My TOEFL Score & Experience
This is the TOEFL test day experience submitted by an TOEFL taker. You can read other TOEFL takers’ experience here.
TOEFL scores are more widely accepted than GMAT. There are more TOEFL test centers, notably in Eastern Europe, and also a greater number of applicants. All U.S. B-schools and a majority of European schools accept TOEFL scores. British schools accept either TOEFL or IELTS, but if you’re applying to both U.K. and U.S. schools, you need TOEFL. For all undergraduate and graduate programs, TOEFL is required. Also, you need to clear TOEFL if you want to immigrate to North America.
You must plan your application well in advance to get a seat: 6-7 weeks for registration, 3 weeks to receive the results, and 4 weeks to send the scores to schools.
Apart from registration, the challenge of TOEFL is that it takes around 4-5 hours to complete the test. It is similar to GMAT, but it requires greater endurance. The speaking section is stressful because your performance depends on your ability to concentrate and the infrastructure of the test center rather than your skills and knowledge. I had difficulty calibrating my speaker; I spoke a few sentences 5-6 times before the test interface accepted it.
One of my colleagues, a philologist with an English major, scored 30 in all the sections except for speaking, where he scored 22. He speaks English like a university professor and was shocked to see his score. Evidently, the speaking section is not graded correctly.
I got 5 straightforward passages written in plain English. There were no tricky portions like those in GMAT. You get adequate time (20 minutes) to read each passage and answer the 12-14 questions that follow. The questions are easy and take less than a minute each to answer.
To prepare, the TOEFL Official Guide is sufficient and representative of actual test questions.
I have been watching TV and listening to music for the last 30 years, so I did not prepare specially for this section. I referred to the TOEFL Official Guide to learn the format of the questions: combinations of listening and reading short passages.
This is the shortest section but the most difficult one. We should advice TOEFL aspirants about practicing on Skype. PrepEZ.com has a large pool of candidates, so the idea is feasible.
It is hard to estimate your score in this section, unlike Reading and Listening. You can try to grade yourself using the 30-something sample answers in the TOEFL Official Guide.
If you are familiar with GMAT, this section poses no difficulties. The first essay is usually an analysis of a classical problem, whereas the second essay is academic and talks about a scientific topic. You will also hear a lecture by a professor on the same topic. You should be able to determine whether the professor supports the academic passage or refutes it, and how. The TOEFL Official Guide should help you prepare well.
ETS states that results will be announced within 15 working days of taking the test. I received my results online in three weeks and got a hard copy ten days after. I scored 108 and it was sufficient to gain admission to B-schools.