History of the toefl test

Author Christine SarikasPosted on April 5, 2017July 21, 2017Categories TOEFL General InfoTags what to lớn expect on the toefl


If English isn’t your first language & you want to attend an English-speaking university or grad program, you’ll probably need to submit TOEFL scores. If that’s the case, you might have a lot of questions: Is the TOEFL hard? Should you study? What should you be most prepared for?

We’re here lớn explain exactly how hard the TOEFL is, which parts of the exam you need to lớn look out for, & (good news!) why the demo may not be so difficult for you after all! We kết thúc the guide with tips and practice materials khổng lồ help you be your most prepared and confident self on test day.

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Is the TOEFL Hard Overall?

First, let’s get a basic sense of the TOEFL’s difficulty by looking at average scores, opinions of previous chạy thử takers, và how the TOEFL compares to lớn other standardized tests.

ETS, the organization that creates và administers the TOEFL, describes the TOEFL as an exam that “measures your ability khổng lồ use và understand English at the university level.” The TOEFL is designed to test how strong your English skills are for undergraduate or postgraduate enrollment in an English-speaking school. Scoring well indicates you are likely khổng lồ understand the material taught and participate in class without a lot of difficulty.

The TOEFL has four different sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. Each section is scored from 0-30, meaning your total score will range from 0-120. According to ETS, the average TOEFL score for năm ngoái was an 84, or about a 21 in each of the sections. However, that information doesn’t really tell us how difficult the TOEFL is.

To get better information, it can help khổng lồ hear directly from kiểm tra takers themselves. Now, everyone has their own opinion on the TOEFL, but the general consensus among thử nghiệm takers is that, while the TOEFL can have challenging questions and test you on specific details, it won’t be too much of a challenge if you’re exposed khổng lồ English regularly, such as taking classes that are in English, and you can communicate fairly easily in English. However, if you are still learning English và are only exposed to it in English-learning classes, you may struggle during the test since it does require a strong grasp of the language khổng lồ score well, & because you need to be able lớn block out distractions lượt thích other people speaking around you.

Here are some quotes about the TOEFL from students on College Confidential:

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“If you can have an everyday conversation and write academic papers in English, you are all set for the test.”“I took the iBT and it is easy, but it is really long so you might get tired. Make sure to kiểm tra what types of question they ask, just to know what to expect.”“Another thing that is difficult when you do the test, is the speaking part. Since everyone is speaking it is harder for you to lớn concentrate on whatever part of the thử nghiệm you are doing.”“If you have taken the SAT and got above a 600 in both the English sections, you should be able khổng lồ get a 100+ with ease.”“Sitting in front of the computer for 3 and a half hours can really strain your eyes & make you lose concentration. I hated the speaking part the most cos I kept on stuttering which made me waste time.”

Hearing the opinions of other people can give you a better idea of how hard the TOEFL is, but it can also help to lớn compare the TOEFL to lớn other tests you may have taken. Compared lớn other standardized tests such as the SAT, ACT, & GRE, the TOEFL is generally considered lớn be easier (assuming you have strong English skills) since it’s focusing more on testing those English skills than testing your knowledge of mathematical equations or nuances in writing. If you scored well on any of the above tests and didn’t struggle too much with the English, you’ll likely vày well on the TOEFL, although the TOEFL Reading section has passages written at a more difficult level than those on the SAT & ACT.

Most people find the TOEFL và the IELTS, another English-language test, lớn be fairly similar in difficulty, although a lot depends on whether which test’s format you prefer. Learn more about how the TOEFL and IELTS compare to each other.

Knowing how others felt after taking the TOEFL can give you a better idea of what to expect.

How Hard Is the TOEFL? 7 Challenging Aspects

We’ve discussed the overall difficulty màn chơi of the exam, but you might still be wondering, “Is the TOEFL going to be hard for me?” It depends! There are many aspects of the TOEFL that can make it a difficult test, but I’ve listed the seven most challenging factors below lớn help you see what might be hard for you.

#1: Length

Right off the bat, one of the most difficult aspects of the TOEFL is its length. It takes nearly four hours to complete the TOEFL. Even if you find many of the questions easy, that’s a long time lớn be taking any test, particularly one in a language that isn’t your native language. Many people begin to tire during the later sections, và this can cause you lớn make silly mistakes you otherwise wouldn’t have.

Added to lớn that, the final section of the TOEFL is Writing, where you’ll need lớn plan và write two essays which means you can’t be running out of steam when you get lớn this section. You’ll need khổng lồ build up your endurance and learn to lớn pace yourself before thử nghiệm day to have an easier time getting through the entire test.

