As an MBA applicant, apart from your GMAT score there’s another test score that the MBA school Admissions Committee would want to know – your TOEFL score.
The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL, in short…and misspelt by many as TOFEL & TOEFEL) is the most popular English proficiency test among international students applying to a range of universities and undergraduate / graduate programs. Rohit Gupta provides a quick overview of the ETS TOEFL iBT test format.
ETS TOEFL IBT Test Format and Preparation
by Rohit Gupta
Now as you’ve finally decided to pursue a foreign MBA, you’ll have to jump through a few loops which will serve as a prerequisite to your candidature. For all the non-native English speakers, a proof of language ability is required which can be fulfilled by various tests available in the market; TOEFL and IELTS being the most preferred ones.
The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is a favorite among the students, as it very widely accepted (9000 colleges in around 130 countries accept TOEFL scores). A TOEFL test center is usually not too far away, the result arrives fairly quickly and you can customize the test date (more than 50 test dates per year) to suit your overall MBA plan.
The exam, as the name suggests, is taken to test the reading, listening, speaking and writing skills of the applicants. The certificate has a validity of up to two years after the date of the test.
You can reappear as many times as you wish, but you cannot do this within a 12-day window. The cost of the test ranges from US$160 to US$250 and varies from country to country (the cost is US$180 in India as of now).
The TOEFL has two avatars: internet based (iBT) and paper-based. The iBT was introduced in 2005 and has increasingly become the default choice for most applicants.
While a cut-off score is required to prove your mettle in the English language, it differs from CAT/GMAT in the sense that a higher test score does not do any good for the overall candidature (the law of diminishing returns?).
TOEFL Exam Format Decoded
Your starting point for the TOEFL journey should be ets.org, the official website of the organization responsible for conducting the TOEFL. The entire test lasts for around four to five hours, along with overheads like check-in and instructions. During the test, you are evaluated on tasks that combine more than one skill (reading, listening, speaking and writing).
|Reading||60 – 80 minutes||36-56 questions|
|Listening||60 – 90 minutes||34-51 questions|
|Speaking||20 minutes||6 tasks|
|Writing||50 minutes||2 tasks|
You may hear different accents, as there are speakers from the UK, New Zealand, Australia (apart from the US, of course) to reflect the variety of people you’ll likely come across while pursuing your education abroad.
The registration is mandatory to appear for TOEFL, and online registration should be done at least 7 days before the test. You should preferably enlist the schools you plan to apply during the registration only, as you won’t be allowed to do this during the test.
The Official Guide to the TOEFL iBT is a good resource for those who are already proficient in the language, as it serves as a good repository of different types of questions that can be expected in the test.
In the TOEFL iBT, your aptitude is judged on the scale of 0-120 points. Every section (reading, listening, speaking and writing) is assigned 30 points and the scores are taken together to compute the total score.
ETS TOEFL Preparation
Your level of familiarity with the TOEFL iBT test is at least as important as your grip on the English language. Like almost all the standardized tests these days, the TOEFL has a particular structure and places certain expectations on a candidate, adherence to which can go a long way in improving scores.
Here’s a quick and simple summary of how to prepare for TOEFL.
TOEFL Reading Practice
The TOEFL Reading section contains questions that judge your comprehension and vocabulary, and the difficulty level is fairly easy as compared to GMAT.
There are three to four reading passages, and 12 to 14 questions per passage. The passages are mostly excerpts from university-level textbooks, and often present information from more than a single perspective. Someone who reads on a regular basis should not face any difficulty in this part of the test.
For your TOEFL reading practice, here are some tips:
– English language reading materials – newspapers, books, magazines and blogs will help.
– Flash cards can prove to be a handy way for increasing vocabulary. For improving your speed, you can try ‘speed reading’.
– Make a habit of summarizing the texts you read and to go through it afterwards to make sure you retain the essential parts.
– One smart TOEFL reading practice idea is to read individual paragraphs and not the complete passage at one go as the questions are pretty straight forward and are asked in sequence generally, to save some precious time.
TOEFL Listening Practice
In the Listening section, for TOEFL listening practice it will be best if you listen to native speakers from all over the globe (US, Canada, UK, New Zealand, Australia etc.) to get accustomed to different accents. Listening is vital for comprehension, understanding and synthesizing information.
Add these tips to your TOEFL listening practice:
– Being a Hollywood fan or an audiophile will surely help. For beginners, subtitles can be a godsend.
– YouTube can also prove to be an excellent source for this section.
– Make a timeline and attempt listening questions (conversations/lectures etc.) to have a good understanding about what is important enough to jot down and what can be skipped.
– The key is to understand the idea that is being transmitted, and the ability to distinguish opinions from facts.
TOEFL Speaking Practice
In the TOEFL Speaking section, you will be asked to speak on topics related to your experiences, real-life based situations and academic content. 20 minutes long with 6 questions; the first two are independent speaking tasks (you are expected to formulate your own ideas) and the other four are called integrated speaking tasks (you are required to integrate your overall English skills).
The TOEFL speaking section can be a tougher nut to crack as compared to the previous two. First of all, you are seated in a room with other people who are also taking the test; the anxiety and nervousness can take a toll on you when your neighbor is shouting into the microphone to convey his/her strong opinions.
More importantly, you are expected to formulate a train of thought in 15 seconds, and deliver it within 45 seconds. Delivery, fluency with the language and coherence are the main evaluation criteria.
As expected with a section like this, practice is essential (using a timer is strongly recommended). Here are some tips for getting the most out of your TOEFL speaking practice:
– You can have someone who has a strong hold on the language to critique you, or better yet, you can record yourself to spot any errors afterwards.
– A structured, consistent and coherent answer with good pronunciation and intonation accompanied with ‘feelings’ is the key to convey your expertise.
TOEFL Writing Practice
The TOEFL Writing section is the part where your previous experience with the language is the most important.
There are broadly two types of writing tasks – integrated and independent.
In the integrated writing task, you organize the information based on your notes, then paraphrase and summarize information from the source material.
The independent writing task requires you to express opinions and back them based on your experience/knowledge. Communicating your thoughts through the written word in the most efficient way is a skill that you pick up over time.
Here are some TOEFL writing practice tips.
– You have to get acquainted with the nuances of punctuation and paragraph creation.
– Try to be extra cautious when it comes to tenses.
– You can start with writing effective Emails, or better yet, start your own blog! Here too, timed practice is important, and equally important is getting feedback – to polish the hidden writer within you.
TOEFL Test Day Tips
On the test day, it is imperative to put your best foot forward.
– Have a good breakfast and carry energy bars to boost your energy levels during the test.
– Have adequate sleep the day before to maintain top-notch concentration levels during the test, and arrive at the center before the scheduled time.
– Have a steady pace and avoid spending too much time on one question while making sure you attempt each and every one.
Taking the risk of going overboard with the suggestions, don’t forget to take your registration number and valid ID!
PS. Here is a thread that contains free resources for cracking the TOEFL iBT. Cheers!
Author Bio: I am Rohit, an engineer by education, a data analyst by profession and a reader by inclination. Since 2012, I’ve been writing about self-improvement, productivity, coping with life as it comes and just being plain happy. I blog at http://urbangallivant.wordpress.com/
And once again, it’s TOEFL, not TOFEL or TOEFEL (though those variations do sound closer to how it’s pronounced). Good luck with your preparation.
– General guide for the TOEFL English language proficiency test in India
– TOEFL IELTS Waiver for the top universities abroad
– Best TOEFL Books
– Average TOEFL scores, Minimum TOEFL scores for MS MBA
– TOEFL Preparation Guide