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TOEFL is a test that is supposed to measure your ability to understand, use and communicate in English. TOEFL stands for Test Of English as a Foreign Language. TOEFL was developed by Educational Testing Service (ETS) and this is the official organization that administers the test. When you take the official TOEFL test, you will register and send your money to ETS.

Since 1964, several generations of students have had to take the TOEFL test in order to satisfy admission requirements for North American universities, and other universities around the world. The TOEFL format has evolved over the years. It has gone from the PBT (paper based test, original format), to the CBT (computer based test), to the IBT (Internet based test).

Test center locations used to be the only way to take the IBT TOEFL, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world hard, ETS came out with a Home Edition version in March 2020. Instead of being a temporary measure while test centers had to be closed, the Home Edition has become a permanent way for students to take the TOEFL IBT.

In August 2021, ETS launched the TOEFL Essentials test, an alternative to the purely academic content based IBT. The Essentials test still covers Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking skills, but it has an academic and general content mix, and the tasks are shorter, yet also adaptive (difficulty level changes based on your responses). Before you decide the Essentials version is the way for you to go, make sure the institution(s) you want to apply to accept it.

The one that most people need to pay attention to is the IBT version. Anyone who wants to study at a university or college or work in a country where English is the primary language likely will require a TOEFL score as part of their admission process. Why? Because the universities want to have some proof that your English level meets their minimum requirements before they take your money and let you in. More than 11,500 colleges and universities around the world accept a TOEFL score as proof of your English skills.

You pretty much need to do the TOEFL if you want to attend a university in North America. You should begin by taking a free TOEFL test to get a sample score. You will see that TOEFL contains Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing sections. You will also see that the TOEFL content is very focused on academic English. The TOEFL IBT content consists of the types of articles and conversations that ETS believes you need to master as a first year university student.

See how hard the TOEFL can be? If you haven't had at least five years of intensive English study in your high school, it will be a real challenge to get a high enough TOEFL score. Attending a local university instead might serve you better.

But if you scored at least 18 in Reading and 18 in Listening, then you should go for it. With extra study and practice, you have a good chance to improve your score to meet (or beat) the minimum university requirements.

You can only take the official TOEFL test from ETS. ETS offers it more than 60 times a year, and in countries all over the world. In most countries, finding a testing center is easy. Finding a date that suits your schedule might be harder. Test locations tend to fill up their seats quickly, so we recommend that you register with ETS as soon as you know when you would like to take TOEFL. While the Home Edition gives you options of any hour of the day, multiple days a week, you still need to register well ahead of time. The price (same for IBT, PBT or the Essentials) of the official test varies from country to country. In the USA, it will cost $255US (as of Summer 2023). Refer to the ETS website to find the cost for your country as well as the next available dates and locations.

Next up, you will learn more essential details about the TOEFL IBT test.

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