#2: Difficult Vocab

You’ll be tested most directly on your vocab knowledge in the Reading section, where you’ll be reading vocab-heavy academic passages and asked questions directly about vocabulary, but you’ll need a strong vocabulary for every section of the TOEFL.

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 Knowing lots of English vocab will help you understand all the questions you’ll be asked và to read prompts and passages.

Even fluent English speakers can have a weak vocabulary, so don’t assume vocab won’t give you any trouble before you take some practice tests. Additionally, because the TOEFL uses a lot of academic texts, a lot of the vocab can be more formal than what you may be used to lớn hearing and reading, adding another element of difficulty.

#3: Many Questions Require Multiple Skills

The TOEFL is organized into four sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing, but that doesn’t mean you’ll only be practicing one skill at a time. Many questions require you to lớn use two or more skills in order lớn answer the question. This is seen most in the Speaking and Writing sections. In Speaking, there are two tasks where you’ll need to lớn listen to a conversation, read a written passage, then speak your response, all in rapid succession.

For the Integrated Task in the Writing section, you’ll need khổng lồ listen khổng lồ a conversation, read a passage, then write your response. Other questions on the TOEFL phối listening & reading, reading and writing, speaking & listening, và other combinations of skills.

In short, you’ll need to be able khổng lồ quickly switch between multiple English skills throughout the chạy thử in order lớn answer a majority of the questions. Many English learners, particularly when they’re still becoming more comfortable with the language, struggle khổng lồ go from speaking to lớn reading khổng lồ listening in such quick succession, & it can cause them khổng lồ miss important details và make careless mistakes, further increasing the difficulty of the TOEFL.

You’ll often need to juggle different skills to bởi vì well on the TOEFL.

#4: Questions About Minor Details

The TOEFL is definitely not an exam where you can get by skimming passages & questions and getting by only knowing half of what was discussed or just the “big picture.” You’ll often be asked questions about minor details in order to lớn really demo your English knowledge.

On both the Reading and Writing sections, you’ll need to be able khổng lồ understand and answer questions about minor details mentioned in written passages. If you’re used khổng lồ skimming or just skipping words or phrases you don’t know, you could be missing a lot of questions. This factor is most obvious in the Listening section, where you’ll listen to lớn audio recordings that are several minutes long. A lot is discussed in these recordings, and, while you can take notes, you won’t be able to lớn listen khổng lồ any of the recordings a second time. You’ll have just once chance to lớn remember everything you need to.

Again, if you’ve gotten by so far by only understanding, say 85% of what’s said during conversations in English, you may find yourself struggling a lot khổng lồ answer the more detailed questions on the Listening section and other parts of the TOEFL.

#5: Open-Ended Questions

Answering four hours worth of multiple-choice questions in English is hard enough, but many questions on the TOEFL require more than just selecting the correct answer. On both the Speaking and Writing sections you’ll be asked broad, open-ended questions and asked to lớn give a clear và detailed response.

Take this sample Speaking question: “What is your favorite childhood memory?” khổng lồ answer it, you’ll need to lớn select one memory from all those (probably hundreds or thousands) you have from childhood & speak about it for 45 seconds. Similarly, on the Writing section, you’ll see essay prompts that ask you khổng lồ explain your opinion on a particular topic và back up that opinion with specific reasons & examples.

For both of these types of questions, there are many things you could discuss, and that can often make it more difficult because you are the one who has khổng lồ choose what the best things lớn talk/write about are instead of it being chosen for you. If you are used to lớn taking tests with mostly multiple-choice questions, having lớn answer open-ended questions that require you khổng lồ choose what topic to lớn discuss then add details and examples khổng lồ it can be difficult to bởi vì if you haven’t had a lot of practice.

#6: Distractions During the Speaking Section

You’ll likely be taking the TOEFL in a room full of other test-takers, and when you reach the Speaking section, you’ll all be speaking at more or less the same time. Numerous test-takers mentioned this as one of hardest parts of the TOEFL because they found it difficult khổng lồ concentrate and give their own response when in a room filled with other people talking. Some even suggested that ETS should change the way the Speaking section is administered because it’s so distracting. If you’re used to lớn quiet or near-quiet when practicing English, this change can be jarring & cause you khổng lồ stumble over your words and miss important points.

#7: Time Crunch

In addition to being a long test and having many tricky questions, you also need lớn get through those questions at a fairly quick pace. Below is the format of the TOEFL, and each section has the number of questions and length included.

SectionNumber of QuestionsTime Given
Reading36-5660-80 minutes
Listening34-5160-90 minutes
Speaking6 tasks20 minutes
Writing2 tasks20 minutes, then 30 minutes

As you can see, you’ll need khổng lồ answer Reading and Listening questions at a fairly decent pace, especially considering that some time will be lost while you read passages or listen khổng lồ conversations.