The primary purpose of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is to measure the ability of non-native English speakers to use and understand the English language at a university level. For most international students wanting to study in a North American university, taking the TOEFL is a necessity. For these students, acceptance into an institution of higher learning is largely dependent upon their having met certain TOEFL score requirements. The ultimate goal for the majority of students currently enrolled in Saint Mary’s ESL courses is to earn a TOEFL score allowing matriculation into the undergraduate or graduate college.
TOEFL scores vary according to test format. Paper and internet versions of the exam are available. Scored on a 0-120 point basis, the internet version consists of reading, listening, speaking and writing sections testing integrated skills. The paper TOEFL, the format offered on the Winona campus, is comprised of reading, listening and structure segments resulting in final scores ranging from 310-677. Along with the paper version, the Test of Written English (TWE) is administered and scored on a separate 0-6 point scale.
To put this into perspective, Saint Mary’s requires a minimum TOEFL score of 59 (internet) or 495 (paper) with a 4.0 TWE in order for an English language learner to be considered for acceptance into the ELB program; a minimum score of 79 (internet) or 550 (paper) would provide an opportunity for unconditional admission into an undergraduate or graduate program. While TOEFL score requirements fluctuate from one university to another, the average requirement is very similar to Saint Mary’s – a 61 or 500 for undergraduates and a 79 or 550 for graduates.
In the end, what’s the most important thing to remember about the TOEFL? It’s the fact that second language learners have put forth an amazing amount of time, energy and skill (not to mention money) in order to “pass” the TOEFL. While the TOEFL is not by any means infallible as a language assessment tool, the students taking this exam understand that, no matter what TOEFL scores they achieve, their development as English language learners has no finish line.
– Rebecca Vogel