TOEFL - a Comprehensive Test of English Language

Expertise in English is an essential attribute that all candidates (whose native language is not English) wishing to study in colleges and universities of English speaking nations must develop. Thus, a good score in an internationally acknowledged English language test is essential if you want your admission applications to receive their due considerations. The TOEFL is one such comprehensive English language test that is accepted by nearly 8500 colleges, universities, institutes and agencies. But, before you start considering this examination you should know why it is considered a complete English language test.

TOEFL as a Comprehensive Test of English

Before you start preparing for the test you must know the various features of this examination and why this particular English language test is different from others. The reasons that set the test apart from other similar tests are as follows:

  • TOEFL is the only examination that successfully combines all the 4 uses (reading, listening, speaking and understanding) of a language. Moreover, the exam score that you get will provide individual score of each section of the test, as well as, a total score, making the analysis of your skills with English easier.

  • The admissions departments of most universities consider the exam score that you receive is the true indicator of your capabilities in being able to communicate in an academic environment.

  • The scores are accepted by nearly 8000 universities and colleges worldwide. Among them nearly 5000 universities and colleges in the USA alone accept exam scores. Thus, if you appear for the test and score well in the examination it will increase your chances of getting admission in a college or university, since you will have a larger number of educational institutes to choose from.

  • The questions asked in the TOEFL are all based on academics. Thus, the test score you receive will give admissions authorities a clear idea about your knowledge of English and how well you can understand the language in an academic setting. Moreover, the nature of the questions (hence the answers) are such that a good score in the test makes you eligible for scholarships offered by various universities and colleges.

  • The marking process is also better and more authentic than other similar tests. For example: in the Speaking section of the test your answers are recorded and then they are marked by 3 to 6 ETS examiners. Thus, it rules out any chances of error as the marking process is very strict.

The afore-mentioned features of TOEFL explain how this examination is different from others. Moreover, all sections of the test are held on the same day. In some other examinations you have to come on another day for the 'Speaking' section of the test. However, the Speaking test will be held on the test date that you select, thus, making it more convenient for you. As you prepare for the examination you will have to know the features of the question paper that are explained in the following section.

Know the TOEFL ETS

As mentioned earlier in the article that the questions that you will come across in the test are academically inclined. If you visit the official website ( ) then you will come across self-study books published by the ETS to help candidates prepare for the examination. From the same website you can also download the sample question papers to understand the types of questions that you will have to answer. There are two versions of the examination, viz, iBT (Internet Based TOEFL) and PBT (Paper Based TOEFL). As the name suggests the first one requires an internet connection and the second one is the older version of TOEFL and is held only on locations where there is unavailability of internet connection. The iBT version of the examination is more popular than the PBT version. Most of the sections of both the versions are similar. But, the PBT version has a Test of Written English (TWE), but no Speaking test. In the TWE section you will have to write an essay on a given topic. The questions too are different. Moreover, the sections in this version are different too (Listening Comprehension, Structure and Written Expression, Reading Comprehension and TWE). If you want more details on the structure of the PBT version and sample question and answers then click on the following links:

The various sections along with short explanations are as follows:

In the Reading section of iBT you will have to answer questions after reading 3 to 5 comprehension passages. The questions that you will have to answer are of the following types:

  • Answer questions according to the data provided in the passages

  • Answer negative questions, i.e., identify the data not provided in the passages

  • Draw conclusions based on the data provided.

  • Choose the correct synonyms

Thus, you will have to critically analyze the passages, as well as, have good vocabulary to ace this section of the test.

In the Listening section you will have to critically analyze the conversations or the lectures that will be played for you. The instructions according to which you have to answer the questions will also be in the audio clips that you will hear. Based on what you hear, you will have to answer questions that will reflect your understanding in analyzing the spoken form of the language.

The Writing section will test your skills in listening as well as reading. You will have to read a passage and hear a lecture on the passage that you have read. Based on what you read and hear, you will have to write an essay showing how well you can relate both the things. In the second task for this section, you will have to write an argumentative essay on a given topic.

In the first task in the Speaking section you will have to speak on a given topic. In the second task you will have to voice your opinions based on a conversation that will be played for you. In the final task you will have to read a passage and speak on it. This task will require you to integrate your skills in reading, listening and speaking in English.

This is an outline of what kind of questions you will come across in the examination and how you will have to answer them. This will help you prepare for the examination. However, if you are not confident enough to prepare for TOEFL on your own, you can enroll in a preparatory course. So gather all the information you need about the examination, understand your requirements and start preparing for the examination.