- TOEFL iBT - Dispelling Myths
- TOEFL iBT - Paper Pattern
- TOEFL iBT - Score Cut-offs
- TOEFL iBT - One Week Preparation Strategy
- TOEFL iBT - Test-Day Strategy
TOEFL iBT - Dispelling Myths
Before moving on to the actual exam and the preparation required, there are many questions I came across on various forums that have inadequately/incorrectly answered to induce unnecessary fear about the exam.
- I am not an avid reader. I hardly read books. I just ocassionally read the newspaper or some articles, but that's about it. Do I need to become a voracious reader and a bibliophile to crack TOEFL?
- My vocabulary is not that strong. I barely go beyond mildly complex words, and I do not even consume content that promotes vocabulary growth. How can I improve my vocabulary before taking TOEFL?
- I am not a great public speaker. I can barely gather the courage to speak in my team meetings. Can I even get a decent score in TOEFL's listening section?
- I am not a great writer. The last time I was involved in a writing exercise was when I was appearing for my board exams. Beyond that, I have below-par writing skills. Is it possible for me to crack TOEFL?
- How long is the TOEFL iBT score valid? Do I have to take the exam every 5 years like GRE/GMAT?
- No. Please relax.
- Vocabulary is not tested. Please relax.
- Yes. Please relax.
- Yes. Please relax ffs :)
- Your TOEFL score will be valid for a duration of 2 years from the date of the exam. For example, I took the exam on 19th May 2019, so my score will be valid till 19th May 2021.
TOEFL iBT is not a test of who is the most fluent in English; as Indians, we are likely to be beaten by Britons and Americans if that were the case. The exams tests your understanding of the language and whether or not you have the basic capability of attending a class conducted in English. It's as simple as that. Of course, if you're an avid reader with a strong vocabulary and good listening skills, it's an added advantage for you.
TOEFL iBT Paper Pattern - 2019
TOEFL iBT is split into four parts - Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening. An individual can score a maximum of 30 marks in each of these sections, and a total of 120 in the exam. The following is the paper pattern for TOEFL iBT:
|No. of Questions
|What To Expect
|You will be given 3-4 essays to read, and you will receive approximately 14 MCQs based on the essay.
|You will be required to listen to lectures, as well as a dialogue between two individuals, and you will then receive questions based on the lecture and conversation that you have just heard.
|You will be given multiple topics - some generic and familiar, as well as unfamiliar and moderately complex. You will then be given 15-30 seconds to prepare your answer, and 45-60 seconds to respond to the questions based on the given topic.
|You will be asked to write a 300+ word essay on a given topic. You will also be required to read a text, listen to a lecture that opposes the text, and write a summary of what you have read and heard.
For complete clarity on question types and the paper pattern, take a look at these Sample TOEFL iBT Questions on the official ETS website.
TOEFL iBT - Score Cut-offs
As a non-native applicant, TOEFL scores will be a mandatory requirement for the majority of the business schools and universities that you apply to, so that they know that you are eligible to participate in a classroom where English will be the main language of communication. However, some above-average universities require an above-average TOEFL score, which is why this exam must be taken very seriously.
The following are the minimum/average TOEFL scores at the world's top-20 business schools:
|Minimum TOEFL Score
|University of Pennsylvania: Wharton
|University of Oxford: Saïd
|University of Cambridge: Judge
|Harvard Business School
|University of Chicago: Booth
|Northwestern University: Kellogg
|Stanford Graduate School of Business
|London Business School
|Columbia Business School
|Iese Business School
|National University of Singapore Business School
|HKUST Business School
|University of California at Berkeley: Haas
|Yale School of Management
|Dartmouth College: Tuck
|Duke University: Fuqua
|*Average TOEFL Score
The table above clearly suggests that a score ≥ is imperative to get into some of the top business schools of the world. At universities such as UPenn, Oxford and Cambridge, the requirement is much higher than average.
Though not required for most applications, you can also take a look at your TOEFL percentile to see how you fared compared to other test-takers across the globe, as per the official ETS website:
Therefore, a score of 110+ is a 90+%ile score, which is excellent and makes you eligible for the top MBA colleges in the world.
Also to be noted is that for Indian applicants, the average TOEFL score is 94. For those with Hindi as their first language, the average TOEFL score is 96.
TOEFL iBT - Preparation Strategy
The following is a one week strategy to score 110+ in TOEFL iBT:
Day 1 - Get accustomed to the TOEFL paper pattern. There is nothing more important than understanding exactly what you're going to see/hear when you take the test. Understand the marking scheme, the question types, and how other people prepared for it.
Day 2 - Start with the speaking section, since this is where many Indian applicants see a dip in scores. Refer to this source to prepare for the TOEFL speaking section.
Day 3 - Move on to the reading section. From Day 3 to Day 7, read at least 3 articles from here, or on the Indian Express mobile application (editorials section). This will be a good warm-up for you before you sit for the test.
Day 4 - Move on to the writing section. For this, just use Google Docs or MS Word and write a 350 word essay on any 5 topics from here or here. Try and give yourself a score based on 5 major components - grammatical consistency, clarity of thought, relevance to topic, strength of vocabulary, and coherence.
Day 5 - Move on to the listening section. This is going to be fun. Binge watch on any American TV show to warm-up for the TOEFL listening section. That's it.
Day 6 - Revise the paper pattern once again to solidify concepts in your mind. This will go a long way in preparing you for exactly what is going to be asked in the actual exam. This will significantly reduce your stress levels before the exam.
Day 7 - Relax, and get good sleep the night before the exam. It is a 4.5 hour test, so trust me, you'll need all the rest that you can get.
TOEFL iBT - Test Day Strategy
Here are some of my important learnings from taking the TOEFL iBT exam:
- Before each section, you will be shown an instructions screen. Do not skip it. It will help you strategise better.
- It is a 4½ hour test. Be prepared to sit for that long and get comfortable in your chair. In the 10 minute break that you will receive in the middle, use the washroom and do some stretching if you have stiffness in your back.
- In the Reading section, do not spend an inordinate amount of time on reading the passage. Each question will be based on one paragraph of the passage. In fact, the test will tell you exactly which paragraph you can find the answer to the given question, so please do not spend more than 1.5 minutes per question.
- Be ready to take notes. You cannot revisit the audio in the Listening section, and therefore it is imperative that you take brief notes and jot down any important keywords used in the speech. This will help you immensely when questions on the lecture are posed to you.
- In the Speaking section, make sure that you are clear in your speech and are able to mention the salient points you think deserve to be mentioned. Remember, you do not have to sound like an erudite statesman. You need to be coherent about what you are saying and enunciate. Also, please do not be excessively loud. There will be others in the testing center with you.
- In the Writing section, ensure that each and every point you write is relevant and makes sense. Minor grammatical errors are acceptable, but don'ts mistakingly make impardonable errors, cuz dat can lead to a low score. In the question where you will be asked to read a text and listen to a lecture and then write a 350 word essay, take notes. It will help, unless you have excellent short-term memory.
- An important point to note is that, since there will be other test-takers with you, you may face a situation where during your non-speaking sections, somebody may have their Speaking section assessment. Sometimes (seldom), people can be very loud, so be mentally prepared to deal with that distraction.
My TOEFL Performance
I took the TOEFL iBT test on May 19th, 2019. I scored 115/120. My sectional scores were 30/28/29/28 in Reading/Listening/Speaking/Writing.
I hope this guide to TOEFL iBT helps you in scoring 110+! Schedule your TOEFL here. Since you're applying for an MBA abroad, you may also be interested in reading about how you can score 320 in GRE with just two months of preparation.