In the first minute, on their very first day in my TOEFL class, I ask new students the following questions:
Why do you want to take the TOEFL?
What score do you need to get into the program that you want?
Will your program accept another test besides TOEFL?
Before you begin your TOEFL studies, it is important that YOU answer these questions. Not your mother. Not your father. Not your teacher. Not your agent. YOU. It’s important you answer them because it’s your life. No one else has to go through the hard work of studying for this test but you. So, before you begin that hard work, answer these questions.
1. Why do you want to take the TOEFL?
Some students want to take TOEFL to improve their English. They’re studying TOEFL for fun. (Shocking, right?) I think this is really cool! Keep studying!
Some students want to take TOEFL to get a job in their country or abroad.
Most students want to take TOEFL because they are trying to get into an academic certificate program or they want to enroll in an undergraduate (B.A./B.S.) program or a graduate (M.A./M.S./M.B.A.) program or a PhD program in the United States or another English speaking country.
2. What score do you need to get into the program that you want?
Many students have been told that in order to get into a program or get a job, they should take the TOEFL. So, they sign up for a TOEFL course and begin studying without even knowing what score is necessary. If this is you, STOP studying TOEFL right now! First, find out the score you need to reach your goal.
If you are taking the TOEFL for a job, ask the company or organization you want to work for what TOEFL score is necessary.
Remember, the TOEFL is not a pass/fail exam. A perfect score on the TOEFL iBT is 120. Does your job or program require a score of 80? 85? Or 90?
If you are taking the TOEFL test for an academic program, you have to do your research. Each program will have different requirements. Some certificate programs want to see a TOEFL score of 87. Some B.A. programs want 80. Some competitive programs want 100.
What do I want to study?
What school offers that?
Does this school have a TOEFL requirement and minimum score?
Look at the school's website to see if you can find the TOEFL's minimum score requirement. Call the school and speak to an admissions counselor or administrative assistant in YOUR department. Tell them that you are thinking of applying to their program. Ask what the minimum TOEFL score requirement is. Write down the information. Research more schools that you might apply to. Many U.S. students look at the publication U.S. News & World Report for university rankings as a starting place.
Every program is different. Some programs DO NOT even have a TOEFL requirement. Yes, you heard me! You might not even have to take the TOEFL! Find out if you do.
There is NO ONE on this planet that knows every TOEFL score requirement for every department, for every major, in every school in the English speaking world. That’s why YOU and only YOU can find out this information through your own research.
3. Will your program accept another test besides TOEFL?
Some programs and jobs will accept another test besides TOEFL. Some accept the IELTS. Why continue to cry over a TOEFL score when you can take another test that might be easier for you? Find out all the tests and the minimum scores your program accepts. That way, if you don’t get your TOEFL score right away, you are aware of your options.
There are many ways to get to your goal. The path is not the same for everyone, nor should it be. If you cannot get the required TOEFL score, there may be another way. Many schools offer an academic English Writing Program prior to enrollment for students who do not meet the minimum requirement for a TOEFL score. Ask your program!
There’s only one person living your life and it’s YOU! That makes you the only one who can find the answers that will help you reach your goal.