If you are thinking of applying to an American private school and English is not your first language, you will be required to take a test known as The Test of English as a Foreign Language. Known more commonly as TOEFL which is pronounced TOE-full, this is an important part of the private school admissions process.
TOEFL used to be a paper-based test which is known as TOEFL PBT. This older method of taking the TOEFL test is being phased out. The newer form of TOEFL is TOEFL iBT. This is the test which is administered online in test centers worldwide. This video gives you an overview of what TOEFL is.
TOEFL is administered in most countries. You take the computer-based test at an examination center under supervised testing conditions. Watch this short video
to see how the test is administered.
So let us examine what is involved and how to prepare for the test.
What is TOEFL?
TOEFL is a standardized test administered by the world-famous Educational Testing Service. ETS is based in Princeton, New Jersey and has been around since 1947. It is an old, very established, highly regarded testing service. ETS is a not for profit organization. ETS administers all kinds of tests which are given at over 9,000 locations in 180 countries. The tests with which we are probably most familiar are the SAT and AP tests which high school students typically take in their junior and senior years.
Why do you need TOEFL?
TOEFL assesses your proficiency in writing and understanding English as well as speaking it. In order to study in an American private school where all the classes are given in English, you must demonstrate your ability to understand and speak English in an academic setting.
How do you take TOEFL?
TOEFL is offered in two testing formats. The most common format is the Internet Based Test of iBT as ETS calls it. This is a test which you take on a computer in an authorized testing center. The other format is the PBT or Paper Based Test. It is only offered six times a year as opposed to the internet based test which is given 30-40 times a year depending, of course, on the country where you are taking the test.
Where do you take TOEFL?
You can take TOEFL at over 4,500 test locations in 130 countries.
When do you take TOEFL?
Test dates vary according to the local demand for testing services. For example, Paris, France will have many more testing dates available than Poitiers, France. With that in mind consider the admissions deadlines for the schools to which you plan to apply and schedule your TOEFL exam accordingly.
How often can I take TOEFL?
You can take the TOEFL exam as many times as you wish. However you may only take the test once in a twelve day period.
What does it cost to take TOEFL?
The cost of TOEFL varies from $160 USD to $250 USD. You pay for the test with a credit card when you register online.
What if I am disabled?
The testing service will do its very best to accommodate people with disabilities. ETS has very detailed information on its site. Make sure that you allow plenty of lead time in order to apply for the special accommodations which you require.
What does TOEFL assess?
"The TOEFL test helps prove you have the English skills you will actually use in an academic classroom. In the test, you may read a passage from a textbook and listen to a lecture and then speak or write in response, just like you would in a classroom. Because the test is composed of 100% academic questions and tasks, many universities consider it the most appropriate test to use when making admissions decisions."
How do you prepare for TOEFL?
The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test, TOEFL Practice Online and Engaging English™ Service are all part of the preparation materials which ETS offers on its site. In addition there are dozens of commercial preparation books and online services available. This video is one of dozens which offer strategies and tips to help you prepare for the test.
Is it worth taking special courses to prepare for TOEFL?
That depends on your individual situation. It probably makes sense to work a practice test and see how you score. If your scores are really low, then tutoring or taking some English as a Second Language courses might be the easiest way to re-mediate any deficiencies you might have.
Are there any free web sites which can help you prepare for TOEFL?
There are hundreds of sites which offer English as a Second Language help and instruction. This is an excellent way in which to learn English. The key to learning any language is constant, consistent practice in speaking and writing the language. Another way to improve your English skills is to spend some extended time with an English speaking family. That way you will be forced to both learn and use the language. Since vocabulary is a very important part of preparing for and being successful with TOEFL, identify online resources which will help you with aspect of TOEFL preparation.
Does TOEFL have a Facebook Page?
Yes! TOEFL has an active, professionally presented Facebook Page. Parents and students alike will find it a useful source of news and information about TOEFL as well as a source of test preparation tips and strategies.
Do American private schools offer English as a Second Language?
Yes, many American private schools do offer English as a Second Language (ESL). The schools which do offer ESL courses make that clear in their academic course offerings. If you are not sure whether a particular school does offer ESL course, ask the admissions staff. Developing a strong command of the English language during high school will give you an important foundation for academic work at the college level.
How can I help my child prepare for TOEFL?
We parents have a special role in helping our children to learn. Start the process several years before she has to take the test. Let her watch the videos which explain TOEFL and what the test assesses. These are available online in the TOEFL video librar
y. If there are ESL classes available in your area, it will be worthwhile to have your child attend classes. The more preparation she does, the more confident she will be on the day of the test.
Encourage her to watch English language videos and movies. That will help her develop an understanding of common English phrases and vocabulary. This video provides more resources to help you prepare for TOEFL.
Encourage her to read English language literature. Make this part fun and enjoyable. For example, she will probably enjoy the Harry Potter series, even more so if she can watch the movies as well. There is a wealth of material available to you. There are plenty of online ESL sites which will have many lists of suggested literature and movies for her to watch.
When you begin preparing for TOEFL in this manner, your child will not become stressed out with cramming several years of study and practice of the English language into a few months or weeks. Better that she learn one small step at a time and develop a love for her new language. Who knows, she may even decide that she wants to learn another foreign language as well.
Questions? Contact me via Twitter. @privateschl