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If you are a international student looking to study in a university in an English speaking country, then you may need to take a TOEFL test. TOEFL is an acronym of the Test of English as a Foreign Language, which is the official name for the test. It assesses your ability to both speak and understand English by analysing your English ability in terms of reading, speaking, listening and writing. These are all skills which will be needed to carry out your academic studies and the test is used by institutions to ensure students are able to proceed and succeed on their chosen course in a country where the curriculum is taught in English.

The TOEFL test is usually conducted in the form of an online test, but if the test centre does not have an internet connection then a paper-based test can be offered.

Who needs to take a TOEFL test?

The TOEFL test has been taken by over 27 million people worldwide to ensure their English ability is adequate. The test is often taken by students who are planning to study at a university abroad and scholarship candidates, along with students and workers who are applying for visas and English-language learners tracking their English progress. Keep an eye out on the requirements for university courses, as it will be stated there whether you are required to take the TOEFL and the minimum grade required to apply for the course.

Why take a TOEFL test?

Educational institutions and governmental agencies in over 130 countries accept TOEFL scores when considering applications for certain positions or courses. As an admission requirement, you may find that some courses require a minimum TOEFL score which will allow you to proceed onto the course alongside the regular course requirements. Minimum score requirements can range between 61 and 100 depending on the institution and course.

The result you receive in your TOEFL test will only be valid for two years, after those two years they are no longer recorded, so if you’re looking to apply to study abroad after this time, you will have to sit the test again. It is important to ensure you take the test in time for your application if the result is part of the requirements; if you are only studying a course which lasts a year the same TOEFL results could be used to improve your opportunities for work in a foreign country also.

If it is part of the requirements for your admission then it is important to research in more depth and be prepared for the different elements of the test. Here are the different elements of each test:

Internet test (TOEFL iBT)

– A reading section of between 60-100 minutes which involves reading 3-5 passages, containing 12-14 question in each
– A listening section of between 60-90 minutes which involves 6-9 passages, containing 5-6 questions in each
– A speaking section which lasts 20 minutes and involves 6 spoken tasks
– A writing section which last 50 minutes and involves 2 tasks which need completion

Paper-based test (TOEFL PBT)

– A listening section of between 30-40 minutes consisting of 3 parts
– A structure and written expression section lasting 25 minutes which includes 15 exercises of sentence completion and 25 examples for error identification
– A reading section which lasts 50 minutes and includes answering 50 questions about passages
– A writing section which lasts 30 minutes, which involves one written essay containing around 250-300 words

The main difference between the two formats is the spoken section of the test which is replaced by structure and written expressions section in the paper-based test.


The cost of doing the TOEFL test varies between different countries, ranging from US$160 to US$250. It is important to see this as an investment rather than a cost, because if you achieve a score which helps you progress on to your course and you graduate it will improve your future job prospects.

Where can I take a TOEFL test?

There are many tests throughout the year across the world which you could possibly take. There are 4,500 TOEFL test centres in 165 countries, meaning there’s going to be a centre which is easily accessible to you. You can find your nearest test centre on the official TOEFL website, which contains the locations of test centres and which format they conduct the test in.

It is important to check the admission requirements for your chosen university or institution to see if TOEFL results are required for entry prior to applying. If so then the next step is ensuring that you find a test centre to carry out your test at. Once you have your TOEFL results, remember that a record of them only lasts for 2 years, so make the most of the hard work and money you put into it and improve your future prospects.

Building Skills

Developing Skills

Mastering Skills