TOEFL, the Test of English as a Foreign Language, evaluates the ability of an individual to use and understand English in an academic setting.
It evaluates how well an individual can combine Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing skills to perform academic tasks. TOEFL score is the requisite for non-native speakers of English at the time of admission in colleges and universities abroad.
Additionally, institutions such as government agencies, licensing bodies, businesses or scholarships may also require TOEFL score. A TOEFL score is valid for two years. One can re-take the test as many times as one wishes.
The TOEFL test is a registered trademark of Educational Testing Service (ETS) and is administered worldwide. The test was first administered in 1964 and has since been taken by more than 23 million students. The test was originally developed at the Center for Applied Linguistics led by the linguist, Dr. Charles A Ferguson.
The TOEFL Internet-Based Test (iBT), since its introduction in late 2005, has progressively replaced both the computer-based (CBT) and paper-based (PBT) tests, although paper-based (PBT) test is still used in selected areas where Internet is not available. TOEFL iBT has been introduced in phases, in the United States, Canada, France, Germany, and Italy in 2005 and the rest of the World (including India) in 2006, with test centers added regularly.
The four-hour TOEFL test consists of four sections each measuring one of the basic language skills (while some tasks require integrating multiple skills) and all tasks focus on language used in higher education environment. TOEFL includes the following four sections:
The Reading section consists of 3-5 passages, each approximately 700 words in length and questions about the passages.
- The passages are on academic topics, they are the kind of material that might be found in an undergraduate university textbook.
- The passages require understanding of rhetorical functions such as cause-effect, compare-contrast and argumentation. Students answer questions about main ideas, details, inferences, essential information, sentence insertion, vocabulary, rhetorical purpose, and overall ideas.
The Listening section consists of 6 passages, 2 student conversations, and 4 academic lectures or discussions. The duration of the listening section is 3-5 minutes, and includes questions about the excerpts.
- A conversation involves 2 speakers, a student and/either a professor or a campus service provider.
- A lecture is a self-contained portion of an academic lecture, which may involve student participation and does not assume specialized background knowledge in the subject area.
- Each conversation and lecture stimulus is heard only once. Test takers may take notes while they listen, and may refer to their notes, when they answer the questions.
- Each conversation is associated with 5 questions and each lecture with 6. The questions are meant to measure the ability to understand main ideas, important details, implications, and relationships between ideas, organization of information, speaker’s purpose, and speaker’s attitude.
The Speaking section consists of 6 tasks, 2 independent tasks, and 4 integrated (for example combining the reading and listening tasks).
- In the 2 independent tasks, test takers answer opinion questions on familiar topic(s). They are evaluated on their ability to speak spontaneously and convey their ideas clearly.
- In two of the integrated tasks, test takers read a short passage, listen to an academic course lecture or a conversation about campus life and answer a question by combining appropriate information from notes and the talk.
- In the two remaining integrated tasks, test takers listen to an academic course lecture or a conversation about campus life and then respond to a question about what they heard.
- In the integrated tasks, tests are evaluated on their ability to appropriately synthesize the information.
The Writing section measures a test taker’s ability to write in an academic setting and consists of 2 tasks, 1 integrated task, and 1 independent task.
- In the integrated task, test takers read a passage on an academic topic and then listen to a speaker discuss the same topic. The test taker will then write a summary about the important points in the listening passage and explain how these relate to the key points of the reading passage.
- In the independent task, test takers must write an essay that states, explains and supports their opinion on an issue, supporting their opinions or choices, rather than simply listing personal preferences or choices.
The iBT version of the TOEFL test is scored on a scale of 0 to 120 points. A score ranging from 90-100 is above average and a score of 100 plus is excellent.
Each of the four sections (Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing) receives a scaled score from 0 to 30. The scaled scores from the four sections are added together to determine the total score.
Speaking is initially given a score of 0 to 4(each question), and writing is initially given a score of 0 to 5(each task). These scores are converted to scaled scores of 0 to 30.
One can check his/her score online after approximately 10 working days of examination and also receive TOEFL score sheet by e-mail after 13 working days of examination.