Now that you are on your way to making English your second language, you should start asking yourself what this language can do for you. How far can a simple “Hello” take you? With the right research, the possibilities (and miles) are endless. The first step on your journey is to understand the process and significance of English language exams.

With so many different tests to choose from, it is important to pick one that best fits your needs. Which one will an employer ask for? Which one will help you study in a college abroad? Think of this English language exam as your plane ticket. Without it, you cannot go through the gate and board the airplane. And since we really want you to catch your flight, we've answered all the questions for you.

The 5 W’s of the TOEFL
(Test of English as a Foreign Language)

Who takes the TOEFL exam?

This is important. I mean, you wouldn't want to go through the hassle of signing up and preparing, only to realize you had been nervous about a test you didn't have to take.

So who takes the TOEFL exam? Well, since 2005, over 25 million people in 180 countries around the world have taken it! The reason for this? Simple. The TOEFL exam scores are the only among the English language exams that are accepted by over 7,500 institutions worldwide, including academic and government agencies. In other words, if you are applying to major institutions abroad, your TOEFL exam scores will likely be accepted. Of course, it is crucial that you verify with the particular institution you are applying to and make sure they accept the TOEFL scores. You can do this by simply checking their website for requirements or calling them directly.

Among the 25 million who have taken it are people just like you:

But guess what? While the TOEFL exam can take you many places, it is also useful in your own country. Some universities and businesses in countries where English is not the national language, may require TOEFL exam scores to fulfill a student's foreign language credit requirement or to test the proficiency of a possible new employee.

Why should you take the TOEFL exam?

Your TOEFL score might just be the single factor that determines acceptance into a university, a yes to a paycheck or simply a stamp on your passport. In order to get your foot in the door, it is important to have a respected test on your side. Being able to offer tangible proof of your proficiency in English as a second language is crucial to your success abroad. And again, over 7,500 colleges and institutions around the world accept the TOEFL scores. That's no coincidence!

What exactly is the TOEFL and what can I expect to see on it?

If you fall under any of the above categories, then it is likely that you are a candidate to take the TOEFL. But, before you sign up, you must understand and be prepared for what the TOEFL will actually test you on. Simply put, the TOEFL exam is designed to measure how well you would be able to understand and communicate in an English-speaking classroom. Passing the exam would then validate your skills and inform the institution you are applying to that you are in fact a proficient English speaker. As a result, the passages and questions asked on the exam could probably be found on the pages of a college-level textbook. For example, you might be asked to read a passage and answer questions that make you analyze cause and effect or push you to think critically and analyze themes.

Your TOEFL exam score is basically a series of numbers that will translate to your future school or employer as: “This is how much and how well I speak English.” Of course, this all depends on your performance on the exam. Your TOEFL exam score will be the tangible proof you will need to internationally represent your verbal and written skills in English.

Okay, so what you really want to know is: “What score do I need to get in?”

While a perfect score is probably your best guarantee, it's not always realistic (don't worry, universities know this!)

Understanding your Score

Each university you apply to will have a set of required TOEFL scores. To get a general idea, let's use the University of Miami* as an example, whose program offers admission to international students for full-time academics as well as admission into an Intensive English Program.

For the TOEFL Internet-Based Test

Full-time academics admission: Total score at least 80
Intensive English program admission: Total score below 61

For the TOEFL Paper-Based Test:

Full-time academics admission:Total score at least 550
Intensive English program admission:Total score below 500

Luckily for you, almost every college has their test score requirements easily searchable on their website. Just go to your search engine and type the name of the college/university/program you are applying to and ‘TOEFL requirements'.

*Each program's test score requirements may vary. Make sure to verify with the program you are applying to.

When and Where can you take the TOEFL exam?

With high international demand, the Internet-Based Test is offered on 30-40 test dates a year and the Paper-Based Test on six dates. The wonderful thing is that you can take the exam as many times as you'd like without penalty from your institution. In other words, the institutions asking for your TOEFL exam scores will not turn you away if you have taken the exam more than once and have received different scores on it. However, some might ask for your most recent score or one might ask for your highest score – so calling and verifying with the institution directly is your best bet. The only downside to taking the test too many times is that you have to pay a registration fee every time you take it. Colleges don't care, but your wallet might!

You're in luck! With over 4,500 locations in 165 countries, you will probably not have any problems finding a place to take the TOEFL. Just browse though TOEFL's official location and dates list.

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