International applicants are typically asked to submit documentation, showing proof that they can master a certain level of English, which prepares them for the class curriculum in college. The most common tests used by universities' admissions offices are the TOEFL, IELTS and increasingly more so, Duolingo Test.
TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language and is offered by the ETS. Think of the TOEFL as a test, which assesses pretty much the same you've been learning in high school over the last years. It tests your ability to read texts and process information in written form. It tests your ability to understand what's being said. It tests how well you speak English and finally how well you are able to write. Consequently, the TOEFL consists of 4 test sections, each worth a maximum of 30 points:
You will be asked to read a text followed by a series of questions, to assess how well you have understood the information. Information, which has been stated explicitly, but also the information which you may find between the lines:
- 3-4 reading items, around 700 words long and 10 questions
Most high school students are faced with listening comprehension in their high school English classes. Some of that may be by teachers reading for them and asking questions thereafter, whereas other formats may include listening modules on tape, including various English dialects and accents. The TOEFL section will do just that: test your ability to first and foremost understand what's being said in a conversation or dialogue, but also to process the information and apply it. Why does Person A say this and what does Person B mean by saying that? 2 types of listening tasks are applied:
- 3–4 lectures (3–5 minutes long) with 6 questions per lecture
- 2–3 conversations between 2 speakers (each 3 minutes) with 5 questions per conversation
4 questions will test your level of spoken English in situations in and outside of a classroom (in the U.S.). 1 question will be about your views, thoughts and opinions only, an “independent speaking task”, whereas the other 3 questions deal with “integrated tasks”, such as combining your listening and reading ability with your ability to transmit this information.
Because the entire test is being completed on the computer, your responses are being recorded and sent to the ETS.
The speaking section takes a total of 17 minutes.
Last but not least, college will involve a lot of writing; academic essays. The TOEFL test uses 2 writing tasks:
- Independent writing
Your take on things in an essay, based on your experience and opinion on a given topic
- Integrated writing
You either read and/or listen to a passage and will then produce your response
The speaking section takes a total of 50 minutes.
Considering each section is worth between 0 - 30 points, the entire TOEFL has a score range of 0-120. As a rule of thumb a score above 100 is an extremely strong level of English for high school graduates. In most cases, this brings you close to meeting the minimum TOEFL requirement of the most renowned schools in the U.S.
Be realistic about your level of English.
Example: if you score 55 on your first TOEFL test and your dream school requires 95, it will almost be impossible for you to reach such a high score. You should rather pursue schools with a minimum requirement, closer to 61 or a bit above.
TOEFL test dates
We always speak SAT/ACT test with our athletes first. Why is that?
Unlike SAT/ACT, which is only offered internationally 6-7 times a year, the TOEFL test is often offered 1-4 days a month. This allows for a lot more flexibility, as it's basically offered year-round.
Bear in mind that available test dates depend on your country of residency and you will need to register with a TOEFL account to get an overview on which test is available in your region.
TOEFL provides 6 different preparation options, of which 3 are listed below and you will need to plan carefully which preparation means work best for you:
- Practice Tests
- Guides and Books
As for ACT/SAT preparation, you may choose to invest in hiring private teachers/tutors or any other online services, which help you in getting ready for test date. This could be a smart investment and may make the difference between getting accepted or not to your dream school, but do keep in mind that most U.S. colleges don't use TOEFL scores for academic scholarship packages.
"The TOEFL is of huge importance to college coaches recruiting you. You can look perfect on a coaches' checklist, but a poor TOEFL can make it impossible for you to get recruited by the school."
Register for the TOEFL test by using the online registration system: TOEFL registration. Fees vary depending on the test location, but range from approximately 185 USD - 270 USD. Your TOEFL result is valid for 2 years following your test.
Read up on the second big test for international applicants to schools in the U.S.: IELTS.