How to achieve high scores on the TOEFL® iBT Test

The Internet Based TOEFL Test was launched in the United States on September 24, 2005. The information on this page will let you know what to expect from the next generation TOEFL and how you can prepare and achieve high scores on the TOEFL iBT.

  1. What is the Internet Based TOEFL test?
  2. Why is it important?
  3. How can you prepare for the TOEFL iBT?
  4. What is the structure of the test?
  5. How is the test administered?

1. What is the TOEFL iBT?

The Test Of English as a Foreign LanguageTM (TOEFL® test) evaluates the proficiency and general understanding of the English Language for people whose first language is not English.

It is used to test international students planning to study in the United States and Canada and by academic institutions outside the US and Canada that use English.

The TOEFL test has evolved from Paper Based to Computer Based in most countries with two of the four sections in the Computer Based TOEFL Test (the Listening and Structure sections) being computer-adaptive. This enables the computer based TOEFL test questions to be targeted to an individual’s performance level.

However ETS, who develop the TOEFL test, found from consultation with university faculty and admissions officials that there was a need to develop a new TOEFL test that provides better information on test takers’ ability to communicate in an academic setting.

As part of this development the TOEFL iBT test is administered in a network of Internet based test centers, hence the next generation TOEFL test will be known as the iBT (Internet Based) TOEFL to distinguish it from CBT TOEFL and PBT TOEFL.

2. Why is the TOEFL test important?

If English is not your first language, many business schools will require that you take the TOEFL Internet Based test to indicate that you will be able to cope in a learning environment where English is the dominant language.

Scores for the Internet Based TOEFL test provide information about test takers’ performance in the four skill areas (see section 4 below) where they need to be proficient to succeed in an academic environment.

In addition, ETS will provide test takers and institutions with English Language Competency Descriptors that give useful information on what the individual can do in English at various score levels.

Individual business schools will have minimum score requirements for admission – the four skill scores give business schools the flexibility to customize these score requirements to meet the English Language demands of their MBA program – and you should check this with the schools that you are applying to.

You should then use a TOEFL iBT practice test to find out how close you are to your chosen school’s requirements.

3. How can you prepare for the TOEFL test?

On the internet, a lot of exercise opportunities are available

4. What is the structure of the TOEFL test?

The test, which is mirrored in the TOEFL iBT practice test resources available, is split into four sections, namely Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing.

The style of English tested throughout is North American English and some questions require you to combine more than one skill through integrated questions or tasks. For example, you will be asked to read, listen and then speak in response to a question.

The Listening section measures your ability to understand spoken English and you answer up to 50 questions using headphones to listen to taped conversations and talks. You have up to 90 minutes to complete this section and note taking is allowed.

The Speaking section is a new section introduced in the Internet Based TOEFL test (this is not in the Computer Based or Paper Based TOEFL tests) and is designed to test your ability to speak in English.

There are six speaking tasks on the TOEFL iBT. On two of these tasks, called Independent Speaking Tasks, you will be asked to express an opinion on a topic that you are familiar with.

The remaining four tasks are called Integrated Speaking Tasks where you will be given information, either written, spoken, or both, about a topic. Then you will be asked to speak for up to 60 seconds about the topic.

You have up to 20 minutes to complete this section and for all the tasks you will be given up to 30 seconds to prepare your response before speaking.

The Reading section measures your ability to read and understand short passages that you are likely to encounter in North American universities and colleges.

You are required to answer questions about the reading passages provided in this section and the time available is up to 100 minutes depending upon the number of questions to be answered.

The Writing section tests your ability to write in English. This section is split into two tasks, one integrated task where you are asked to write based on what you read you and hear, and an independent task where you need to generate ideas on a topic and provide supporting examples or evidence in a clear and grammatically correct manner.

The time available for this section is 50 minutes split 20 minutes for the integrated task and 30 minutes for the independent task.

An important difference between the Internet Based TOEFL and the Paper or Computer Based TOEFL tests is that there is no Structure section in the TOEFL iBT. This is now evaluated in the Speaking and Writing sections.

In total the TOEFL iBT is 4 hours (compared to 3 hours for the Paper based TOEFL and 3.5 hours for the Computer Based TOEFL test) and all sections will be completed in one day.

5. How is the TOEFL iBT administered?

The next generation TOEFL test is Internet based and administered on fixed dates in a network of secure, ETS approved, Internet based testing centers.

The first TOEFL Internet Based Test was administered in the United States on September 24, 2005 and was launched in Internet Based test centers in Canada, Italy, France and Germany on October 22, 2005. The TOEFL iBT was rolled out to all other countries during 2006 in accordance with the schedule announced by ETS on October 1, 2005. Until the TOEFL iBT was introduced in a country, the current TOEFL Paper based and Computer Based tests (and Test of Spoken English) continued to be administered. In the TOEFL iBT you will be given instructions for answering questions within each section and, as the test is not computer adaptive, each test taker receives the same questions in any given form of the TOEFL iBT. Most areas where the TOEFL iBT is offered will have 30 to 40 administrations in a year, but the number will vary based on test center capacity and the number of test takers. You can register for the TOEFL iBT online, by phone or by mail.

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