Student Experiences | TOEFL Online Test at Home Experience
Last Updated on February 9, 2021 by iSchoolConnect
We spoke to a few students who recently took the TOEFL online test from the comfort of their homes. Read on to know more about their experiences, the exam requirements, and the registration procedure of the TOEFL Special Home Edition test.
The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is an English proficiency test attempted by students who intend to study abroad. When the pandemic forced students to stay indoors and their TOEFL exams had to be canceled, ETS came up with a solution – the TOEFL online test. Similar in content, format, and on-screen experience of the TOEFL iBT test taken at the test center, this test can be taken by students at home and is monitored by a human proctor online. While ETS says that the two tests are very similar, the students we interviewed have a different story to tell. Read on to find out what they said.
Who is eligible for the at-home TOEFL?
The test is available in all the countries where TOEFL is normally conducted, except for Mainland China and Iran. As long as students meet the equipment requirements for the test and have a room that provides an acceptable environment, they are eligible to give the exam.
If you have a Windows desktop or laptop, can install the ETS Test Browser and are able to add the ProctorU extension to your browser, you can take the TOEFL at home. While the ETS Test Browser is where you’ll be giving your exam, ProctorU will be used by your proctor to monitor you during the test. Since the installation and set-up procedure for these applications is the same as the GRE at Home test, we recommend you go through this blog to read about it in detail.
“Installing the ETS Test Browser & and ProctorU program was fairly easy for me”
One of the major differences between the TOEFL Home Edition and the traditional TOEFL iBT test is that, at home, you will not be allowed to use earphones or headphones. If you want to give the exam, you’ll need an internal or external microphone and speakers.
“I used external speakers so I could hear better during the Listening and Speaking sections”
You will require an in-built camera or a webcam to show your room to the proctor before starting your test, and a mirror or your phone camera to show them your screen.
Since the test takes about three hours to complete, ETS asks that you find a quiet room. Make sure nobody else will enter while you’re giving your exam. Sit in a comfortable chair, and place your desktop, your keyboard, your ID proof, and transparent writing material on an otherwise empty desk.
Remember, ETS is allowing students to use only a whiteboard or a transparent sheet, and an erasable marker for taking notes during the exam. So, order your writing materials well in advance, and start practicing with them at least 15 days before the test.
At the end of the test, your proctor will ask you to erase all your notes in front of them. And since they’ll look at your writing material even before you begin the test, we suggest you don’t attempt to write anything on it ahead of your exam. No cheating!
How do I register for the at-home TOEFL?
Once you’re sure your computer and your room meet the testing requirements, you can create an ETS account for the TOEFL iBT test. The TOEFL registration procedure is this – go to the “My TOEFL” homepage, select “Register”, and then “Find Test Centers”. On the “Find Test Centers and Dates” page. Select the option for the “Special Home Edition” test and make the standard payment of $180. Within a day, ProctorU will send you a log-in link, along with instructions to create an account and select the date and the time for your test.
The TOEFL Registration slots are available around the clock every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at least up until June 30th, 2020. You can get an appointment as early as 24 hours after you have registered!
Are there any considerations for the at-home TOEFL?
Yes, ETS is allowing accommodations for TOEFL online test takers with disabilities. You can request these via your ETS account before registering for the test. The accommodations include extended time, extra breaks, screen magnification, and selectable colors.
Can I reschedule or cancel my at-home TOEFL test?
Yes. You can use your ProctorU account to reschedule the test for free! You can do this well in advance before your chosen test date and time.
The cancellation policy requires you to cancel your exam at least 4 days in advance. This will ensure that you receive half of your original test fee from ETS.
What to expect on the at-home TOEFL test day?
The night before your exam, make sure you have the appropriate materials and prepare the room where you will test. As you do this, watch the At Home Testing with ProctorU Video to make sure you’re following all the ETS guidelines properly.
“I had 2 transparent sheet papers, but then my proctor told me I could use only one”
Also, keep your ID proof handy; you’ll have to show it to your proctor before starting the test.
On test day, log in to your ProctorU account 15 to 20 minutes prior to your scheduled time, and wait for the proctor to join in.
Now, even though the proctor is expected to appear about 5 minutes after your appointment begins, we have heard that some students have had to wait a bit longer. Consequently, your testing experience will depend majorly on your proctor.
Once your proctor is online, you will be asked to complete a few authentication steps, show your ID, review the exam rules, and give access to your computer screen. The proctor will do checks on your PC to see if any other software is running. Then, they will look at your screen and take a 360-degree view of your room.
“The proctor checked my room, my tabletop surface, and even took a look under my desk. After that, I was asked to put my phone away.”
The entire procedure will take about 10 to 15 minutes. After that, your proctor will ask you to launch the ETS Test Browser, enter a password, and begin your test.
What is the experience of at-home TOEFL like?
The TOEFL Online Test (TOEFL iBT) and the TOEFL Special Home Edition test are not very different from each other. The only differences are one-on-one proctoring, the restriction on headphones, and the different writing material. Even the breaks are the same – you get 60 seconds between each section, and a 10-minute break after the Listening section.
“Once I was done with my break, I had to wave my hands to attract the attention of the proctor. Then, they logged me in and restartsed my test.”
One of the primary concerns students have about taking a three-hour-long test is what would happen if there’s a glitch in their internet connection.
“I disconnected when there were only 6 minutes left for the Listening section to end. I lost connection with my proctor and the ETS Test Browser shut itself. But then another proctor came online, re-did all the checks, and started my test again. I didn’t lose any test time at all!”
As you can see, no system is perfect. But ETS and ProctorU are doing everything they can to make your testing experience seamless. So, in case you face any issues talking to the examiner, you can open the ProctorU chat-box to get in touch with them. And if that doesn’t work, you can always reach out to the TOEFL Customer Service.
Should I take the at-home TOEFL test?
It’s incredible how quickly ETS came up with the home edition of TOEFL, finding an alternative for test-takers who’ve been planning to study abroad.
“For Reading, I did a lot of dense reading. While Speaking, I wrote down templates and used them during the test. For Writing, I saw it’s better to edit only after I had finished writing the entire essay. I did my TOEFL preparation for about 5 weeks using Magoosh and a few YouTube videos. I scored 108!”
Even though you have to figure out the test set-up on your own, taking the test from the quiet comfort of your home is worth it. So, if you have been preparing for the exam and have the needed equipment, room, and a speedy internet connection, go for it!
“Frankly, it’s not very different from the TOEFL online test (TOEFL iBT) you take at the test center. This is a fair deal.”
But in case you don’t have the proper technical equipment, materials, and testing room, we suggest you wait it out.
Still not sure if you want to take the TOEFL Special Home Edition test? You can read more about the TOEFL exam pattern, syllabus, and scoring here. If you’re planning to take other exams as well, we have collated a blog about Coronovarus’ impact on tests like GRE, GMAT, IELTS, TOEFL. If you’re looking for news on how college admissions are getting affected because of the pandemic, read our COVID19 updates. In case you have any queries or doubts you need to be answered, please reach out to us at iSchoolConnect. We are here to help. Stay home, stay safe.