, visit www.ets.org/toefl.