It is Advanced Placement (AP) season around here and that has me thinking about all the different kinds of tests students take. Some are optional, some are mandatory (such as English 12 Provincial Exam), but all require preparation and planning.
If you are in Grade 11 right now, you might be writing an AP exam, getting ready for your Social Studies 11 Provincial Exam, or maybe gearing up to write your first Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). We would also suggest that you think about whether or not you need to write the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), and when you might do that test. Most students from SMUS choose to write the internet-based TOEFL (iBT) at a testing centre here in Victoria or on the mainland, but you may be able to write it at home during the summer.
Do I need to write it?
If your first language is not English and you will have been studying at SMUS (or any English-speaking school in an English-speaking country) for fewer than four academic years including your grade 12 year, you should take TOEFL. Some universities will accept just three years of study instead of four (e.g. UBC, Queen’s), but you should do careful research before deciding whether to take it, or not.
In some cases, universities have asked international students to produce a TOEFL score even if they have the four years of study in Canada, particularly if the student’s high school English marks are low. In these cases, the university is looking to gain more information about the applicant’s level of English with the help of a standardized test score.
Final word: If in doubt, take the test.
When should I write it?
You should write it whenever you feel you will have the best possible chance of exceeding the minimum score required by your prospective universities and you must do the research for each university to find out the minimum score required for admission. For example, Queen’s requires a minimum score of 88; UBC and UVic require 90; University of Toronto requires 100; Harvard and Columbia require 109. For some students, they are ready to write it at the end of Grade 11 while other students wait until Grade 12 to write.
Final words: We STRONGLY suggest that you have your TOEFL score at the time that you submit your application. The universities will not make a decision about your application until they have seen that you have met their minimum score.
By the way…
There are other tests that universities sometimes will require or accept in place of TOEFL. One of these tests is the IELTS (International English Language Testing System), which some UK universities prefer over the TOEFL. One of the most significant differences between the two tests is that the speaking section is recorded digitally in the internet based TOEFL, while the IELTS test has an interview format with a human being on test day.
As with the TOEFL, most universities publish a minimum IELTS score required for admission. For example, McGill, UBC & UVic require a minimum overall score of 6.5 or better, with no lower than 6.0 on any section while the University of Edinburgh also says 6.5, but with no score lower than 5.5 on any section. Columbia requires a minimum of 7.0. To find out if a university accepts IELTS and what the minimum score required is, go to this IELTS search page and search by country and institution name.