Best Time to Take the TOEFL®
When is the best time to take the TOEFL? It is a difficult question. There is no solid, always correct answer for this question. You do not want to take the exam too early since you might be unprepared. You also do not want to take it too late, you will not have enough time in case you need a re-take for better scores. The timing for TOEFL is pretty much just guess work, sadly. However, here are a few things that you can consider when choosing a test date so you can maximize your performance while limit difficulties.
Check your program's application dates
Check with your schools about their program's application deadline. Double-check with them if you need to. Make sure you have that important day marked somewhere on your calendar. From that day, calculate backward to see what date you should take your TOEFL exam. There are two things to remember when making this calculation: (1) Possibility of re-take and (2) Official score delivery of the ETS. (1) When choosing what date to take the exam, give yourself enough cushion between the application deadline and your test day so if you want to have a re-test, you will have enough time to do so. Even when you are very confident with your ability, you still should consider giving yourself this cushion space. Anything can go wrong with an exam and you wouldn't have known beforehand. (2) Your schools will most likely request an official score report from the ETS. So you will have to go to the ETS website, request for the score delivery service and pay ETS the delivery fee. Keep in mind that the scores do not get sent immediately. They normally can take from 4 days to a week to reach your schools. So give the scores an extra week or so to reach your school as well. Again, make absolutely sure about your program's deadlines since different programs can have different deadlines. International students or scholarship students may also have different deadlines. So double-check and triple-check if you can.
Don't Rush your study
It is a burden on your back to keep having to think about the TOEFL exam. You may think that taking the exam as soon as possible will ease your mind and you just want to get it over with. It's understandable. But don't rush it. Don't rush your exam. Don't rush your study. If you take the exam too early, you may risk being unprepared. That decision can cost you both money and efforts for a re-take if you do not do as well as you want to or you do not get the required score for your program. The TOEFL is not cheap and so are your time and efforts. So do not save them short in a hurry.
Be smart. Be practical.
Plan the TOEFL exam in accordance with other things that happen in your life that related to your study. If you take an intensive English or TOEFL preparation course, plan to take the TOEFL within a few weeks after the course so your knowledge is still fresh. If you will have a short break from school and you plan to use that free time to study a bit more and brush up your TOEFL test taking skills then plan your exam after the break. If you are from a non-English speaking country and you study in an English speaking community like international schools or schools in English speaking countries, then take the exam before you leave the community or within a few short weeks after coming back to your home country. Be smart about planning your TOEFL. Take all the benefits and advantages you can take, even the littlest one.
TOEFL Score does expire
Unfortunately, TOEFL scores come with an expiration date. They are only good for 2 years. After 2 years, your record is nowhere to be found on the ETS website. That means they cannot send an official score record to your schools for you. If you are studying abroad now and you took the TOEFL before, you may not be able to use that score again if the score is more than 2 years old. So check your old score to see whether or not you have to do a re-take before applying for your program. Don't just assume you will be fine, check and make sure of the exact date you took your TOEFL the last time.