Options to prepare online for the TOEFL Test
Over the last several years, it has become possible to effectively study for the TOEFL entirely online. Most of the major test prep firms now offer several options for online instruction, including prep courses, private tutoring, and practice tests. Online TOEFL learning plans have most of the advantages of in-person instruction, including real-time interaction with teachers and fellow students, honest assessments of progress, and structure for out-of-class study. Online instruction also saves students money by rendering transportation costs unnecessary, and online study is more time-efficient. There are, however, a few disadvantages to preparing for the TOEFL via the internet. First, students are completely dependent on the quality and reliability of their internet service. Second, some students may find it easier to justify missing an online class, which obviously has a negative effect on TOEFL study. Finally, online instruction does not include all of the benefits of in-person study, such as easier access to and interaction with instructors and other students.
The ETS website is a valuable online resource for students taking the TOEFL. Important general information available on the ETS website includes a list of available test dates and test centers, an overview of TOEFL acceptance for a variety of purposes, instructions for students with disabilities, and TOEFL policies and procedures. ETS offers a free six-week online TOEFL prep course, free TOEFL webinars in six languages, free practice questions, and an online store that sells a variety of TOEFL materials. An FAQ section answers common questions posed by test-takers, on subjects ranging from test registration to test scoring. The ETS website is a repository for numerous research studies on the TOEFL, many of which are available to the general public. Test-takers are encouraged to use the ETS website for registration purposes, and this is the most convenient method of signing up for the exam. It is also possible to view score reports online. All students taking the TOEFL should become familiar with the materials available on the ETS website, which will greatly simplify the process of registering and preparing for the test.
Many university websites have pages that are relevant to TOEFL prep. In addition to score requirements for individual schools and/or departments, score data, and other important information for international students, resources for TOEFL prep are frequently included on these websites, such as available TOEFL instruction in the university community or suggestions for TOEFL study. Test prep firms often publish informational online articles about the TOEFL, with topics ranging from study strategies to the role of the TOEFL in university admissions. Although caution is always advisable on the internet, professional educators tend to have credibility on the TOEFL and related issues.
Research studies on the TOEFL can be helpful to test-takers, and a number of these studies are available online and free of charge. ETS publications cover topics such as TOEFL development, history, and specifications, which can help students understand the reasoning behind the exam. ETS data on TOEFL scores by region, gender, and degree level may be of some assistance to students attempting to evaluate their TOEFL weaknesses and compare their performance to the total group. ETS is obviously not an objective resource on the TOEFL, but their publications are valuable for some purposes. There is also a fairly sizable body of independent research on the TOEFL, which evaluates the test's predictive validity, correlations with certain types of academic performance, bias, and other issues.
Online methods of preparing for the TOEFL can be highly effective, but there are also a number of TOEFL "teachers" with extremely dubious qualifications. The instructor should be the first consideration in the evaluation of online TOEFL learning plans. Does this person have a strong university education and teaching experience that is specific to the TOEFL? If the answer to this question is "no," or if the prospective instructor equivocates in any way on the subject of his or her credentials, then students are advised to look elsewhere. Students should also ask about the course materials used. How recently were the textbooks published? By whom were they written? Outdated materials are of little use, and textbook authors without subject-matter expertise are likely spreading misinformation. Finally, what is the reputation of the provider? There are plenty of credible test prep firms, but there are also companies that make unrealistic promises or guarantees, and the latter should be avoided. Students who do not consider their online TOEFL prep choices carefully may be wasting both time and money.