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.

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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!

 

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

 

5 Signs You are Turning into a TOEFL-Wolf!

Studying English can really transform you!

Have you met the TOEFL-Wolf? It’s an English student who has been studying for the TOEFL exam. Slowly, they transform into an English-language beast! It can be contagious, so let’s see if YOU are turning into a TOEFL-Wolf.

 

Here’s a little test:

 

Your friend asks, “Are you coming with us to the movies this evening?”

How do you answer?

 

  1. Yep, see you there.
  2. Bananas
  3. Yes I am coming with you to the movies this evening!

 

Did you answer (c)? Beware! You might be turning into the TOEFL-Wolf!

Preparing for any big day can be scary, but preparing for language exams like the TOEFL or IELTS can be so stressful that your daily habits start to change. Your friends might ask you, “Why don’t I see you anymore?” or “Have you been sleeping poorly?” or even “Why are you so hairy?” Ok, ok, maybe that last one is just for were-wolves, but getting ready for the TOEFL can also transform you!

 

So, get ready! Here are the signs that you’re slowly changing into a TOEFL-Wolf!


You can never have too many complete sentences, right?

You answer even basic questions with long, complete sentences.

 

“Hey, are you coming with us to the movies tonight?”

 

Normal person: “Yep!”

TOEFL-Wolf: “Yes, I am coming with you to the movies tonight!”

 

“I’m ordering dinner, do you like Chinese food?”

Normal person: I do, sounds good!

TOEFL-Wolf: “Yes, I will order dinner with you and do like Chinese food because Chinese food is delicious!”

 

The TOEFL speaking section has two parts, and both ask you to listen to a short recording and then respond with your own thoughts and ideas. You have 45 seconds to speak your answer, which is actually a lot longer than you may think. To take up more response time, and to keep your answer focused on the question, you can use language from the recording in your answer. Just try not to repeat the recording word-for-word; the exam is trying to judge your speaking, not your memory!


You can have 6 opinions on 5 restaurants, but don’t expect anyone to want to listen to them.

You give your opinion on EVERYTHING.

 

“Hey, I’m ordering pizza, what kind do you want?”

Normal person:“Cheese and pepperoni, please.”

TOEFL-Wolf: “Cheese is the traditional topping, but I personally think that sausage and onions are better for a dinner pizza, since the meat is more filling and the onions are a delicious vegetable.”

Both the speaking and writing sections on the TOEFL ask for your opinion on different kinds of information. It might be something as familiar as “What was your favorite game to play as a child? Why?” or it could be as complicated as “Listen to this lecture on globalization and give your opinion on how a country can be successful in the modern business world.” Either way, you need to be ready to have an opinion and talk or write about that opinion. So, you can practice by having opinions on EVERYTHING.

Your friends might decide that they no longer want to ask you where to go for dinner because you take at least 10 minutes to write out your opinions on several different restaurants and, by the time you’re finished, everyone has decided to just quietly leave without you.


You’ve got headphones coming out of your ears! I’m practicing idioms today.

You suddenly have pairs of headphones in every jacket pocket, every bag, every pair of jeans you own. You use them to listen to podcasts and audiobooks, not music.

 

“Hey, you always have those things in your ears, listening to something, do you have a new playlist?”

 

Normal person:“Yeah, I love this new album!”

TOEFL-Wolf: “I don’t listen to music anymore. Have you heard of this podcast call “The Moth”? I’m listening to a Great Courses lecture too, it’s about shark DNA.”

 

The listening section on the TOEFL is one of the most variable. You might listen to conversations, lectures, or classroom discussions on anything from school habits and customs to specific lecture topics from a university class. Trying to follow all these different topics in your daily life can be difficult. However, listening to topics from a lot of different sources can help you prepare. Listening to music can be nice to help with rhythm, but it’s better to listen to people talking, not singing, to practice for the exam. The questions on the listening section come in lots of different styles. So, don’t just pay attention to WHAT you hear, but also HOW it’s being said and WHY the person is saying it.

You may start to develop super-natural hearing. DO NOT offer your opinion on the conversation you can hear in the other classroom, even if you wrote it down.


How did I get here? Why am I holding a pencil? Who are you?

You start to wake up at strange times, in strange places.

 

We’re going out tonight, there’s going to be karaoke until 1am! Do you want to come?

Normal person:“Yeah! I’m going to sing  the Rolling Stones!”

TOEFL-Wolf: “No, I go to bed at 8pm and get up at 5am and practice eating breakfast and getting into my car before 6am.”

 

Why do you always beat me to class? What time do you get here in the morning?

Normal person: “Oh, I’m an early-bird, class starts at 8am so I get here at 7:30.”

TOEFL-Wolf: “I’ve been in this chair since 9pm last night.”

 

It’s no secret, getting a good night’s sleep before a test can help your brain A LOT. Usually, the TOEFL exam is given on Saturdays, so you might start missing out on Friday night fun, or staying up late. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do this forever, but it’s a good idea to get into the habit about a month before the exam so that you’re comfortable.

 

On exam day, if you’re driving, make sure you have a friend ready to give you a ride if you have car trouble or get a flat tire. If you’re going to take a taxi, call the taxi company and book in advance, then call again the night before to confirm. Try to think of everything, and plan for it – this will help minimize your anxiety, and let you focus on the exam. You’ve already prepared for everything else, so there’s nothing to worry about but your fantastic English skills!

 

You might start keeping snacks in your pockets. This is also normal, and eating is allowed during the break in the middle of the exam.


When all your friend start to call you “Teacher”, your transformation is complete!

You begin correcting your friends and asking them questions about things they’ve already said.

 

“Do you want get ice cream after class?”

 

Normal Person:   “Sure, sounds good.”

TOEFL-Wolf: “No, it’s ‘Do you want TO get ice cream’.”

 

“I just tried on this jacket. I think I like it, but I might get the green one instead, since it’s warmer and I don’t have a lot of winter clothes.”

 

Normal Person: “Good idea, I hate the cold.”

TOEFL-Wolf: “Which jacket did you decide to get? Was it:

a) The warmer jacket

b) The more beautiful jacket

c) The cheaper jacket

 

If you reach this stage, there is no turning back: you have become a complete TOEFL-Wolf!

 

To prepare for the reading and listening sections, it’s a good idea to think about both what is being said and what it means. If someone says they’re going to do something, think about why and how, not just what they are doing. Remember, the TOEFL is testing your language understanding, not just your memory, so don’t expect there to be an option like “d) the green jacket”. The test doesn’t want to know if you can repeat something, but if you can comprehend it.

 

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Are you a TOEFL-Wolf? Would you like to learn the wild ways of this English exam? Talk to a LingoLoop tutor today to begin your transformation!