TOEFL Reading and Test Preparation

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is required by almost all universities and colleges in the United States to test English language proficiency of international students and non-native English speakers. The TOEFL exam is typically taken before submitting application materials to a higher education institution, and every school or university has different requirements on test scores. Students who want to pass the TOEFL exam the first time can take prep courses and complete practice tests to improve their test-taking skills and become comfortable with the format of the exam.

What is the TOEFL Exam?

The TOEFL tests students on English language proficiency to ensure that they have the skills and knowledge needed to communicate effectively with students and teachers at their higher education institution, and can also understand the textbooks and other course materials they will be referencing throughout the semester. The TOEFL exam measures the ability to understand North American English, and it can be completed in either paper form, or as a computer-based test (iBT).

The TOEFL exam is only administered at licensed test centers and is completed in a supervised setting. It consists of four main sections that cover reading, listening, speaking and writing skills.

Features of the TOEFL Test

The paper TOEFL exam and the computer-based TOEFL test are structured slightly differently, but both are equally as challenging. The paper based test consists of a listening comprehension test, structure and written expression component, reading comprehension test and a writing test.

The computer-based test consists of reading passages and answering questions for each passage, listening to lectures and answering questions about the conversation, completing a set of speaking tasks, and completing an integrated writing task plus an independent writing task.

In the USA, the price to take the TOEFL exam is $150, and is about $185 if taken in the United Kingdom. The paper-based TOEFL exam typically costs about $150 in the United Kingdom.

The TOEFL exam typically takes about four hours to complete, and is broken down into the following time frames:

  • Reading: Approximately 50 questions, 60 to 100 minutes total time
  • Listening: Approximately 42 questions, 60 to 90 minutes total time
  • Speaking: 2 independent tasks and 4 integrated tasks, 20 minutes total time)
  • Writing: 1 integrated task and 1 independent task, 50 minutes total time

TOEFL Preparation Courses: What to Expect

TOEFL practice exams and preparation courses are designed to help students pass the exam the first time they take it. TOEFL prep courses are typically delivered in a classroom setting, but self-study options are also available. If a student wishes to complete a TOELF prep course independently, they may consider enrolling in an online TOEFL preparation program or complete the course by submitting coursework and assignments through the mail.

Some preparation courses include a set number of hours with a teacher or tutor who can coach the student, and answer any questions they may have as they work through each section of the prep course.

Components of TOEFL Prep Courses

Most TOEFL preparation courses include practice tests and mock exams so that students can become comfortable with the format of the examination. The key features of the TOEFL prep course include:

  • Review of basic and advanced grammar principals
  • Vocabulary building skills
  • Learning test-taking strategies specific to both the paper-based and computer-based TOEFL exam
  • Receiving feedback on practice TOEFL tests
  • Improving English listening skills
  • Completing beginner to advanced reading comprehension activities
  • Taking mock TOEFL exams and practice tests to increase test-taking proficiency

Classroom-based TOEFL exam prep programs typically consist of classes that meet once or twice per week, comprehensive course materials, and intensive homework assignments to help students master each area of the test.

Other Options for TOEFL Preparation

Another option for students that want to prepare for the TOEFL exam is to pay for private tutoring. This is most suitable for students who have special needs or need extra help in understanding the basic principles of English grammar, vocabulary, listening and speaking skills. Private tutors can create a customized educational program to address the student's weaknesses and ensure that they master the TOEFL test the first time they take it. Tutors may also encourage students to complete several practice TOEFL exams and complete role-playing exercises for the speaking and listening portion of the test.