Let's take a close look at TOEFL iBT so that you can crack the English proficiency test!

What draws Indian test-takers to the TOEFL iBT? How has the exam changed over the years? Which countries accept TOEFL scores? Here are all these questions, answered
TOEFL iBT, here we come!
TOEFL iBT, here we come!(Pic: EdexLive Desk)

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is one of the most popular standardised tests in the world. More than 30 million people all over the world take the test due to its wise acceptability.

Scores of this English language test are most commonly used to apply for admissions, visas, scholarships, and immigration to countries like the United Stated of America (USA), the United Kingdom (UK), Canada, Germany, Singapore, and more.

Recently, TOEFL was also approved by the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for use in Canada’s Student Direct Stream (SDS) — highlighting the growing popularity of the test and making it a crucial choice for students aspiring to pursue education abroad.

Currently, TOEFL is offered as an internet-based exam, called the TOEFL iBT. To understand the test better, EdexLive speaks to Sachin Jain, Country Head of ETS, the organisation that conducts the TOEFL iBT.

Here are some excerpts.

What percentage of students from India typically take the TOEFL IBT?

In recent years, there has been a notable increase in the number of Indian students taking the TOEFL iBT exam. In Financial Year 2021, the number of Indian test takers grew by 53% compared to the previous year.

This trend continued in 2022, with an increase of 63% year-on-year. These figures highlight a growing preference for the TOEFL iBT among Indian students, likely due to its wide acceptance in English-speaking countries and importance for those seeking international education.

The rising numbers reflect the increasing aspirations of Indian students to study abroad and the key role of the TOEFL iBT in their academic plans.

What are the rules and regulations about the TOEFL iBT exam? How many times is a student allowed to take the test, and are there any specific timeframes for retakes?

The TOEFL iBT test offers flexible scheduling options to accommodate students' needs.

For those opting for the Home Edition, the test can be taken at any time of the day, providing convenience and comfort.

Additionally, the test is available multiple times throughout the month at authorised test centres, ensuring ample opportunities for students to choose a slot that suits their schedule.

Students are free to retake the TOEFL iBT test as many times as they wish, with the only requirement being a three-day gap between attempts. This flexibility is ideal for those aiming to enhance their scores or to fulfil specific requirements for universities or immigration.

It's important to note that if you have an upcoming test appointment, you cannot register for another test if it falls within three days of your existing appointment. This rule holds even if you have previously cancelled your scores from an earlier test.

What does the TOEFL iBT test cover and how can learners take the test?

The TOEFL IBT iBT test comprehensively evaluates English communication skills by integrating four key language areas: Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing.

The Speaking and Writing sections of the test are designed to reflect real-world academic experiences in an approachable manner. In these sections, you'll engage in integrated tasks that involve combining information from different sources.

For example, you might read a passage and listen to a lecture, followed by delivering a response either orally or in writing. This method not only makes the test more interactive but also closely aligns with typical academic activities.

To ensure a fair and unbiased evaluation, your responses in these sections are assessed through a system of multiple ratings, providing a well-rounded view of your abilities.

Generally, what aspect of the TOEFL iBT exam presents the most challenges for Indian students? Are there recommended strategies for overcoming these challenges?

The TOEFL iBT is now the shortest and most widely recognised English language proficiency test among popular options. With effective preparation, test takers can attain their desired scores. The recommended preparation duration and the test's most demanding section vary depending on factors like a person's language skills.

Typically, it's advisable to dedicate a minimum of four to eight weeks for preparation, but this timeframe may differ based on individual circumstances.

Test takers should start by evaluating their current English proficiency and setting a goal score that meets the requirements of their chosen university.

Additionally, personal factors like learning speed, existing commitments, and daily routines should be factored in to determine how much time can be devoted to preparing for the TOEFL iBT.

It's also crucial for candidates to acquaint themselves with the TOEFL IBT iBT format. Utilising resources and practice tests available on the official website is highly beneficial. These materials help identify areas needing improvement, enabling candidates to focus their practice time effectively and enhance their skills.

How has the TOEFL exam evolved since its inception?

Ever since the test was introduced, there has been a need for a more advanced TOEFL test to better reflect communicative competence, incorporate more constructed-response tasks, and directly measure writing and speaking skills. It also aimed to integrate different language modalities and provide a clearer assessment of international students' ability to use English in academic settings, compared to the paper-based TOEFL (TOEFL PBT).

Today, there is now a TOEFL Family of Assessments which provides English-language tests for every step of a learner’s journey, starting at age eight.

Over the last few years, the TOEFL iBT test has undergone significant enhancements for a more efficient and user-friendly experience. Most recently, the duration of the test has been reduced to under two hours, streamlining it from the previous three-hour format.

Other notable features include predictive scores for the Listening and Reading sections immediately upon test completion, and the introduction of the 'MyBest Scores' feature, which compiles your highest scores from each section across all attempts, showcasing your best overall performance.

These updates collectively make the TOEFL iBT test more convenient and beneficial for students.

During which period do a majority of Indian students typically opt to take the TOEFL iBT test? Does ETS offer any recommendations for the ideal timing of the test, and does this recommendation vary based on the destination country?

Indian students typically choose when to take the TOEFL iBT test based on their preferences and the application deadlines of their chosen universities and programmes. As these deadlines vary across different universities and academic terms, there is no set period for taking the TOEFL iBT.

The decision on when to take the test is linked to each student's admission strategy and the requirements of their selected institutions. In addition, scores are valid for two years, which provides additional flexibility.

We do not recommend a specific time for the test, acknowledging the varied admission schedules of educational institutions worldwide.

Is there a particular field of education from which the TOEFL iBT exam sees the highest number of test takers?

The TOEFL iBT exam is a widely recognised English language proficiency test used by students across various fields of education.

While it is popular among students in all disciplines, there is a notable prevalence of test takers from fields that typically require a high level of English proficiency such as business, engineering, and the sciences.

However, it's important to note that the TOEFL iBT exam is not limited to or predominantly used by any single field of education.

What practice test strategies does ETS suggest for students preparing for the TOEFL iBT exam? Could you guide the recommended types and quantity of practice tests?

To excel in the TOEFL iBT test, it's crucial to adopt effective preparation methods. Candidates should start by getting a clear understanding of the test format, types of questions, and timing requirements.

ETS's official website offers a wealth of resources to assist test takers in their TOEFL iBT preparation. The TOEFL iBT Free Practice Test is a valuable tool for gauging readiness, featuring actual questions from past tests, along with correct answers and example responses. Additionally, the website provides free practice sets for each test section — Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing — which are vital for practice and skill enhancement.

Test takers should also focus on managing their time efficiently for each section and question, ensuring a consistent pace to complete all tasks within the allotted time. Effective time management is key to achieving the best performance during the test.

If a student completes a section early, they can use the remaining time to review their answers and ensure all questions have been addressed, taking advantage of the fact that there is no penalty for wrong answers in the TOEFL iBT.

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