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Many international students consider studying in a college or university within the United States. In order to be accepted as an international student, most colleges and universities may require them to take standardized tests. One such exam, the TOEFL, is used by universities to assess the level of English language proficiency. The TOEFL exam is necessary in academic setting to be sure students can get by in an English-speaking environment. So what is the TOEFL? Let us take a look.

Learn About the TOEFL

The TOEFL is an entrance exam used by several top schools to ascertain international students’ aptitude within the English language. The test is used to determine the language abilities of non-native English speaker by testing abilities in speaking, listening, reading and writing skills in English. The exam is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), and is offered at several different locations around the country. The test was originally a paper-based exam, but was later changed into a computer initiated test. While paper-based tests are still available, the preferred method is computer-based. The test is four hours in length and can be taken a maximum of once a week. TOEFL scores stay valid for only two years. Since its inception in 1964, the TOELF test has been taken by over 20 million students.

Why Take the TOEFL

The TOEFL exam is required by almost every school for foreign students who want to study any subject in the US. While there are many requirements for international students to study in the US, the TOEFL is one of the most important. Schools look to the TOEFL as one of their earliest indicators to see if a foreign student is ready to study in the US. Students should put in plenty of preparation to ensure they get a top score.

Test Format

The main format for testing is the IBT or Internet-Based testing, which was introduced in 2005 to replace the CBT (Computer-Based testing). The CBT was officially retired in September of 2006 and so the main two formats that are now used are IBT and PBT (Paper-Based Testing). The PBT however is rarely used and the most common format is the IBT.

The IBT format has been rolled out over a series of phases, with the USA, Canada, France, Germany and Italy as the first to get the new format and then the rest of the world was moved over in 2006. Demand for the TOEFL IBT test is often very high and it is advisable to book a few months in advance to make sure you get the date you want.

The IBT consists of a 4 hour test in 4 sections which covers:

  1. Reading - students are given a reading passage and then posed questions about the content they have just read
  2. Listening - students are given a passage to listen only once and are asked questions about the conversation
  3. Speaking - students read passages and answer questions on a variety of subjects. These replies are digitally recorded and sent to exam judges to be tested.
  4. Writing - students are given a passage and then asked to write a passage in response to the text

The TOEFL can take up to 4 hours to complete, and students are given optional 10 minute breaks.

How to Prepare

If you need extra help preparing for your TOEFL, make sure you check out TestDEN.

Preparing for the TOEFL exam requires intensive studying. This studying should encompass all four of the main English criteria.


There are many TOEFL study books that teach students about the test and potential questions. These books provide an introduction to the exam, and go section by section to assist students in every facet of the exam. Because the exam is new to a lot of students, the books do a good job of giving potential test takers a solid look at what they can expect to see on test day.

TOEFL Courses

In addition to test books, there are many different courses available for students taking the test. These courses are taught by certified instructors who know exactly how to take the test, teach students extra tips, and are able to give personal time and acknowledgment.

Many of these TOEFL courses can be found at English language centers, and they are designed to prepare students for successfully taking the TOEFL exam. Programs typically vary in length although a typical TOEFL preparation course lasts 4-12 weeks. Many programs offer curriculums that simulate the TEOFL exam, provide in-classroom discussion, offer test taking skills, and more. Check out the following English language programs for more information:

ELS – leaders in teaching English and preparing students for the TOEFL, ELS offers a variety of programs ranging from 4-12 weeks long. These courses are designed to focus on key English language skills in addition to test taking strategies and tips. Depending on the program selected, students have the option to take the TOEFL test at the same ELS center – making students feel more comfortable in their test taking environment.

Practice Tests

Another great way for students to prepare for the TOEFL is by take a proctored practice test offered by some of the larger test centers. Many test prep centers offer free practice tests with results at colleges and universities around the world. In addition to real scores, a student has the opportunity to learn information about courses that the center may offer.

