English. How is it a universal language?
Do you ever feel the excitement to pack your bags and prepare your itinerary for your next out-of-the-country trip? You got all of your luggage ready, plane tickets in hand, and your camera phone fully charged. But it seems like you forgot one thing after all the prepping up! Did you check to see if your go-to country uses and understands your native language? What if natives from that particular place can’t understand your dialect? If not, then there’s one language that will come in handy in almost all areas globally – the English language.
English as a language has always been the most commonly taught language in schools, especially in countries with non-native speakers. This commonality among teaching institutions has helped a lot of people understand the language quickly. Harvard Business Review revealed that 1.75 billion people all across different countries speak English at a useful scale. The study means that one person in every four people can communicate English at an acceptable level. The same publication also mentioned that countries like the US and Australia have almost 385 million native speakers. Colonized territories with India and Nigeria as examples have a billion fluent English speakers as well. This reason has made English the universal language across the globe.
There is no doubt that the English language has become an essential commodity among different people. Through the language, we have created this interconnected community of individuals, who in one way or another, share general beliefs, culture, and practices. General aspects of living, including businesses, commerce, trade, technology, arts, and the sciences, all have adapted a global communication in using English to improve our way of life. Students have increased their cognitive skills, creative thinking, and personal development by learning such language. This improvement also led many researchers to study its history, usage, global impact, and importance to human behavior. With all of these in mind, it is essential to note that language proficiency is also crucial.
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Language Proficiency in English
There are many advantages of being proficient in the English language. Not only that you can communicate better and easier, but you can also know a more profound sense of meaning beyond the words that you speak.
Being good at speaking English is one of the great ways to start your proficiency. But it is better if you can pinpoint the different areas of the language and know their essential aspects. There are four principal domains in language proficiency. All of these are interwoven but not entirely dependent on one another. Here they are below:
- Reading – Based on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, reading is a process that actively makes the individual understand written information, interpret meanings, and applying such definitions to situations, texts, or a purpose. Good readers tend to quickly absorb data, interpret details and understand definitions on a deeper level. If you like to read many English texts, chances are you can also communicate effectively as your word vocabulary is always significantly filled with words that you encounter while reading.
- Writing – This central aspect of language proficiency is the ability to communicate through written words or text. We use this communication skill to keep in touch with others, entertain an audience, tell remarkable stories or persuade someone. Whatever the intention is, being excellent in writing involves certain qualities that you need to possess. Exceptional writers have extensive imagination that can help them craft words into unique written content. Styles of writing can vary on such a vast scale, but generally, a good writer is a good communicator.
- Speaking – Such domain uses oral language to communicate with people. Aside from using your mouth, voice, and tongue to transmit information to another person, this also deals with how we interact with people verbally. Expressing yourself through oral communication is not limited to pronunciation, diction, intonation, and rhythm of words but also vocabulary choice on how we convey meanings. Well-versed speakers have a unique way of expressing themselves, not only in the terms they use but also in the emotions they apply.
- Listening is an active process that includes determining sounds, understanding phrases and words, applying phonetics rules, and consolidating information to use in a later response. As they say, many people hear you, but only a few listen. Effective listening is the recommended skill to participate in a meaningful conversation deeply. This kind of listening is more on absorbing adequate information from another person and making sure that you understand what message he/she is trying to convey.
Once you’re able to study all of the mentioned areas and practice strategies to apply them with the English language effectively, you can certainly be a great communicator. But aside from being a master of such aspects, learning them is also a great advantage, especially for students and professionals.
If English is your first considered language, it might be easy-peasy for you to learn the language’s ins and outs. But do you know that being proficient in such a field has been a requirement in most educational institutions and professional corporations? Yes, there is an English-centered exam that you would need to ace and master to get into your dream school or dream job. It is the Test of English as a Foreign Language exam or most popularly known as TOEFL.
TOEFL and How It Works
Doesn’t this acronym sound very familiar? TOEFL is a standardized examination to rate your English skills, especially to non-native speakers applying to English graduate schools and academies. The official administering council for this test is the Educational Testing Service or known as ETS. The committee is a non-profit organization that conducts standard tests and evaluations for educational and professional requirements. There are about 11,000 universities in 150 countries where TOEFL is the principal determiner and qualifier for the admission process.
The TOEFL lets you demonstrate how proficient you are in its four main categories of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Most universities and educational institutions have made this a requirement for them to assess how excellent you are in carrying out your academic studies. This test will also serve as an evaluation for them to see how good are you in your preferred course or degree as they can foresee how well you are in English communication.
