The Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL, was developed to test a student’s ability to comprehend the English language in an academic setting. It is used primarily for foreign students who want to study in America, and has become an acceptance requirement for many colleges and universities across the nation. In addition to schools, many government and private institutions require the test before hiring a foreign applicant to ensure that they have at least a basic understanding of the language. Once a tester passes the TOEFL, the score is valid for two years before expiring.
The TOEFL was first conceptualized in 1962 by a council made up of a variety of government and private organizations. Their goal was to ensure that every student had an understanding of the English language before taking an American college course, and they developed the test in order to assure competency in four main areas- reading, speaking, listening and writing. Once a student showed that he could excel in all four of these areas, he would be granted a passing TOEFL score. Since the 60’s, a variety of organizations have administered the test. Currently, the ETS administers the test.
Before the internet, there was quite a waiting period for students who wanted to take the TOEFL. Since 2005 and the introduction of the internet based system, students only wait between one and four weeks. Some parts of the country still require the test be taken on paper, so it is best to double check before taking the internet version.
The four parts of the test (reading, listening, speaking, and writing) all center around an academic theme. For the reading portion, the test-taker must read a variety of passages similar to what would be found in a college textbook. After reading the passages, various questions are asked about the material. The listening section is very similar, only passages are read aloud to the student. For the speaking portion, students must again listen to different conversations or passages and then verbally answer questions. Their answers are recorded by a computer microphone. For the writing section, the student must write passages similar to what they would be writing in college.
After all four sections are completed, the test is reviewed and graded. A TOEFL score ranges between zero and 120. Different colleges have different requirements. For instance- some ivy-league schools require a score of 100, while other colleges may only require a 50.