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An International Student's Map Through the TOEFL iBT

Posted By Benjamin Wideman On September 01, 2016

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Attending college in the U.S. holds a variety of educational opportunities — flexibility in coursework, cutting-edge technology, opportunities for research, campus life experience, and diversity.

If this appeals to you and you’re looking to apply to study in the U.S., then you’re aware that you have to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) iBT in order to apply to colleges in the U.S. However, you may not know what that entails.

Here is what you need to know about the TOEFL iBT.

About the TOEFL iBT

English language proficiency tests are standardized tests used to gauge an international student’s English skills. Although they are not always required, it is strongly suggested that international students take them.

The TOEFL iBT measures students’ ability to use and understand English at the university level by testing their listening, reading, speaking, and writing skills. 

The TOEFL iBT is administered online and is offered more than 50 times a year at authorized test centers around the world. Check the TOEFL iBT test centers and dates page to find more information on available test centers, locations, dates, and fees.

Tips to Ace the TOEFL iBT

1. Research the scores needed for your prospective schools.

Each TOEFL-accepting institution has its own score requirements. You can search for each school’s score requirements with the TOEFL destination search. Knowing your prospective schools’ score requirements gives you a better idea of where you should aim to score.

To help you reach your prospective schools’ scores, set SMART goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Using this structure makes it easier to track your progress, hold yourself accountable, and accomplish your goals.

2. Familiarize yourself with the format of the test.

Knowing the format of the test will help you navigate through the TOEFL iBT.

The test consists of four sections: reading, listening, speaking, and writing. Each section has a specific time limit, number of questions, and tasks. Overall the test takes about four and a half hours to complete. Reference the TOEFL iBT test sections for more information.

3. Answer every question of the test.

There is no penalty for incorrect answers, so answer every question! On the reading and listening sections, you have a 25% chance of answering the question correctly; use that to your advantage.

If you don’t know the answer to a question, use your best judgement and these 4 ways to outsmart any multiple-choice test in selecting an answer.

4. Practice taking the test.

Practice will help you feel more prepared and confident on test day. Know the type of questions to expect and pace yourself to complete the test sections within their time limits.

Educational Testing Service (ETS) has numerous free practice materials to prepare you for the TOEFL iBT. This includes free sample questions, practice tests, interactive skill-building programs, and detailed tips and information for understanding more about the test. You can even take a free 6-week online course with videos, short quizzes, and tips from expert instructors.

5. Improve your typing skills.

Unlike most other college standardized tests, the TOEFL iBT is administered via the internet, therefore you have to type your answers for the writing section. 

Familiarize yourself with the QWERTY keyboard; the faster you can type, the easier it will be for you to complete the Writing section in a timely manner and have time to proofread your answers.

How to Take the Test

Online test registration is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Bring a form of identification and a debit/credit card before registering. Reference the ETS step-by-step registration guide for more in-depth instructions.

On test day, you will need your registration number and a valid, acceptable form of ID. Your registration number can be found on your registration confirmation. To access your registration confirmation, log in to your TOEFL iBT online account.

For more information on what to expect on test day, reference the TOEFL test day tips guide.

Taking the TOEFL iBT requires research and preparation. Setting goals for your test score, becoming familiar with the test, and knowing what to expect on test day will put you in a better position to excel on test day.

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Topics: International Students

About This Blog

Deciding where, when and by what means to go to college can be a difficult decision process. We want to help! The Silver Lake Blog is intended to be a resource as you navigate these choices, from what type of school to choose to how to finance your education. Watch this space for helpful tips. 


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