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TOEFL: Everything you need to know

We have gathered valuable information regarding the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and a few tips that could make a huge difference when taking this English proficiency test.

TOEFL: Everything you need to know

One of the biggest nightmares international students face is the college admission tests (SAT/ACT and TOEFL), especially for non-English speaking students.

It is very difficult to balance the weight of being a successful student in high school and a competitive athlete, but when you add the pressure of the college admission tests things get really stressful, you need all the information possible and all the support of your family, coaches, teachers, and even your friends.

As your preferred college advisors, we want to help you too! We have gathered valuable information regarding the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and a few tips that could make a huge difference when taking this English proficiency test. 


The Basics:

The TOEFL takes about 3 hours and is divides into four sections:

  • Reading
  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Writing

Some sections will be longer than others, so be prepared. There is also a 10-minute break between the Listening and Speaking sections, students are allowed to bring a snack to eat while on the break. 



Each section has a score range of 0-30 points, these are added together for a total score of 0–120. One question we always get is “What is a good score on the TOEFL?”, well each case is different, the answer to that question is “it depends on which universities you are aiming for and the financial aid you need”. 

Each university has a minimum TOEFL score required for admissions. It varies but usually, scores on the range of 90-100 are more likely to be accepted into most colleges in the U.S. 

Highly selective institutions such as NYU, Yale, Harvard, and Columbia amongst others, will require a score above 100. 

If you already have a college list, you can check the requirement for each school and set your personal TOEFL Score Baseline. Now, there is such a thing as a low score. “The overall baseline is about 65, If you've got below 65 on the TOEFL you're probably not going to get in anywhere except perhaps on conditional acceptance," says David Recine, an expert from Magoosh (an online platform to specialize in preparing for the test). 

Conditional acceptance means the student is on probation and was accepted under the term to take English classes as a requirement. 


Here are a few tips to help you prepare for the exam:

  1. Plan Ahead: Make sure to check all deadlines, test locations, early admissions, and when you intend to apply. It is recommended to start preparing for the exam three months before, so there is no margin for errors and you can make the best out of it.

  2. Practice Exams: The ETS official website offers several practice exams, other sources such as MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) are available on their site as well. You can try other platforms such as Magoosh who are currently offering some of their resources for free and even some video classes are being released on Youtube.

  3. Time Management: You need to practice this, take the practice tests using a stopwatch to simulate the real exam, learning to maximize the time available during each section is very important, and it can make a huge difference.

    You should also get used to the QWERTY keyboard, you will perform better in the writing section if you are able to type faster.

  4. Start Listening: Many International Students have difficulty with the Listening section in special, so practice your English hearing and get your ears used to the different pronunciations. Make sure all your TV, Movies and Music is in English, concentrate on each phrase, listen carefully to every word and practice a lot.

  5. Academic Sources: Most of the questions you will see on the exam were taken from university-level textbooks, or courses students have to take in their first or second year of college. Whenever you have the chance to focus on academic sources do it, also work on expanding your formal vocabulary as many unknown words will appear.

Due to our current situation, students have been able to take the TOEFL Exam at home since March, with a few modifications including a human proctor which watches students while taking the test, that way it prevents cheating.

Recently, the official ETS website released the following news: Test centers are reopening, including in Mainland China. For more information and updates click here.


TOEFL Alternatives:

Check with your college counselor or admission officers to see if the universities you are applying to accept any alternatives to the TOEFL test. We have noticed an increasing trend of universities accepting the Duolingo Test. You should also consider that option.

Feel free to reach out to our team for any questions regarding the TOEFL or any other of the admission tests. We are more than happy to help you with all your college recruiting needs.


Citation & Resources

“TOEFL Tips for Prospective International Students”
U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report

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