TOEFL Coaching

While the many practice materials are sufficient for some students, many others do best having received one-on-one coaching from a native English speaker. From a fluent coach a student can get personalized help, and focus on areas where they are struggling most. Many students attest that having a TOEFL coach who was fluent in the language helped their scores to drastically improve. These coaches give great advice, teach students excellent feedback, and help to make sure that they can grasp some of the more complex issues with the language. English speaking coaches are not terribly expensive and many people advertise as helpers. Coaches are a great asset to anyone needing serious help learning the language.

Taking the Test

If you would like information on taking the TOEFL, please visit the TOEFL website as the cost and type of test you need to take will vary depending on your country. You can also register online and book your test in via this website so please visit here for more information about that.

Night before the Exam

After the exam day itself, the most important time for a test-taker is the right before the exam. It may sound counterproductive, but the day before the test should not be used for studying or refreshing. Students should try not to think too much about the TOEFL. Relax and try to clear your mind instead. Students often stress themselves out unnecessarily right before an exam.

Make sure all of your testing materials are ready and you have your directions to the testing center and your testing registration printed out the night before. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep the night before, but try not to deviate from your daily routine too much.

Remember to eat a good meal before you head to the testing center. This will help you concentrate, reduce stress, and make sure your mind is clear and prepared during the exam. It is always a good idea to leave a little early to ensure that you make it to the testing center in plenty of time. Check the TOEFL restrictions and requirements to make certain you are not bringing any prohibited items and that you will have the right materials to gain access to the test.

Day before tip!: Relax, eat well, and rest the day before.

Preparing for Test Day

There are several materials that a student should bring with them to the testing site, including:

Government photo ID
All tests require students to bring a government photo ID that contains a valid signature. This ID can be a passport, a driver’s license, or any other government issued ID.
Test ticket
Students will need to have their testing ticket ready at the front door of the testing site and will usually have to sign in before they can be escorted to their testing room.
Bring pencils and a good eraser
Make sure to bring some pencils and an adequate eraser.
Bring a snack and drink
Some students may also want to bring a snack or drink to save for the break.
Know where you want your results sent
At the end of the exam, students will be allowed to choose schools to which they want the scores sent.

Caution: Be sure to read your test center’s information thoroughly. There are many prohibited items while in the testing room like electronic devices and digital watches.


You should get your results about ten days after taking the exam. Test scores for the TOEFL may take a bit of time to get back, since many of the sections like speaking and writing are sent to special “raters” to be assessed. The test is scored from 0 to 120, with each of the four sections counted as 30 points apiece. Most universities will require students to have a standard minimum acceptable score is somewhere in the low 60s. Top universities may require a score of 100 to be found acceptable.

TOEFL Practice

Listening Comprehension


In Part A, you will hear two people having short conversations. After each conversation, you will hear a question. The conversations and questions will not be repeated. After you hear a question, read the four possible answers and choose the best answer.

On the recording, you hear:
Woman:Will you be at the library tonight?
Man:No way! I've got tickets to the game.


What does the man say?

  1. that he will not go to the game
  2. that he doesn't have a way to the game
  3. that he is going to a sporting event
  4. that he came to the library the previous night

Answer and Explanation:

In this question, answer choices (A) and (B) are both negative distractors. A student who is not paying careful attention might hear the negative in the man's answer - "No way!" - and incorrectly choose an answer that also contains a negative. Answer (D) is a homonym distractor that tries to make the unwary student confuse the words game and came. But in reality the man is not going to the library because he wants to attend a game of some kind. Therefore, (C) is the correct answer.

Structure and Written Expression


The question below is an incomplete sentence. Beneath the sentence you will see four words or phrases, marked (A), (B), (C), and (D). Choose the one word or phrase that best completes the sentence.


We came here ----- the beautiful beaches.

  1. for visit
  2. visiting
  3. to visit
  4. for visiting

Answer and Explanation:

The correct answer is (C), which completes the sentence with the meaning of "in order to visit." Be careful not to fall for the distractors in (A) and (D). You can recognize an infinitive of purpose by placing in order in front of the word to. If the new sentence still "sounds good," it is an infinitive of purpose.

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