Initially, there are two types of tests depending on which kind is the requirement for you in your chosen graduate school or program. It will also rely on what sort of testing center is near your area. The availability of internet resources is also the main criterion in determining which type of exam can be accessible for you. Here are the two types of tests for TOEFL:
- TOEFL iBT – This type of exam is the computerized version and is widely accepted as the standard qualification in most universities and educational institutions. The testing area has a computer setup and internet connection to run the test. While performing the exam, you will have to apply the four primary English skills to assess your proficiency. The tasks or questions in the exam can require a combination of using more than one skill. Examples of tasks are below:
- To answer a particular question, you will be asked to read, listen and then speak.
- You will be asked to listen and then speak in response to a specific problem.
- To address a particular query, you will be asked to read, listen and write.
The internet-based test takes a total of 3 hours to finish. Giving yourself an allowance of another 30 minutes is recommended to prepare before the exam.
The four main segments of the exam are divided into specific time frames with a fixed set number of questions.
- TOEFL PBT – The second type of exam is paper-based, wherein it is used for testing areas with no computers and no online connection available. This is more of a traditional kind of test and is often used in far-flung testing centers. You can complete the paper and pencil test within 2.5 hours. It has a different structure and format compared to the online test. But keep in mind that this kind of examination will be phased out as ETS wants to administer all TOEFL exams to be purely online.
Let’s look closely at TOEFL iBT.
As advancements in internet technology are continually taking place, it is now easier to take the TOEFL in almost all areas worldwide. The online test is the primary format currently being used in all testing centers.
As mentioned previously, there are four main sections of the test – reading, listening, speaking, and writing. Below are the content and format of each section and how each is structured in the examination:
- Reading – This area measures how well you understand and analyzes resources and materials in a classroom setting. You will have to read around 3 to 4 written passages or sections with approximately 700 words included. Each selection will have ten questions for you to answer. You have 54 to 72 minutes to finish answering all of the problems in this examination segment. The passages are taken from university-level readings and textbooks. If you are concerned with unfamiliar texts in the given passages, a glossary is provided to define some words that are not that common.
- Listening – Such segment rates the test taker’s capacity to comprehend conversations and understand lectures using the English language. You can take notes and write any details that you may find helpful to answer the questions. Completing this section will take you 41 to 57 minutes. It is also good to remember that this area uses various English accents from native speakers from the UK, United States, Australia, or New Zealand. It has two main areas:
- Basic comprehension – This is how you can easily listen to contexts and audio materials.
- Pragmatic understanding and connecting different kinds of given information – This assesses the speaker’s attitude on how he/she communicates and analyzes that attitude to interpreting data.
- Speaking – This portion is considered to measure the examinee’s ability on how he/she can communicate effectively by speaking the language. This area is also to evaluate how well you can respond by speaking English in an academic environment. It has four tasks that portray real-life scenarios that can happen inside and outside a classroom setting. To prepare, you’ll have 15 – 30 seconds to think and process your answer. Then, your response will also be timed between 45 to 60 seconds.
- Writing – For the administrators to ultimately score your TOEFL exam, you will also have to take the written test to assess how well you write in English, especially from an academic perspective. You have 50 minutes to go over this section of the exam. There are two types of tasks:
- Integrated writing task: There is a passage for you to read and listen to, and then you will have to respond by writing your answer.
- Independent writing task: You will have to write an essay based on a given topic. You can apply your personal experiences in this part.
In terms of scoring, your result can range between 0 to 120. Your score can be calculated and measured by adding up all of your scores in each test area. You will see your overall scoring once the results are out after ten days. The results have a validity of two years. Your score automatically expires after its validity date. If you need to submit a new application to a new program or university after two years, you must retake the exam.
Online Prep Courses for TOEFL
Studying for the exam needs a lot of preparation and work. Students, especially those applying to graduate degree programs, are resorting to online resources as they are easily accessible. One of those resources is taking prep courses. These are training courses that can be accessed over the internet and help you prepare for any academic or professional exam. Most prep courses are now accessible using your mobile devices so that you can study anytime and anywhere. This is important as students nowadays prefer to review learning materials digitally. If you’re interested in taking the TOEFL and you’re looking for a list of great online prep courses, then look no further and have a read of them below:
- Magoosh – Their online prep course has a comprehensive plan complete with expert-created resources and materials. They have full-length mock exams and tests, more than 140 video lessons, a score predictor feature, and an all-around ask-an-expert bonus. Here are their payment plans:
- $79 – This is good for one month of access to all video lessons and 400+ practice questions. There are unlimited ask-an-expert features and study schedules included. You’ll get a 4-point score guarantee and also has a 7-day refund policy.
