It is reasonable that English-speaking universities need incoming students to demonstrate sufficient English skills to function in the classroom. For American universities, the TOEFL is the most common English test. As a student, you have to read, write, listen, and speak effectively to succeed in any subject. Most people find that speaking effectively in a foreign language is the hardest part. Therefore, a good TOEFL speaking practice test helps you both get a good score and gain an important skill.
What Is the TOEFL?
TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language; as stated above, the TOEFL is predominantly used for American universities – undergraduate or graduate level. Another similarly common English test for foreign students is the IELTS (International English Language Testing System), but this test is more often used for UK or Australian universities.
Accordingly, the IELTS uses a British accent, while the TOEFL uses a standard American accent. Note that, sometimes, foreign students do not need to take these tests to gain admission: Perhaps you have demonstrated English fluency in some other way (getting a sufficiently high GRE or SAT score, successfully completing other English-speaking programs, etc.).
The TOEFL has four sections: reading, listening, speaking, and writing. The test targets functional use of English – not academic aspects of the language, such as extensive vocabulary or obscure grammar features. Nevertheless, this test can be a real struggle, even for people who are very familiar with the English language.
The TOEFL is created by ETS (Educational Testing Service) – the same company that creates the GRE, SAT, Praxis, and HiSET. The TOEFL looks most similar to the GRE – this is quite helpful if you are an aspiring graduate student who needs to take both of these exams. Most often, the TOEFL is given in the iBT (internet-based test) form. Test-takers must go to a testing center; for many countries, there are only one or two of such centers.
Occasionally, the TOEFL is given in its PBT (paper-based test) format; unfortunately, this is a different test altogether, so test prep might be hard to find. The good news is that the best way to excel at the TOEFL is to expose oneself to English in as immersive a way as possible. However, test prep is still very helpful, and for some, it can be the difference between success and failure. Many test prep resources come at a high price, aimed at affluent students; however, there are resources that are more reasonable in price.
The TOEFL speaking section involves being recorded as you speak about information or ideas you have just heard and/or read. You are given about 15-30 seconds to think about what you will say, and about 45-60 seconds to make your oral statement. All speaking questions are written simply and specifically; all dialog that you must listen to is spoken very clearly. However, more than any other section, this one demands that you essentially think in English; otherwise, you will struggle to come up with a proper response.
Even if you are not sure whether you really need test prep, you probably would like to find some form of affordable TOEFL speaking practice test so that you do not panic when you are faced with the real thing.
Finding a Good Test Preparation Program
One of the best test preparation programs – especially if you cannot afford the usual high prices – is Magoosh. Magoosh’s mission is to provide effective test prep to students who could not otherwise afford this service.
Magoosh helps people in 185 countries improve their scores on the above tests by offering a total of 250 million answers to practice questions accompanied by effective explanations, plus a total of 6 million hours of video lessons that have been watched. Magoosh allows you to practice for your test(s) anywhere with its mobile app and inherently flexible nature – you can cover the material anywhere, anytime.
This website offers test prep for both the TOEFL and IELTS, among many other standardized tests: MCAT, LSAT, Praxis, ACT, SAT, GMAT, and GRE. (If you do not already know: the MCAT, LSAT, and GMAT are medical, law, and business school entrance exams intended for college graduates; the Praxis is a test for aspiring teachers; the ACT and SAT are tests for aspiring college students; the GRE is for graduate students in fields other than medicine, law, and business.)
If you have any problems, there is a support team available to answer your questions. If you respond well to competition, Magoosh allows you to compete in your test prep activities against an opponent.
The Magoosh team really wants you to enjoy your test preparation; this is especially valuable to those who are practicing in spite of other commitments, such as children, jobs, and/or other academic responsibilities. The site makes it easy to track test prep progress, and it offers other preparation features such as vocabulary flashcards, so that you can really practice the skills, not just individual questions.
Magoosh is probably one of the most well-intentioned companies in the world. From 2008 to the present, this company has been working to bring fair-priced test prep to more and more people. They have been awarded the Happiest Company title twice, one of the best places to work in the Bay Area – and they are at the top of the list of the fastest growing companies, despite their relatively small size.
Intelligence, warmth, and goodness flow both inside and out for this company. In fact, the name Magoosh is intended to sound like Magush, a Persian word referring to a person who is both exceptionally smart and warmly magnanimous.
Magoosh has blogs where you can find insightful articles about any of the tests for which the site offers test prep, plus other relevant content. Each blog is about a specific test, and so it is easy to find unique, in-depth content specifically about the test or academic field you want to focus on, without having to sort through a huge amount of irrelevant content.
Improving Your TOEFL Score
Magoosh’s TOEFL practice system is effective – student testimonials suggest that Magoosh offers explanations and approaches that help previously failing students get passing grades. Magoosh offers about 475 TOEFL practice questions with accompanying explanations in video format. These explanations do not just tell you why a given answer is right; they also thoroughly explain the concept behind the question and help you avoid thinking the wrong way about a given type of question.
In addition to explanation videos, there are about 150 videoed lessons about English grammar and TOEFL test-taking strategies. As with other Magoosh programs, you can get all of the TOEFL content on a mobile app, so that you can practice anywhere.
Magoosh offers a week-long guarantee: If you use the system for one week or less and do not feel that it is helpful, you get your full payment back. (Note: If you only purchased only a 1-week subscription, this guarantee does not apply.) Also, if you do not get an improvement of 4 points from a previous TOEFL score (not more than 2 years ago), you also get your money back. Understandably, for the 4-point guarantee to be effective, you must complete all of the TOEFL educational and practice material included in the program.
The Magoosh site notes that, in addition to its materials, the ETS site is a great source of practice questions. While ETS might not offer explanations that are as helpful or as many practice materials as Magoosh, it does give the test-taker the best forecast of the kinds of questions that he/she will encounter. ETS and other sources generally do a poor job of preparing the test-taker for the speaking part of the exam. Magoosh is more thorough – it covers all parts of the exam.
For additional TOEFL speaking practice test material, do a YouTube search. There are free videos that allow you to go over sample speaking test questions in real time – so you have an idea of how rushed you might feel on the actual test. This is a great way to anticipate trouble and prevent feelings of panic and helplessness when you are taking the test.
The Challenge of Being Tested in a Foreign Language
Taking a test is always anxiety-producing and uncomfortable, but taking a test in a non-native language adds a special layer of anxiety, or at least, tediousness. Therefore, practice is all the more important. If you are studious, you probably have happily learned the vocabulary, grammar, and idiomatic expressions of English; you might even reading English literature.
However, unless you have had an immersive English experience, speaking or listening skills might still be trouble spots. If you have not had such an experience, then you probably should prioritize finding practice questions for listening and/or speaking, specifically. Do not let a weakness obscure a strength. With the help of an affordable test prep program, you can both get into an English-speaking university and keep pace with the other students. Preparing for the TOEFL is ultimately a great way to be sure that, when you get where you want to go, you are truly ready.