Your Insider Guide to the TOEFL

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TOEFL Frequently Asked Questions

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Q: Do I have to take the TOEFL?

A: If you were educated primarily in a language other than English, you will probably have to take the TOEFL, although some programs grant exceptions for students with high scores on other standardized tests.

Q: Where and when can I take the TOEFL iBT?

A: Throughout the year at test centers around the world. Test centers in major cities, especially in North America and Europe, tend to have several available test dates per month.

Q: Does ETS limit the amount of times I can take the TOEFL?

A: No, you can take the TOEFL as many times as you like. You do, however, have to wait for 12 days after a test date to take the TOEFL again.

Q: How long does it take to prepare for the TOEFL?

A: Most experts recommend at least two months, but the exact amount of time required depends on how well you speak English to begin with.

Q: What TOEFL scores do universities require?

A: Degree programs set their own requirements, which can be a total score as low as 60 or as high as 110, sometimes with sectional requirements as well. However, most institutions are satisfied with total scores of 100 and sectional scores of 25 each.

Q: Are there any schools that don't accept the TOEFL?

A: If there are, we've never heard of them. The TOEFL is one of the English-speaking world's most widely accepted tests.

Q: What books should I get for my TOEFL study?

A: We recommend the Official Guide to the TOEFL Test, published by ETS (which owns and administers the exam).

Q: How is the TOEFL graded?

A: By a combination of humans and computers. The reading and listening sections, which are almost all multiple choice questions, can be graded electronically, but the speaking and writing sections require the input of qualified ETS graders.

Q: What scores will I receive?

A: A total score of 0 to 120 and sectional scores of 0 to 30 each.

Q: What is the average TOEFL score for everyone?

A: According to published ETS reports, the mean TOEFL total score for all test-takers has hovered around 82 for the past several years.

Q: Should I consider taking the paper-based TOEFL if it is available in my country?

A: We advise against this. Although many universities will accept PBT scores, preparation materials are often outdated, the number of test dates is very limited, and most importantly, the PBT is not as strong an assessment of language skills as the iBT. The PBT is on its way out, and it will soon be discontinued by ETS.

Q: Aside from universities, who else uses the TOEFL?

A: TOEFL scores are accepted to qualify for immigration visas in some English-speaking countries, and the test may also be used to satisfy the language requirement associated with some types of professional licenses.

Q: What are the most important test center rules?

A: Bring two forms of acceptable identification, store all of your personal items in your assigned locker, don't communicate with other students during the test, and don't leave the test room without permission.

Q: Do I have to worry about my registration being cancelled?

A: Only if there is severe weather, loss of power at the test center, or other unusual circumstances. In these cases, the test will be rescheduled free of charge.