If you're planning to apply to university later this year, either for Fall 2015 or for next year, we recommend getting your English language requirement (IELTS or TOEFL) out of the way. It will be one less thing to think about as you prepare for the SAT, study for final exams, or begin the application process.
Do I Really Have to Prove I Speak English?
You might be thinking "I don't have to take an exam to prove I speak English because I went to an English speaking school." Unfortunately, almost all universities in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia will still require you to prove you speak English. Here are the requirements from the University of Chicago that show typical requirements to NOT have to take the TOEFL or IELTS:
The English language requirement may be waived if the applicant is a native of or studied in full-time status for at least one academic year within the last five years in the U.S., the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or English medium universities in Canada or South Africa. Students who studied in English in other countries, for example, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc., are not exempt from the English language requirement.
From the last sentence, we can see that the United Arab Emirates will fall into the same category as Hong Kong, Singapore, etc. If you went to school in Dubai and don't have a passport from the US, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, or South Africa, you'll have to take the TOEFL or IELTS.
I Went to School in the UAE and I Don't Have a "Western" Passport
So what score do you need? Well, that varies by university and by program. Some require only a 70 or above. However, the following requirements from the University of Chicago are pretty typical:
Applicants whose total score on the four-part TOEFL falls below 90 (or IELTS falls below 7) will not normally be admitted unless other demonstrable evidence of proficiency in English is available. Individual departments may set higher standards for these scores, and applicants should consult the specific program web sites for details.
Some universities like Georgia Tech now even require online interviews for non-native English speakers!
I Went to School in the UAE and I Don't Have a "Western" Passport: The Exception
There is one exception to the requirement we just mentioned: a high score on the SAT Reading section. Many universities will not require you to take the TOEFL or IELTS even if you went to school in the UAE and don't have a "Western" passport IF you earned a high score on the SAT Reading section. Here are the example requirements from Cornell University:
The TOEFL and/or IELTS requirement for international applicants is waived for students achieving a score of at least 670 on the Critical Reading section of the SAT exam.
The score you need varies based on university (usually 620 and above) so be sure to read EVERYTHING on the International Applicants section of the website of EACH university to which you are applying. If you meet the university's requirements, they will automatically waive the requirement for you so you don't need to email them.
I Went to School in the UAE and I Don't Have a "Western" Passport: Applying to the UK
If you went to school in the UAE and don't have a "Western" passport but you are applying to the UK, you must take the IELTS. You have to meet the requirements of the university and course you are applying to AND the UK Government to qualify for a Tier 4 (General) student visa. If you're applying to both UK and US universities, make the process easier for yourself and take the IELTS Academic module because it will meet everyone's requirements.
I Went to School in the UAE and I Do Have a "Western" Passport
If you went to high school in Dubai and have a passport from the US, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, or South Africa (even if you never lived there), you can qualify for a "TOEFL Waiver." It is also some times called an English language requirement waiver or a TOEFL/IELTS waiver but TOEFL waiver is the most common term. Here's how to get one from your universities.
How to Apply for a TOEFL or IELTS Waiver
1. Apply to the university via its website or through the Common Application. The university will not be apply to access your file to provide the credit until they have actually received the application. You can only apply for a TOEFL Waiver to universities in the US (and international universities in Dubai).
2. Wait for a confirmation email from the university. It may take 2-3 days after the deadline has passed for you to receive this email. It will include information for sending other parts of your application and provide an email address to apply for a TOEFL waiver (if this info is not included on the university website). If you don't get an email from the Admissions Department within a week of submitting your application, go to the next step.
3. Send an email to the Admissions Department requesting a TOEFL waiver.Here's a sample that you can cut, paste, and change:
Subject: TOEFL Waiver
I recently submitted my application to (university name) for Fall 2015. Here is my information to help you find my application:
- First and last names as they appear on the application
- Email address used on your application
- Date of birth
- Application number (if received in confirmation email)
I would like to request a TOEFL waiver because I am a native English speaker and hold a passport from (country), which meets the requirements shown on the university website. I have attached my passport copy as proof.
