These five letters stand for an important exam – test of English as foreign language. Standards for this test have been set so that it can be used in various locations to determine the proficiency of an individual who has another native language. Thousands of educational organizations and schools have the TOEFL as a requirement for admission. This standard may also be used in countries that use English for instruction but the native language is different. The focus is primarily on English as used in the United States and Canada.
TOEFL may also be used to select personnel for government agencies, larger businesses and such educational programs as those that provide scholarships. In most cases, someone who passes a TOEFL exam is qualified for two years. This certification/qualification and exam are actually trademarks registered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), a private testing organization that has a budget of more than $1 billion annually.
This organization develops test materials for all educational levels and for business purposes as well (including the Graduate Record Exam that is used around the world for graduate-school admission. ETS is registered with the federal government as a non-profit organization that administers and records millions of examinations each year. The business has grown so large for ETS that it has a European office and representatives that work around the globe. The College Board that many are familiar with through the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is also a major part of the ETS business.
TOEFL was first offered and administered more than 45 years ago – more than 20 million students have taken this exam as part of their educational process. Most of the administration carried out in the TOEFL program is under the supervision of the TOEFL Committee of Examiners, which has 12 members who are, according to encyclopedia information, experts in languages, linguistics and education.
TOFEL is now offered as a Web-based exam (since 2005), a format that has replaced the original paper test and the computer test that was not connected through the Internet. The demand for the English exam as part of the educational and corporate once caused candidates to wait for months to get an opportunity. Now, with the Web-based exam, it is possible to take the exam in four weeks or less.
TOEFL exams are conducted over four hours and are taken in sections that include reading, listening, speaking and writing. There is a separate Web site for TOEFL, through which interested people can get the information bulletin (download or in print form through the mail). Test of English as Foreign Language or TOEFL is not the same as English as a Second Language (ESL). This is a more general term that refers to those who study English as a foreign language, but ESL is not a formal exam program as TOEFL is.
The most common use for TOEFL is as a requirement for admission for those who don’t have English as their native language. Universities and other higher-education institutions require successful completion of TOEFL for admission.