So it’s time to take the TOEFL. Now you are probably wondering when you can take it to start planning your precious study time and make sure you get your scores to the universities you are applying to on time. We hope this post will help you find not only that but other hopeful information as well.
Many TOEFL testing centers in the United States have around 60 test dates per year, especially those in the cities with the highest population. Several major US cities also have multiple testing centers, making finding a test date that suits your needs easier.
While this post will first deal with how to find a test date for a specific test center, you might be wondering how much time you need to prepare for the TOEFL, as well as how to prepare for the test if you are short on time. So, we will address these questions as well. We will also speak about the option of taking the TOEFL iBT at home.
TOEFL iBT test dates in the USA
There are literally hundreds of testing centers around the United States, and every state has at least one test center. You might find that the most convenient test center for you is in your city, but it is also possible, especially if you live in a city close to your state border, that the nearest test center to you may be in an adjacent state!
The best way to find out the test dates offered in the city of your choice is to check the ETS® (the makers of TOEFL) website, where you can search for test centers based on your location. You can access the test center search tool here. In addition, you can search for test centers in a location other than your own, or, if you are looking for the test center closest to you, you can tick the “use my current location” under the search box.
There will typically be one test date available per week in the most popular testing centers, usually on a Saturday. They will usually also have an extra test day each month, bringing the total test days to around 60. Many of the larger cities have multiple testing centers, so if you live in one, you will find that you have more choice and more availability for choosing a test date that works for you.
How much does it cost to take the TOEFL in the USA?
The TOEFL currently costs $235 to take in the USA. The nice thing about the TOEFL is that, although costs can vary from country to country, the test cost does not vary from state to state – it is the same all across the United States.
If you are signing up within 7 days of the test date, ETS applies a “late registration fee” of $40, which brings the total amount of the test to $275.
How long should I study before taking the TOEFL?
On average, the recommended time you should take to study for your TOEFL is 2-3 months. That said, there is no one answer to this question because TOEFL is not a pass or fail exercise, at least not when you look at the test by itself. In reality, your “pass” or “fail” depends on the score you need to get, as stipulated by the university. If you achieve the score you wanted, you pass. If not, well, you might need to retake it!
To get to your target score, you need to go on a learning journey, and the length of that journey depends on your starting point. You may already have a good base on which to build, or you may be just starting on your adventure to learn English. Whatever your case may be, the first thing I suggest you do is take a practice test testing conditions as close as possible to those you will have on test day. That means rigorous timekeeping, no distractions, no phone, no hints from other people in the room, etc. The more you imitate testing conditions, the more accurate your score will be.
This will help you understand the areas where you are strong and those where you need work. This will be a starting point for you because you will be able to map out a journey between the score on your practice test and the score you would like to achieve.
After taking your test, you may see that some of your scores are low, but do not be disheartened! Writing is consistently the lowest average score on tests worldwide, so if you got a low score on the writing section of your practice test, that is totally normal! If you want some tips on how to improve your score, check out the tips I give for the writing section. There are also tips for improving your reading, listening, and speaking scores.
Another factor to consider when trying to figure out how much time you need is that it takes time to understand how the TOEFL works. It is its own “beast,” if you will. Of course, there are four sections, and you may know that already, but getting a feel for the structure, the flow, and the types of questions takes a little time.
Third, it might be the case that your English is around the beginner level, which means that you may be learning many new things, so it can be a lot to take in. So having more time allows your brain to process what you are learning better and take more time to understand the more difficult things.
Whatever situation you find yourself in, if you are looking for good resources to study with, I would wholeheartedly recommend taking the free practice test ETS offers first. Then, pick up a copy of the Official Guide to the TOEFL iBT (Sixth Edition), which, made by ETS, is the most comprehensive overall preparation resource you can get. It contains:
- Four full-length practice tests
- TOEFL-type questions, including those from past tests, so you can see exactly what they are like!
- Strategies for taking the test
How can I prepare for TOEFL in one month?
While 2-3 months is definitely ideal for the reasons stated above, you may find that you only have a month to prepare. So, again, it’s not ideal, but it’s definitely doable!
If you only have a month to prepare for the TOEFL iBT, take ETS’ free practice test as your first step to give you an idea of how much you need to improve to reach your target score. Then, come up with a plan to focus on the most important areas, asking yourself the following questions:
- Where can I make the most improvement?
- Is there a section I need to focus on getting better at in order to meet application requirements?
- How much time do I have before the test? (i.e. how many hours of study)
- How is my mindset? Do I think I can do it? If you say you can’t do it, then you won’t be able to! Obviously you also have to be realistic with the time you have, so if you need to improve 50 points in a month, you might need to see how realistic that is.
After answering these questions, develop a concrete plan based on your answers (down to the hour!), and allot time accordingly. If you think you can spare some time to take another practice test after 15 days, or even one each week, that will help you see how you are progressing.
Personally, if time is tight, I would recommend subscribing to a TOEFL preparation program, like Magoosh. Magoosh are experts in test preparation, and they can help you save a lot of time by providing you with the precise exercises you need to do in order to improve your score.
In the fourth point above, I mentioned the importance of mindset. But, unfortunately, our minds can sometimes be our greatest enemies when it comes to the TOEFL, or anything in life, for that matter! We are capable of so much, yet we have so many limiting beliefs that block our progress in many areas of our lives.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I blame others easily for my lack of success?
- Am I afraid to fail?
- Do I focus on what’s in my comfort zone?
- Do I give up on hard tasks easily?
- Do I think that I will never be good at English?
If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, I would strongly recommend that you get the book Mindset by Dr Carol Dweck. It will help you overcome blockages that will not only help you in your TOEFL studies and test but also during your time at university and in all other areas of your life. So invest in yourself – you will be glad you did!
Can I take the TOEFL iBT at home?
Yes, you can definitely take the TOEFL iBT at home. ETS launched the TOEFL iBT Home Edition to help with situations where test-takers cannot go to a physical test center due to public health concerns. If you are considering taking the TOEFL iBT Home Edition, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- It is the exact same test as the one you would take in a test center. The only difference is that you will be taking it at your own computer.
- The test costs the same as the TOEFL iBT. That means that it costs $235 to take the TOEFL iBT Home Edition in the United States.
- The beauty about this test is that you can take almost anytime you want to: it is available 24 hours a day, 4 days per week.
- Your computer and testing environment need to meet specific ETS requirements.
- You will take the test with you camera on, and you will be monitored by a proctor via ProctorU. ETS wants to ensure that there is a level playing field for all test takers, so they have to preserve the integrity of every test they administer, whether it be in a test center ior in your home. For this reason, if the proctor has any doubt about the integrity of the test, your scores may be delayed or cancelled. In a testing center, it is easier for proctors to monitor, but with just your webcam, it is not so easy. It depends on you to ensure that the proctor has no doubts whatsoever.
- As I mentioned in the previous point, scores may be delayed, and this could be problematic for your university application in some cases. Granted, this can happen with tests taken at test centers too, but there seem to be many complaints about scores being held up for months after test takers take the TOEFL iBT Home Edition.
- Not all universities accept the TOEFL iBT Home Edition. Before considering whether or not to take it, check in with the admissions department of the university/universities where you are applying to see whether they do.
If you are happy taking the Home Edition, prepare for the test exactly as you would for the test center version of the TOEFL iBT. Once again, I would recommend taking ETS’ full-length free practice test first. After that, create your study plan based on how much time you have (see sections above for tips) and start studying with the Official Guide to the TOEFL iBT (Sixth Edition).