TOEFL (The Test of English as a Foreign Language)

TOEFL stands for The Test of English as a Foreign Language. It is a requirement for all non-native English speakers who plan to attend colleges and graduate schools where English is the primary language of instruction. The TOEFL test is offered in different formats (computer-based, paper-based, and Internet-based) depending on your location.

The TOEFL exam has recently gone through some major overhauls. Starting from September 2005, the TOEFL can be taken as an Internet Based Test (iBT) at certified test centers in the United States, Canada, France, Germany, and Italy. Unlike the old version of the exam which includes four sections: Grammar, Listening Comprehension, Reading, and Writing, the new version includes: Oral, Listening, Reading and Writing.

According to the ETS (Educational Testing Services), the creator of the TOEFL, the new version is designed to allow universities and colleges to better evaluate the performance and academic readiness of non-native English-speaking students in English-speaking classroom and campus settings.

In Europe and Asia, the TOEFL will remain in its old form until 2006. In the winter of 2006, the new form of the exam will gradually begin to be disseminated to testing centers throughout the world.

The main changes in the TOEFL include the addition of an oral section to test your pronunciation and conversational skills by asking you to (a) read a short passage, (b)listen to a response, and then (c), make an oral response. Furthermore, it did away with the Grammar section and incorporates the four traditional and basic areas of English skills (reading, writing, listening, and speaking) across all sections. Throughout the new TOEFL, students' integrated academic skills, such as analysis and synthesis and the ability to organize an argument, will be tested as well.

In the TOEFL, the written English texts are typically collected from textbooks and course materials, while the main tested topics in the Oral and Listening sections include lectures and interactive classes, labs, office hours, study groups, everyday service interactions (for example, at the bookstore or registrar's office).

Although the TOEFL exam is largely a test of language ability, there are certain test-taking strategies that will ensure that you do your best on the exam. You can improve your English and your TOEFL score through expanding your vocabulary, listening and watching educational software programs, and concentrating on areas of grammar and usage that are particularly difficult for you. Read, listen, speak, and write more, take some specialized courses, and always learn from your mistakes!

Remember that the actual exam is on the computer. For many test-takers, this is not easy because reading large amounts of material on the screen not only dries out their eyes but makes it hard to absorb the material. Simply practice reading on the computer.

When preparing for the TOEFL exam, you should:

  • Create a study environment that is as similar as possible to the actual testing environment. It means a quiet space, possible a computer room or office-type environment. Force yourself to sit still for an extended period of time and focus on practicing.
  • Eliminate distractions and be conscious of time. Especially when you are taking practice tests, try to be as aware of the clock to monitor your pace.
  • After completing a practice test, be sure to go over the answers you missed. This is the only way to improve.