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How to Prepare for TOEFL Test in Canada

By Karen Nunez

ITDs looking to expand their dental practice or opportunities in the beautiful country of Canada are required to pass a few different tests and requirements for immigration and certification. Some of these are designed specifically for your dental educational background, while others explore your capabilities with the language used most commonly around the country – English. Learning how to prepare for the TOEFL test in Canada takes a little bit of research to get you on your way to a lucrative career in dentistry.

Canada is a surprisingly culturally rich country with many different demographics and backgrounds, all coming together to enjoy the vibrant cosmopolitan centers and natural environments.

The two primary languages spoken, written, and read in Canada are English and French.

However, there are over 200 languages that are in use around the country by many different cultural centers and groups of residents. To practice dentistry in Canada, you will need to prove your capabilities with the English language, which requires passing the TOEFL.

Therefore, we have put together a quick guide about preparing for the TOEFL and furthering your dental career.

What is the TOEFL?

TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language and is the test format given to ITDs entering Canada. It is the world’s most accepted English language literacy test for those hoping to work, study, and immigrate into countries like Canada and the U.S.

It is also highly regarded as the gold standard for proof that you will be able to research and understand instruction while studying at Canadian universities and institutions. If you want to make it through admissions, you will need to pass the TOEFL exam.

The TOEFL test is accepted by more than 11,500 universities and other institutions in over 160 countries and is available through 3 different options:

♦   The traditional TOEFL iBT test in a test center
♦   The TOEFL iBT Home Edition
♦   The TOEFL iBT Paper Edition

The overall goal of the TOEFL exam is to evaluate 4 English academic skills - reading, listening, speaking, and writing.

Why Does the TOEFL Test Matter to Me?

In one of our stellar posts, How to Become a Dentist in Canada, we outlined the more prestigious schools, universities, and institutions in Canada that you can attend as an ITD. All of these schools require a good TOEFL score in order to attend their programs. This includes:

♦   University of Alberta (School of Dentistry)University of British Columbia (Faculty of Dentistry)

♦   University of Manitoba (Faculty of Dentistry)

♦   Dalhousie University (Faculty of Dentistry)

♦   University of Toronto (Faculty of Dentistry)

♦   The University of Western Ontario (School of Dentistry)

♦   McGill University (Faculty of Dentistry)

♦    Université de Montréal (Faculté de médecine dentaire)

♦   Université Laval (Faculté de médecine dentaire)

♦   University of Saskatchewan (College of Dentistry)

You will still have to pass the AFK exam before you can move on to going back to school with a successful IDAPP result. These schools want to verify that you can handle the coursework by reviewing your completed TOEFL test.

This is helpful to you as an applicant as well because you do not want to waste a considerable sum of money on a program that will be next to impossible to pass due to language barriers.

How to Start My TOEFL Preparations?

The challenge to how to prepare for the TOEFL is that each school has different admission requirements related to your overall score. For example, the University of Toronto requires a whole test score of 89-100, whereas McGill University goes as low as 79.

These test format outcomes vary because many of the participating colleges and universities are located in metropolitan areas where they assume your language skills will quickly improve due to the immersive nature of attending their programs.

That may be true, but it can often be anxiety-inducing for ITDs who have little to no experience with the English language to participate without a better grasp of English. For a more inclusive review of each university’s requirements, visit this page.

*Quick Tip: While we always offer as many professional and proven sources of information, we also wanted to suggest two tips that help a lot of potential ITDs. Download the app DuoLingo for free from the App store, practice English, and stream popular English TV shows with the subtitles turned on. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you pick up the nuances of the language. 

Let’s go over the specific tips of your TOEFL preparation skills you will need to focus on for a decent score. The two main ways most people take the TOEFL are online at a test center or home computer station or using the paper test. Both have different requirements:

Also, Check Out

 ♦   How to Become a Dentist in Canada (A Step by Step Guide)
 ♦   How to Improve Memory and Concentration


Internet-based test

♦   Reading section: 60-80 minutes | 36-56 questions

♦   Listening section: 60-90 minutes | 34-51 questions

♦   Speaking section: 20 minutes | 6 tasks

♦   Writing section: 50 minutes | 2 essays

Paper-based test

  ♦ Listening section: 30-40 minutes| 50 questions

  ♦ Writing section: 25 minutes | 40 questions

  ♦ Reading section: 55 minutes | 50 questions

  ♦ TWE test: 30 minutes | write one essay

Tips for Passing the TOEFL Test

1 - Listen and Watch English International News

Try watching the BBC International News that is available online for free. This gives you a good insight into the vocabulary and grammar skills needed for the English language. Watching international news instead of local is helpful because you will see familiar items related to your country that put the language in context.

2 - Get a Virtual Pen Pal

Using social media is an excellent option for those that can engage with native English speakers. Many people are looking to learn your native language and will be willing to trade time working with you in English if they can do the same for your language.

3 - Flashcards & Podcasts

You can find free resources online by searching for “TOEFL vocabulary lists” and then downloading PDF versions of flashcards. These are easy to use and fun cards with common English words or phrases that you can take out for 5-10 min a day in-between work or social obligations to help you study. It also helps to listen to English podcasts while commuting just to familiarize yourself with the language's tone, structure, and nuance.

