Aug 23

Ultimate TOEFL Guide for International Students

by Trent Baumbach

Step-by-step Guide to Completing Your High School Capstone Projects

Ultimate TOEFL Guide for International Students


If you’re considering pursuing education in an English-speaking country, TOEFL iBT (Internet-based Test of English as a Foreign Language) is likely on your radar. This comprehensive test evaluates your English language proficiency and plays a pivotal role in securing admission to boarding schools and universities, as well as many English-speaking international schools.

Do you want to improve your chances of getting into a top-tier university? Schedule your consultation with Tokyo Academics today!

What is on the TOEFL test?

Designed to gauge your ability to comprehend, communicate, and excel in an English-language academic environment, the TOEFL exam comprises four distinct sections:

  1. Reading: This segment assesses your comprehension, vocabulary, and critical thinking skills by presenting and analyzing written English passages commonly found in academic materials.
  2. Listening: Evaluate your listening skills by engaging with conversations and lectures, followed by questions that evaluate your understanding of spoken English and your capacity to extract vital information.
  3. Speaking: Express your thoughts on various subjects through tasks that require you to respond to prompts, engage in conversations, and share academic opinions.
  4. Writing: Showcase your aptitude in constructing well-organized essays by responding to prompts and demonstrating your ability to form coherent arguments with supporting evidence.

We recommend first checking the TOEFL official website for an introduction to test content, sample questions, and test scheduling. From there, working with a private tutor will be the best way to get in depth practice and personalized feedback to improve your language skills.

Who is TOEFL for?

Non-native English speakers aspiring to study or work in an English-speaking environment typically take the TOEFL exam. It’s frequently a prerequisite for international students seeking admission to universities, boarding schools, and English-speaking international schools.

Is TOEFL needed for boarding school admissions?

As you strive for admission to prestigious boarding schools abroad, the TOEFL test is a typical requirement used to reflect your readiness to thrive in an immersive English language environment. Admissions committees utilize your TOEFL scores as a reliable indicator of your language skills, which are crucial for academic success in these settings.

Specific requirements vary by school. For example, Choate Rosemary Hall states “For non-native English speakers and/or students who have not been at a school where English is the primary language of instruction for at least two years, we strongly suggest submitting results  from a TOEFL, Duolingo or IELTS test.” Since some schools are more flexible about English requirements, it’s best to check the boarding school admissions requirements or FAQ page of your goal school.

For an overview of boarding school admissions overall, check out our blog “The Ultimate Guide to Boarding School Admissions.” 

Is TOEFL needed for college admissions?

TOEFL scores also serve as a significant benchmark of your English language proficiency to colleges and universities and can demonstrate your ability to succeed academically. Universities in English-speaking countries often require international applicants to submit TOEFL scores, but again this will vary by school.

For example, UCLA notes that international students “will be required to demonstrate English proficiency if [they] have had less than 3 years of instruction in English.” Penn, a top Ivy League University, requires applicants’ native language to be English, or that the primary language of instruction for all of high school was English. 

Do I need to take TOEFL if I go to an international school?

While attending an English-speaking international school might suggest fluency, English proficiency requirements can still vary among institutions, primarily if the student’s first language is not English. Some schools may request TOEFL scores to ensure you possess the language skills necessary for complex subjects, academic discussions, and effective communication within the school community.

What is a good TOEFL score?

TOEFL iBT scores range from 0 to 120, with each section scored on a scale of 0 to 30. The competitive score range varies based on the institution and academic level. While a strong score typically falls between 90 and 100, the best US boarding schools and universities will expect TOEFL scores to be greater than 100.

What should I do next to succeed on the TOEFL test?

For international schools students whose academic journey includes boarding school, university abroad, or international school, the TOEFL iBT test is often required. This test not only validates your language proficiency but also enhances your prospects in English-language academic environments. Gaining an understanding of the exam’s structure, significance, and score expectations empowers you to navigate admissions processes with confidence, making strides toward achieving your educational aspirations.

Tokyo Academics has dozens of tutors who work with international school students daily to help them structure and achieve their academic goals, including those taking the TOEFL test in Japan. Furthermore, our Admissions Consulting team will work with your to plan your boarding school or college admission journey!

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