Please email me once my TOEFL waiver has been granted.
4. Wait for about 2 weeks for a response from the university. If no one replies, check the online application system for the university, call the admissions office, or email the admissions office again.
Congratulations...now you can start preparing for the SAT!
Questions? Comments? Concerns?
Leave it in the comments!
We were going through some of the materials in our archives, stumbled on this gem, and thought we would share it with you. Here are 185 Official TOEFL iBT Writing Topics for the Independent Writing Task. Yup, this is all of them. Almost most all of our students have had a TOEFL writing topic that came from this list.
How to Use This List
The last thing you want to do with this list is start writing essays for 185 topics. Here's our recommendation for how to boost your score with these official TOEFL topics:
Speaking Task 1: # 6, 18, 42, 52, 62
Speaking Task 2: # 10, 14, 18, 30, 32, 45
Now that you know what to do, here's the list! Scroll to the bottom to download or print the list in PDF form.
Directions: Topics in the following list may appear in your actual test. You should become familiar with this list before you take the computer-based TOEFL test. Remember that when you take the test you will not have a choice of topics. You must write only on the topic that is assigned to you.
185 Official TOEFL iBT Writing Topics
Want to download or print this? Save the PDF.
Questions? Comments? Concerns?
Leave it in the comments!
If you've already taken the SAT this year, it's time to start preparing for the TOEFL! Unless you scored a 600 or higher on the reading section of the SAT, you'll be required to take an exam to prove you speak English (either the TOEFL or the IELTS). Be sure to check the TOEFL waiver requirements of the universities you're applying to...requirements vary!
If you've decided to take the TOEFL, even though the IELTS is easier and it's easier to get a test date in Dubai, you need to do a little bit of preparation so you can get the best score possible (and don't freak out on test day).
How to Prepare for the TOEFL
Here are our recommendations for how SAT test takers should prepare for the TOEFL:
Tests to Start Prepping with Now
Here are a few resources available on the web to get your TOEFL preparation started:
You can do a full length test's worth of practice on this site. Keep in mind that the format DOES NOT follow the actual exam. On the reading section, there should be 13 (not 10) questions and each passage with questions ends with a table or classification question. On the listening section, there will be 2 academic lectures and 1 campus conversation, not 4 lectures and 3 conversations.
ETS Quick Prep
Here's yet another great tool from ETS that includes real retired TOEFL test questions. Use volumes 3 and 4 because you need the audio for the listening and speaking. Between the two volumes, you'll get 6 listening practice sets, 6 speaking practice sets, and 1 writing practice set.
Official ETS Sample Test Questions
Ok, this isn't a full test, but these are sample questions from the makers of the TOEFL. They offer the best wording and insight into test because they are old retired questions. Do them after you complete a full length test.
TOEFL iBT Sampler
Another great ETS resource to download and use.
Practice Tests Free (Download)
A so-so download that isn't a full length practice test but can get you used to the TOEFL interface. (There real TOEFL takes about 4 hours NOT 55 minutes.) You can also download this application from download.com.
155 TOEFL Independent Writing Topics
This site provides a complete list of all the possible TOEFL independent writing topics (essay #2 of the writing section). Be sure to read over it so you understand the different styles of questions, write a few essays in 30 minutes to get the feel of writing under timed conditions, and outline a bunch to stimulate your creativity. Just remember, the independent writing task is a different essay from the SAT essay. The focus should be on reasons, rather than examples, to support your argument. You can also use all personal examples if you like.
Update: We have published 185 Official TOEFL iBT Writing Topics here on our site!
In our previous post, we recommended that students or people applying for immigration take the IELTS if they want to easily meet their immigration requirements. Here are the remaining test dates for 2014. If you're applying to universities, be sure to register for the Academic Module. The General Module is for immigration.
If you intend to attend university or immigrate to an English speaking country, you probably need to take an exam that proves you speak English as a second language. Although many people opt for the TOEFL, the IELTS may be a better fit for you. In general: