Is it easy to pass the TOEFL exam?

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Someone at Quora.com asked the following question: “Is it easy to pass the TOEFL iBT?”

As others pointed out, there is no such thing as a passing score because different universities have different requirements for TOEFL scores.  For example, University of California, Los Angeles sets a requirement of 100+ for most international students wanting to enter their graduate programs. However, California State University, where I have been teaching since 1994, sets a standard of 80 for international admissions for its graduate students. Generally speaking, many collegiate institutions require minimum scores of 60 and 80 for international undergraduate and graduate admissions.  The important thing is that you consider where you would like to study, find out what their TOEFL requirements are, take a full-length iBT practice test so you can mark your academic English language proficiency, and begin your TOEFL preparation studies keeping in mind that, even in the best of circumstances, you will be able to improve your overall TOEFL score 5-10 points for each month that you study.

Several students at Quora.com said that it was relatively easy to score 90 but that students would have to spend a little time familiarizing themselves with the TOEFL exam before they will be able to score over 100 or even 110. Despite these students’ attitude that is is easy to get  a high over 90, 100, or even 110, I am going to disagree with their assertions.  Most of the students who score over 100+ have been using English for most of their lives. In some cases, their parents attended English speaking universities when they were younger, and they often spoke English at home with their children who later grew up to get high TOEFL scores.  In fact, I have interviewed more than a dozen students who scored higher than 100 on the TOEFL exam, and all of them told me that they had been using English since they were 8-10 years of age. In other words, they had been using English 10-15 years before taking the TOEFL exam. Of course, it is easy for these types of students to score high since they have had so much exposure to English. If fact, these types of students may only need to study for the TOEFL for 1-3 weeks before actually taking the test. Imagine that you need to study for the TOEFL exam for 1-2 weeks and after that you get a score of 110/120.

But what about all those students with limited exposure to English?  For example, consider a case study of a student who just entered the English Language Program at California State University, San Bernardino. On our in-house English Placement Test that I developed, this student received a score of 31/300 points.  When I interviewed him during the speaking part of our placement test, he spoke mostly in his native tongue and could not understand even simple yes/no questions in English.  During the writing portion of our test, he wrote a single sentence in 30 minutes: “I no understand English. I sorry.” How long will it take this student for reach a basic score of 60 on the TOEFL iBT.  He will need to study English at least 25 hours a week, and most likely, he will be able to reach a score of 60 in two years.

Therefore, for those students with limited English proficiency, they will find the TOEFL exam one of the biggest obstacles they will ever encounter in their lives. To pass the TOEFL for some of these students is like they are banging their heads against brick walls repeatedly. If you feel like this, do not get discouraged and remember you are not the only one who is having difficulty. If you keep practicing over a period of a few months, you will eventually be able to reach your academic English proficiency goals. It is just a matter of time.  Your pain will end soon enough, and the day will come when you get your score report sent to you from Educational Testing Service. That score report will contain the overall score that you have been fighting so hard to get, and you will have the required subtotal scores that you need in the reading, listening, speaking, and writing sections.

Believe it!

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Michael Buckhoff, the author of this article, has been teaching TOEFL preparation courses at California State University, San Bernardino since 1994. Buckhoff has also reached out to international students who cannot afford to study abroad in English Language Programs by offering them an opportunity to learn English and to reach their target TOEFL scores by enrolling in his inexpensive Online TOEFL Course “The 7-Step System to Pass the TOEFL iBT.”  Through his Online TOEFL Course, his TOEFL Blog, and his You Tube Channel, Buckhoff has helped millions and millions of students improve their English proficiency.