The Difference Between TOEFL and GRE

By: Amy Nutt

Those looking to take classes in the U.S. who are from another country will have extra hurdles to cross in order to get accepted into the school of their choice. Extra testing is one of these. If you are looking to enroll in an education program in the United States, yet English is not your first language, you need to be aware of the basic exams you will be asked to take. These may include the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

What the TOEFL Tests - The TOEFL test is designed to determine whether or not you can speak adequate English to enroll in the program. You will be asked to read, listen to, comprehend, and write in English in order to pass the test. This is the test that over 6,000 institutions in over 130 countries choose when determining whether or not an applicant can speak fluent English.

The first section of the test contains 50 listening comprehension questions. You will be asked to listen to a variety of spoken passages, such as a class lecture or a passage being read. It will be read as spoken by a North American English speaker. You will then answer questions on what you heard. The second part of the test is a 40 question structure and written expression section. This tests whether or not you can recognize the proper structure of written English. The reading comprehension section involves 50 questions based on non-technical, college-level reading material. Finally, you will be asked to write a passage on a given topic to judge your ability to write in English. Each of these sections is timed, so you will need to be fairly adept at reading and comprehending English.

Who Needs to Take This Test - The TOEFL is designed to test whether or not you can understand and use English as spoken in American on the college level. While you may be a great English speaker, attending classes requires a higher level of understanding and speaking ability than conversational English. Any non-native speakers who wish to attend an English-speaking college can take this test, and it may be required for entry. It is a good idea for those pursuing both undergraduate and graduate degrees, but some graduate schools will accept students who graduated from English-speaking programs for their undergrad degrees without the test results. The test results are valid for two years after the exam is first scored.

What the GRE Tests - According to the Educational Testing Service, which administers both the TOEFL and the GRE tests, the GRE is designed to test "verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing skills." This can be subject specific or general, depending on the test chosen. The test is designed for students who are applying for graduate school programs. It is designed for native English speakers.

The test is unique in the fact that it is a computerized adaptive test. This means that the computer adjusts the questions given to the test taker based on whether or not the previous question is answered correctly. This allows the test to give a score with fewer questions asked.

Who Needs to Take This Test - The GRE is required by many English-speaking colleges and universities that have graduate programs. It is used to help "level the playing field" for graduate school applicants, as it is designed to give an accurate, unbiased measure of an applicant's ability level.

You may need to take this test and submit your scores if you plan to attend grad school, regardless of your English speaking ability. A minimum score may be required for your field of choice. Some programs only look at a certain portion of the test, such as the quantitative reasoning section for a math program, but you will need to take the entire test if your school requires these scores for entry into the graduate program.

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