4 - Take the Practice Exam

We suggest taking the TOEFL practice exam 3 times. Once at the very beginning of when you decide how to prepare for the TOEFL, again about halfway through the duration, you have set aside before sitting for the exam, and once more about a week before your exam date. This gives you an excellent measurement of your overall progress. You can view official practice questions here.

5 - Be Mindful of Your Mistakes

Take care to follow the answer guides so you can better understand the mistakes you are making and how to overcome them in the future. You do not want to only know what the answer is correct, but how you arrived at that conclusion.

What are the Different TOEFL Exam Sections?

There are four main areas of testing - reading, listening, speaking, and writing. You may take notes throughout all sections of your TOEFL exam and are looking for a score of 90 or higher for the best intuitions. It takes about 10 days after taking your test until you receive your verified score.

Reading Skills Section

This will involve reading passages and then answering questions based on what you just read. Each passage is about 700 words long and has around 10-14 questions. You will cover various academic topics from history to art to science and beyond. A good score is going to be anything above a 22.

Listening Skills Section

This will test your ability to understand the English language using audio prompts. You will listen to 4-6 different lectures and 2-3 conversations. Each one lasts about 3-5 minutes and comes with 4-8 questions.

Please note: you will only hear the audio clip once, so take notes! You will hear different English accents, so it is crucial to listen for context in the conversation or visual cues when taking the online test. A good listening score should be above 21.

Speaking Skills Section

This is the shortest section of the test and often gets overlooked because ITDs think it is easy. We cannot stress enough that you need to slow down your speaking speed to a natural level instead of letting anxiety prompt you to rush through each question.

You will be given 6 tasks, each requiring you to speak on topics ranging from familiar to relevant passages or audio clips. A good score in speaking is above 22.

Writing Skills Section

For this section, you will be required to write two essays, one that is integrated and one that is independent. The integrated essay involves reading an academic passage, listening to an audio clip, and then comparing the two by how they support or challenge one another.

The second essay is based solely on a prompt where you will write about your own opinion. A good score in speaking is above 22.

What is Considered a Passing Score for the TOEFL Exam?

Again, the specific goal number of your TOEFL Test score will depend on the Canadian university or institution you are hoping to study dentistry with. In general, you are shooting for a total test score of over 90. A perfect score would be 120.

There is no guessing penalty on the TOEFL. You earn points with correct answers and nothing for incorrect answers, so it never hurts to take a guess.

These are called “raw” points. Every section is scaled based out of 30. Universities will only consider your scaled score, not your raw scores. That means you want to shoot for as high of a raw score as possible. A great resource for the scaling process is here.

How to Register for the TOEFL Exam?

The TOEFL iBT is administered 6 days a week around the world, so you will have plenty of opportunities to register. Some online resources suggest only needing 7-10 days to prepare, but always suggest 3-4 months, so you have plenty of time to study.

You must preregister. You cannot walk into a test center without some form of registration to verify your identity and exam.

There are 3 ways to register for the TOEFL iBT exam:

  ♦ You can register using an ETS account here.
  ♦ Or by phone calling +1-443-751-4862 or 1-800-GO-TOEFL (1-800-468-6335)
  ♦ Or by mail using a registration form that is printable here.

In all cases, you will need payment information like a credit card readily available and have a time and place in your mind for selecting your test date.

The ID requirements vary depending on your country of origin. In general, you can expect to need original government documents with a photo ID that has your full name, signature, and any government-issued ID numbers. You can learn more about your specific country of origin by visiting here.

The total fees for the TOEFL vary based on your testing center. For example, those residing in the U.S. can expect to pay USD $195 for a single exam. There are additional fees for retaking the TOEFL or scheduling a new date if you have a conflict.

How to Prepare on the TOEFL Exam Day?

As long as you have taken the time to prepare for your TOEFL exam, you can expect to do pretty well. Most ITDs already have some experience with the English language due to their work in dentistry.

When you arrive at your testing center, be sure to have two forms, a photo ID and a printed copy of your registration confirmation number.

Eat a balanced breakfast beforehand and avoid too much sugar or caffeine that may give you the jitters during your test. Dress semi-professional with comfortable clothes that will not leave you too cold or hot.

The goal is to be as comfortable as possible, so your nerves relax. Be sure to arrive at least 30 minutes early in case there are any special instructions you need to follow.

Finally, keep your mind in “English” mode. It helps to listen to the English news, use an app, or have a conversation with someone that speaks the language before your test. This prompts your brain to maintain that language while taking your test.

Wrapping it Up

There is a lot of information to go over for how to prepare for the TOEFL. The best thing is to keep your end goal in mind of attending a Canadian dentistry school.

It helps to have a clear idea of why you are doing the TOEFL in the first place. This will align your focus so you can get the best possible outcome.

As always, we hope you have enjoyed our guide and welcome you to visit our site as often as possible.

We are constantly updating with new ITD information that helps people immigrate to Canada and find a successful new career and life in one of the most engaging countries in the world. Good luck with your test!


Karen Nunez was born in Valenzuela, Philippines. She received her Doctor of Dental Medicine degree from Centro Escolar University in Manila.

Karen currently is a practicing oral health care professional based in Alberta, Canada; and runs a Blog where she writes a slew of articles to empower internationally trained dentists to integrate into Canadian dentistry.

Read more of her blogs here.

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