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Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL Exam)

By Ron Dicker

(LifeWire) - TOEFL Overview:

Many North American universities require that international students and non-native speakers prove their fluency in English by taking the Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL. The test is offered six times a year at 4,000 locations in 110 countries. The test, which is also mandatory for many distance-learning programs, lasts about 3 ½ hours and is broken down into listening comprehension, structure and written expression, and reading comprehension. Most of the questions are multiple choice. An essay-writing portion is graded apart from the actual TOEFL score. Depending on location, the test can be taken in a paper, computer or Internet format.  The Educational Testing Service will transmit up to four official test transcripts to students' requested colleges on a per test basis. The score remains valid for two years. Students can retake the test the following week, if necessary.

When to Take the TOEFL:

Students who plan to apply to a North American online college program should take into account that TOEFL scores will be mailed out five weeks after the test date (seven to 10 days in the continental United States). The scores are available sooner by phone.

Registering for the TOEFL:

Go to www.toefl.org, select a location and follow the prompts. You can register at all hours, any day. The cost is $150, payable by a major credit card.

Preparing for the TOEFL:

TOEFL's administrator, the Educational Testing Service, provides numerous sample questions and tests -- for free and for a fee.

Using Your TOEFL Test Scores:

The Educational Testing Service will submit up to four official score reports to universities on the test-taker's behalf. An additional fee is required for more. Some elite universities will demand a score of 650 (or its equivalent) or more. Many colleges in the median accept scores in the 550 range, translating to 213 in the computer version and 79 in the Internet version.

LifeWire, a part of The New York Times Company, provides original and syndicated online lifestyle content. Ron Dicker is a New York-based freelance writer who covered sports for the New York Times from 1996 to 2005.

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