If English is not you're first language and you're planning to go to a university where instruction is English or to work for firm with a global presence, then you may find yourself confronted with having to take either the TOEFL or TOEIC test.
The two standardized tests share some similarities, but ultimately serve different purposes. Here's more on TOEIC vs TOEIC.
TOEFL iBT overview
TOEFL IBT is short Test of English as a foreign language, Internet based test
Who takes TOEFL IBT: Those whose first language isn’t English wishing to study at an English Speaking University or College.
What is it for: Used as a proficiency test that serves a gate keeping function or entrance requirement for an English speaking University or College.
What is it like: The test is performed on computer at a testing centre, and takes 4.5 hours. It consists of four sections (Reading, Listening, Writing, Speaking). It is administered on a secure Internet-based testing network.
Test cost: $160-$250 (US)
Reporting Fee: $17 per report to send results to institutions other than those specified on initial test application
How often is it offered: That depends on the location. The test is offered worldwide.
TOEIC stands for test of English for International Communicaiton
Who takes TOEIC: Employees of companies with a global workforce (especially Asian-based) take TOEIC tests.
What is it used for: Companies with an international presence use TOEIC scores to determine competence in work place English, and thus if an employee has sufficient English skills for the global workplace and often hire, place, or promote employees based on these scores.
What is it like: Listening and reading are paper-based tests of 2 hours, 200 multiple-choice question test in listening comprehension and reading comprehension. The speaking and writing tests are Internet based test. The test is in two sections speaking, 20 minutes, 11 questions. The writing test is 60 minutes with eight questions that measure different aspects of writing.
Cost: Varies depending where it is taken. It's over $100 per test.
How often it is offered: About once a month. Companies can arrange for testing on site through ETS.
TOEFL test content
TOEFL assesses speaking, writing, reading, and listening, separately in an integrated way, all on one test
● read a passage, listen to a talk, and then produce a spoken answer to a question
● listen to a talk, and then respond to a question in spoken format
● read a passage, then listen to a talk, and then produce a written response to a question
Comment: Integrated tasks are a recent addition to the TOEFL. This addition enhances authenticity to the test. Reading/Listening tasks for example, involve a topic that could be in a university lecture.
TOEIC test content
The TOEIC assesses speaking, writing, listening, reading and integrated skills. TOEIC tests authentic business situations, whereas TOEFL tests for using English authentic academic situations.
Listening and reading are tested in one test, and writing and speaking are tested in another. The listening and reading tests are multiple choice assessments based on hearing a passage, or reading a passage.
Writing: The questions range from simple to more complex and integrated tasks from writing a sentence to creating an essay response supported by appropriate reasoning.
Speaking: simple tasks to more complex and integrated tasks from reading text to using information provided to create original responses
TOEFL IBT Test format
The TOEFL is about 4.5 hours long with a ten- minute break. It covers a comprehensive range of English skills in that time, so it is as practical for test takers as it possibly can be, given what it is assessing. Previous versions of TOEFL required 2 test centre visits.
It appears to be top heavy on testing reading comprehension and listening. The item formats seem reasonable and appropriate and use computer technology well: multiple choice formats for reading and listening comprehension, recordings for oral production, fill in the form for written production, and manipulate and move paragraphs to create a summary. These are all valid testing formats.
As a native English speaker I have examined TOEFL tests, and I personally found they are challenging but doable. It forces the test taker to work quickly and not waste a second. This is good because isn’t always the luxury of time when you have to use the language in school. If the test taker can’t complete the tasks in the allotted time, then he/she won’t be able to cope with studying in an English post-secondary institution.
TOEIC Test Format
Unlike TOEFL, all portions of the test are not done in one sitting. Reading/Listening tests are done in one sitting, and Writing/Speaking are done in another sitting.
Reading/Listening are all multiple choice test which are valid and efficient ways of testing.
The Reading part of the test might be challenging for some and my guess is not everyone finishes the 100 questions. The test taker is asked to do a lot in an hour.