- $99 – You’ll get the same features with the first payment plan, but the coverage is right for three months of access.
- $149 – You have outright access to all the fantastic features with total coverage of six months.
- Kaplan – The teaching course is a self-paced training covering three months of unlimited access. You will get a full library of 190 video resources, all crafted by their experts. It also has four complete practice exams that establish the actual setting of the real test. They also have a complete coursebook in their review guide, which has more than 100 practice problems and score-raising strategies. They have a one-time payment of $349 for the whole course. They also have a lending partner who makes you break up the one-time payment into monthly fees. Keep in mind that pre-qualifying requirements must be submitted before they approve you for the monthly plans.
- ETS TOEFL – The official site of the ETS offers online prep courses as well. They have various offerings on their practice tests, guide books, and training. Their free resources include a free test preparation course complete with test introductions and self-paced reviewers. For their payment options, they have bundle packs available:
- $29 – This option will give you access to a complete coursebook by ETS
- $52 – The second payment plan covers your download to their complete TOEFL coursebook and official test e-book
- $72 – The access will be the same as the second payment plan, but you will get their online speaking reviewer as a bonus
- $148 – Apart from getting their coursebook and e-book, you will also receive five additional score reports and test discounts for the next reviews.
- Udemy (The Complete TOEFL iBT Success Course) – This prep course is one of the most in-demand reviewers being purchased online. It has an excessive pool of video tutorials with 10 hours of duration. It also has 25 training resources, ready for download, and two practice tests with lots of sample questions. This training can also be accessed on all your mobile devices, including your smartphone, laptops, and iPad. Moreover, it has a certificate of completion at the end of your training. The whole course costs $159.99.
- E2Language – What makes their prep courses great is they offer a wide range of payment plans, depending on what course pack fits your needs. For starters, they have a free online system that gives you one month of access to their live classes, practice questionnaires, and test-taking methods. If you are seeking help with their study experts and instructors, they have price options as well. You can refer to them below:
- $139 – This is their Bronze package, which gives you 12 months of access to all of their live classes. It has 1:1 expert sessions, mock tests with speaking and writing feedbacks, and a library of study lessons.
- $219 – Their Silver package has double all resources from the first payment option. It also comes with a pre-test strategy session to give you an advantage in taking the test.
- $309 – The Gold package has the resources thrice with all the available training materials. You will have a bonus post-test consultation after the exam to evaluate performance.
- They also have specific packages for particular skills. For example, they have the Speaking Intensive and Writing Intensive training courses, all for $79 each. Per training, you will get individualized content to hone such skills further.
- BestMyTest – Their online prep course has a 7-day free trial period where you can explore their resources. This review guide includes more than 1,000 practice questions, 2,000 commonly used Vocabulary words and phrases, grammar corrections and error counter, and the Ask-A-Tutor feature. Their best payment plan costs $200 with coverage of TOEFL test simulations, speaking and writing reviews, and a 15+ improvement score guarantee, or you get your money back. You can access their paid training guides for six months.
- ETSx TOEFL – This special online training is created by instructors who administer TOEFL’s official test. It is a free self-paced reviewer with a total study duration of 6 weeks. This prep course’s main highlights are the content created in the video lessons, and practice exams are all crafted by experts from ETS themselves. If you want to receive a certificate right after completing the free course, you can add $49 to get your certification. It is complete with the company logo and the tutors’ signature and can be easily added to your resume or CV. However, keep note that there is no study guide for this course.
- Preply TOEFL – It is an online tutorial website that offers tutor services and one-on-one classes to their enrollees. They have specific TOEFL instructors that provide hourly sessions with costs that range from $1 – $40 per hour. Once you access their site, you can choose among the recommended experts on their home page. From there, pick a tutor and specify the date and time of your preferred schedule.
- Their top tutors have their introduction video posted on their website’s main page with their educational and professional details indicated. There is an automatic schedule finder on the right-hand side of the page so that you can quickly check for the availability of your chosen tutor. Their instructors are diversified, as some come from European, Southeast Asian, and African countries.
