5 Things You Didn’t Know about the TOEFL

If you’ve ever applied to a university in the US, you know what they ask for after your transcripts and application fee – TOEFL scores.  This English language exam is recognized as an academic benchmark for understanding, and if you’ve taken the TOEFL before, you know why.  With all four language skills tested, and about four hours of testing time, you’re in for a hard day’s academic work.

You probably already know the basics – the four parts of the TOEFL exam, the difference between an independent and integrated speaking or writing task, how many lectures you’ll hear on the listening section.  But there are a few things that even the most seasoned test-taker might not know about this infamous test.


What does “22” even mean, anyway?

1. Your score is not your score!

In the TOEFL speaking section, the scores you receive are from 1-30, but that’s not how your individual responses are scored.  A TOEFL scorer gives each of your responses a grade from 0-4, and from those six responses your grades are averaged, then converted into a 1-30 score.  So, when you’re answering the questions on the speaking section, don’t be thinking “What does a 30 look like? a 27? a 19?”  Instead, think, “How can I get a 4/4 on this answer?”.  That’s a lot easier!

What do you think of this answer? What about this one?

2. LOTS of people are going to look at your test.

After you finish your exam, your answers get sent back to ETS (the company that writes and runs the TOEFL exam) and they break your exam up into its 4 parts.  The reading and listening sections, which are multiple choice, are graded by computer – but the writing and speaking sections require actual humans to assess and score them.  Enter, the TOEFL SCORER!  These are English teachers, university professors, retired instructors, and educational aides working with ETS to help award scores to exam responses.  Usually, to ensure accuracy, more than one person will score each of your responses on the writing and speaking sections.  If you receive several different scores, then even more scorers will grade your answers, to make sure that you get a correct assessment of your abilities.

Don’t worry, your name isn’t attached to any of your exam materials.  When your exam is sent to ETS, that file and each answer in it is assigned a number, so no one knows which answers belong to which exam.  Once the scores are entered, the system converts them back and assigns them to your exam file, which has your name.

Don’t worry, there’s always next time!

3. This is not the end.

You can take the TOEFL many times, and there is no limit on how many.  The only rule is that you won’t be allowed to retake the test within 12 days of your previous exam.  There are usually several different test centers to choose from in one city, and so long as you leave yourself time to recover from the exam, and the required two weeks, you can schedule another exam date whenever you like.

It is even recommended – by both ETS and LingoLoop! – that you take the exam at least twice.  The first time lets you become familiar with the test, and the second time lets you really show what you know.

But I’ve been teaching English for years!

4.  Sometimes, even native speakers don’t get perfect scores!

The TOEFL is meant to gauge how well you’ll do at an English-speaking University.  An English teacher might get a perfect score the first time they take the TOEFL, but a regular English-speaking dentist, for example, might not.  You need to be familiar with the TOEFL layout as well as the language to score highly.

For example, on the speaking sections, you’re sometimes required to give your opinion on something, sometimes you’re only expected to remember details from a lecture that you listen to.  Losing concentration or forgetting to give your opinion can really affect your score.

Check out LingoLoop’s TOEFL Speaking course for help getting familiar with the TOEFL speaking section, to learn how you can avoid these simple mistakes!

Do you think I could borrow your extra hand for my exam?

5.  Speaking English isn’t the only thing you need to know!

Using a QWERTY keyboard, being comfortable wearing a headset and speaking into a microphone, taking good notes – all of these are important parts of a successful TOEFL grade.  From there, being familiar with the format of each section of the test, and how to create great answers to each question, are even more important!




Contact LingoLoop today to learn how you can learn how to conquer the TOEFL Speaking section, and make your next exam a breeze.


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