The writing and speaking part is pragmatic and situational, and not difficult but requires the test taker to work quickly. The question sets get progressively more difficult and ask for more complex performance.
TOEIC sections and timing
- The timing of the listening and reading tests are clearly indicated (45 minutes for listening, 75 for reading).
- The Speaking portion is 20 minutes and involves reading a text aloud, describing a picture, responding to questions, proposing a solution and expressing an opinion.
- The writing portion is an hour and consists of eight questions that test different aspects of writing (writing a sentence based on a picture, responding to a written request, writing an opinion essay).
- Timings are clearly indicated for each speaking and writing task on the instructions.
TOEFL IBT Sections and timing
Each of the sections is broken into timed segments and test takers are told how much time they will have to perform tasks such as summarizing a text,answering multiple choice questions reading a passage, oral production, or . An on-screen timer is available for test takers to look at while they are working.
Specifically, according to ETS, the IBT TOEFL is structured as follows:
Reading tasks: 60-100 minutes read a passage, then answer multiple choice questions, 3–5 passages, 12–14 questions each
Listening: 60-90 minutes listen to lectures/conversations, then answer multiple choice questions
Speaking: 20 minutes, and writing , 50 minutes.The test taker is asked to speak about familiar topics based on experience
Writing: Write short essay based on experience ( 30 minutes, 300 words)
I personally found that while these timings are tight on the one hand, on the other it does enable this formal assessment to test what it’s supposed to: whether or not someone whose first language isn’t English is capable of university studies in English.
Scoring TOEFL IBT
Multiple choice scores are automated. Oral and written production items are sent to specially trained and certified raters in the ETS network and are scored anonymously. Speaking responses are assessed based on delivery, language use, and topic development. Written tasks are scored using detailed rubrics that evaluate coherence, topic development, organization, unity, language use
All the items are equally weighted although the time required to test these differs (Speaking tasks, for example take a shorter time). The score in each of the four areas of listening, reading, speaking, writing is calculated out of 30, and the final score for the TOEFL IBT test is out of 120. TOEFL is also a norm referenced test and percentile scores are reported. A score of 22-30 in a section means the test taker has an advanced level. A score of 15-21 is intermediate, a score of, and a score of 0-14 is low.
Check with the academic institution you are applying to what the minimum entry standards are. Be sure that you mention if you are taking TOEFL IBT test, as the scoring is different for a paper-based test.
As with TOEFL parts of the test are automated (the multiple choice) and parts require human raters. The ETS website publishes all the different rubrics its certified raters use to score the different speaking and writing sections.
Scores on the listening reading test are based on the number of right answers. Listening and reading scores are converted to a number between 5 and 495. Interpretations of these scores are offered online and can help the test taker set goals for improvement.
In writing and speaking each score is reported out of 200, with different score intervals corresponding to different proficiency levels (i.e. a score of 170-190 is proficiency level 8 out of 9 levels). Interpretations of these scores are offered online and can help the test taker set goals for improvement Scores are also reported in percentile ranking.
TOEFL IBT practice resources
● YouTube’s The Official TOEFL channel;
● sample questions after you register for the test with ETS
● The Official guide for the TOEFL test; other free content on ETS website
● TOEFL practice tests, graded are also available for a fee from ETS
● Books with sample questions available from ETS or in book stores
Test preparation courses
TOEIC Practice resources
ETS TOEIC handbook for preparation
ETS sample TOEIC questions
TOEIC preparation workshops
Published books with sample questions available in bookstores
The TOEFL channel
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Was this hub useful?
Julia Robert from California on December 27, 2012:
Irfan from Adelaide, Australia on March 25, 2012:
I've given both SAT and Toefl exams before ... i found the Toefl to be much easier than the english section of SAT.
Rhonda Malomet (author) from Toronto, Canada on March 24, 2012:
since I am a Canadian and never had to write an SAT, I don't know. Anyone out there know the answer?
LailaK from Atlanta, Georgia on March 24, 2012:
Very informative and clear! I was wondering, are these two exams considered harder than the SATs? Voted Up :)