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Are you wondering if you’d make it at an English-speaking university?

Do you have big plans for attending school in New Zealand? Australia? The United States? Canada? The UK?

Is your first language something other than English?

If your answer to any or all of these questions is a loud, resounding “YES!”, then you should make plans to take the TOEFL. Read more to find out why.

What Is the TOEFL?

The TOEFL, otherwise known as the Test of English as a Foreign Language, is by far the most popular standardized English language test in the world. More than 6,000 schools in over 100 countries accept the TOEFL scores as a portion of their admittance requirements. That gives you, the TOEFL-taker, a big advantage over people who decide not to take it. The door is wide open!

The TOEFL is not the same as the TOEIC. That standardized English language test is used to gauge a person’s readiness for a working environment, whereas the TOEFL is used predominantly as an entrance exam for college.

What Is on the TOEFL?

Don’t worry. The TOEFL tests, both the Internet-based test (IBT) and the Paper-based test (PBT) do not require you to have any working knowledge of the customs, procedures, or group dynamics of the region in which you’ll be studying. You will, however, have to be able to do the following:

  • Read in English
  • Write in English
  • Listen to English
  • Speak in English on the TOEFL IBT only.

The TOEFL IBT and the TOEFL PBT have different formats, so it is important to find out which type of test is offered in your area. Once you’ve discovered which test you’ll be taking, you can study for that type.

How Does the TOEFL Scoring Work?

Like the tests themselves, the TOEFL IBT and PBT vary vastly in their scoring, just to make sure the tests are as confusing as is humanly possible.


Every university has a different requirement for acceptable scores for the TOEFL IBT, so check with the college to which you’re applying for their passing scores. When you get your score report back, you can expect to see something like this:

  • Reading Skills:High: 22-30 points; Intermediate: 15-21 points; Low: 0-14 points
  • Listening Skills:High: 22-30 points; Intermediate: 14-21 points; Low: 0-13 points
  • Speaking Skills:Good: 3.5-4.0; Fair: 2.5-3.0; Limited: 1.5-2.0; Weak: 0-1.0
  • Writing Skills:Good: 4.0-5.0; Fair: 2.0-3.0; Limited: 1.0-2.0

The Speaking and Writing sections are converted to a 0-30 scale like the Reading and Listening sections. So the highest total score possible you could receive is a 120 on the TOEFL IBT.


Again, the university requirements vary vastly for acceptable scores on the TOEFL PBT, so be sure you know the number you’ll be expected to achieve so you can prepare!

  • Listening Comprehension: Score range: 31 (low)-68 (high)
  • Structure/Written Expression:Score range: 31 (low)-68 (high)
  • Reading Comprehension: Score range: 31 (low)-67 (high)
  • Total Score:Score range: 310 (low)-677 (high)

How Do You Prepare for the TOEFL?

ETS, the makers of the TOEFL IBT and PBT, offer priced and free test preparation materials for anyone who needs the extra help. Since half of getting a good score on a test is really just about learning how to take the test itself, it’ll pay off to do your homework.

  • Private tutors: Many different organizations offer private tutoring – Kaplan, Sylvan, TutorNation, and more. The caveat? They’ll cost you upwards of $1,000. The bonus? Guarantees. If you don’t score well, you get your money back.
  • Books:Good old-fashioned paper is the way to go, especially if you need a little more face-time with the questions and solutions. Try picking up a used copy from eBay – just make sure it’s the most recent version!
  • Online Courses: If you need test prep help, this site, the “official” TOEFL website, has it all: online courses, free downloads, videos, and tips for getting the highest score possible.

There you have it – the basic TOEFL information. Now get out there, get prepared, and get yourself the score you really deserve!


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