- PrepScholar – As one of the leading online review sites, they are highly in-demand as their courses all have a free trial feature. This feature is a fantastic offering to assess if their training is fit for you before deciding to buy one of their paid plans. Here are their pricing offers:
- Free – Their free prep course is suitable for five days with an adaptive diagnostic test to adjust to your strengths and weaknesses in taking the exam. You can also access more than 150 interactive videos of lessons and theories, more than 1,000 TOEFL-centered questions in all four main areas, a full vocabulary course, and even admission guides to your dream universities and degree programs.
- $187 – Aside from getting all of the benefits from their free plan, you will also have a personalized study guide, 1:1 sessions with experts for speaking and writing reviews, unlimited admin support via email, and a 15-point increase guarantee or get your money back. All of these goodies can be accessed for one year.
- $385 – Their most expensive pricing comes unlimited in all of the available resources and review materials. There is also no expiration with the purchase.
- EnglishLive TOEFL – They have a variety of prep courses for different professional and academic exams. They provide two options for their TOEFL courses, depending on what kind of tutoring you like best. Here are their payment offers:
- Classic – Their first payment option costs $69 per month. Its approach is a self-paced kind of training where you can have interactive lessons with your very own live group classes. Their experts will craft an individualized study plan and progress tracker for you. You will also access TOEFL preparation tips and get verified certifications of completion. Your first seven days is considered a free trial, and you can cancel anytime within this period.
- Premium – They highlighted the presence of 1:1 sessions and accelerated learning systems. Apart from having all the benefits mentioned in the first option, you will also have your study advisor, and you will undergo a bonus fluency test. This offer costs $99 per month.
- Princeton Review – Their TOEFL prep courses are more inclined on private tutoring and 1:1 sessions. They want to keep the pieces of training very personalized and in-depth. Their approach is also more technologically advanced as they use custom-built apps to track your progress and create study plans. They also have a student dashboard with your progress report. They come at an hourly rate of $167 per hour up to $190 per hour for their pricing. The payment plans include specific hours of instruction and progress meetings.
- EnglishSuccessAcademy (Delta’s Key Complete Digital Course) – Once you access their website, their main prep course will be the digital review by Delta’s Key for TOEFL. The course has a pre-diagnostic test that can emphasize your weakest skills in English. It has a complete line of interactive quizzes, corrective explanations to give you an idea of your errors, and audio scripts. View the complete training on your mobile device. The full training costs $49.
- 4Tests – If you’re on a tight budget but would still like to learn and practice for the TOEFL exam, then going to the 4Tests website will give you free access to all of their training and resources. They have a full web page of practice questions, the Do’s and Don’t section, test-taking tips and strategies, and explaining the test in a comprehensive infographic. Keep in mind that they mostly focus on the Listening area of the exam with a few review materials for the test’s Reading section.
- TestDen – They are one of the original testing review platforms for TOEFL. Their prep course consists of four graded tests where you can see how your performance will be evaluated. They provide a Speaking and Writing trainer to make you focus on your oral vocabulary and written competence. You get access to the course for six months, and it costs $84.30. They also have a 30-day money-back guarantee in case you’re not satisfied with their training.
- TeedOnline – They provide realistic TOEFL content in all of their training material and prep courses. Their course has unlimited access to all video guides, lecture series, personal assessments from their top-notch experts and conducts live weekly TOEFL workshops. Their workshops are all recorded and automatically uploaded into their online portal to view the replays at your own time and pace. Their course has a one-time payment of $289.
- English is an important language that connects people and the world through communication.
- Non-native speakers’ proficiency in the English language is impressively increasing as technological advancements are taking place.
- The four main domains of English proficiency are reading, writing, speaking, and listening. They are interwoven but may not be entirely dependent on one another.
- If you wish to apply to graduate programs and universities, you must prepare to take the TOEFL – a standardized test to rate and measure your English abilities and competency.
- The TOEFL covers the four main areas of proficiency with specific time frames for each test section.
- There are online prep courses that can help you strategize in getting a high score in a TOEFL exam. They come in either free or paid formats, depending on the type of course.
- Ensure that you consider the reviews or feedback from previous students, affordability, accessibility, and training duration in choosing your prep course.
- Having a high TOEFL score can increase your chances of being accepted into your dream school or university.
- Once you have achieved your TOEFL goal score, don’t forget to prepare for your program application’s other requirements.
- It is also good to share tips and tricks with other test-takers on how you’re able to get a high score in your TOEFL exam.