Pros and Cons for Taking the TOEFL Test to Apply for a University Abroad

If you want to become an international student and apply to an English-taught programme abroad, you already know you need to prove you master the language very well. And you probably know that one of the ways to do it is with a TOEFL certificate (“Test of English as a Foreign Language”).

Provided by ETS, TOEFL is not the only language testing option out there, so you might be undecided if choosing TOEFL is right for you or not. To help you decide, we’re going to explore some of the main pros and cons of TOEFL tests.  

TOEFL at a glance

TOEFL is a standardised test that measures your English skills, and how well you can use English in an academic setting. Therefore, TOEFL scores are often used in the university admission process. However, the test is useful for other purposes as well: going to high school abroad, going to a short course or an exchange programme, and even applying for a student visa.

There are two types of TOEFL Tests that you can take: The TOEFL iBT® test, that you take online and the revised TOEFL® Paper-delivered Test, a pen and paper exam. There are more centres for TOEFL iBT® then for revised TOEFL® PBT around the world. The paper test is only available in areas where testing via the internet is not possible.

4 pros for taking the TOEFL test

1. TOEFL is recognized by most universities in the world.

And accepted by all universities in the U.S.  About 10,000 universities in 130 countries accept TOEFL, including Canada, the UK, and Australia. All top 100 universities in the world accept TOEFL.

This means that wherever you choose to apply, the TOEFL test will come in handy, and you won’t need to worry about language credentials if you go to exchange programmes or switch universities. Naturally, you should still check and make sure the university you choose is not one of the exceptions not accepting the test.

2. Booking the test is super easy

You can book a TOEFL test wherever you are, online. Plus, you can find test centres everywhere in the world, which not all other test providers offer. Plus, you are not confined by a rigid schedule, as there are 50 TOEFL iBT test dates every year. Plus, results come out in about 15 days.

3. There’s a lot of free learning material

Because the test is so popular there are a lot of resources out there to help you prepare, some of which are free. Just do a quick Google search and you’ll discover tons of exercises, books, videos and online courses, including those offered by ETS who runs TOEFL.

4. The test has a detailed scale of assessment

This means it is not only about right or wrong answers but also about context and acceptable versions of answers. For example, the speaking part of the test is assessed more objectively, as it is estimated by 3-4 teachers rather than one interviewer.

Another example is that you still get multiple choice questions which increase your chances of getting at least some of the answers right.  As a result, TOEFL is considered a balanced test by both students and universities.

4 cons for taking the TOEFL test

1. TOEFL Test places are filled really quickly

That’s because of the test’s popularity. So even if the test is organised 50 times a year, depending on the facility in your country, you might not get a place at the immediate next exam and have to wait until the next round.

2. You need to be good with all skills (reading, writing, grammar, listening)

This means that you cannot rely on improving your score through say grammar, because you know you are not as good at vocabulary and reading. Chances are that even the grammar part contains some vocabulary aspects.

3. The exam takes longer than others to complete

The TOEFL iBT® test is estimated to take about 5 hours to complete. This requires you to have the ability to maintain focus for a long time, especially since you’ll have to remember some of the listening to write an essay about it, for example.

4. If you don’t have good computer skills, the test will be a challenge

Since TOEFL iBT®  is delivered exclusively online, you really need to be good with computers, especially typing. Consider that you’ll have to write a whole essay in a limited time. The faster you type, the more time you save for focusing on the right answers for a higher score.  

Choose the right English test for you!

These pros and cons are some of the main aspects you should consider when you decide whether to take the TOEFL test or not. If your answer is positive, go to TOEFL’s official website, register and start preparing for your exam. Don’t be discouraged if you feel TOEFL is not for you. There are plenty of other English Language tests out there:  

  • PTE Academic
  • IELTS Academic
  • Duolingo

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