Differences between GRE Verbal and TOEFL
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GRE and TOEFL are so different that ideally we should not need a blog post on this topic. However a vast majority of beginners in the process of applying to US universities are so confused that they often have a blurred understanding about the two tests.
GRE General Test is a test of intellectual preparation and consists of three sections verbal, quantitative and analytical writing ability. TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language – is a test of minimum understanding of English and measures writing, speaking and listening abilities. The Verbal section of GRE and the TOEFL both are tests of English, but they measure very different aspects of your English abilities. Someone having exceptionally high verbal ability and good grasp of English language is likely to excel at both the tests. Someone with average verbal ability will do average on GRE verbal, but can still ace the TOEFL. The reason is simple, TOEFL is a much easier test.
The biggest difference between GRE and TOEFL lies in the purpose and importance of the two tests. To best illustrate the difference, let us take you along the steps of applying. Let us consider a student who has scores 73 in TOEFL and 550 and 790 in GRE verbal and quantitative sections respectively. This student is applying to Princeton University. As per Princeton website, the minimum required TOEFL iBT score is 71. The average GRE scores of successful student in recent years for Engineering programs id 580 verbal and 785 quant. TOEFL is a qualifying exam. All applicants at Princeton who scored 70 or below in TOEFL shall be rejected, without looking at the other aspect of their application. Since the student scored more than 70, his application will pass the TOEFL screening. Now the application will be considered by the admission committee. Whether she scored 73 or 119 does not matter at all. Now as you can see her verbal score is below average of the successful applicants and quant score is little above average. At this stage the GRE score will be considered along with all other factors like academic grades, research, letters of recommendation and the SOP. If one or more of these aspects are very impressive she will get admitted even if the verbal score is a bit low.
Now let us consider the same student applying to Purdue University. The minimum required TOEFL iBT score is 77. The average GRE scores of successful student in recent years for Engineering programs at Purdue is 510 verbal and 740 quant. Please note that the TOEFL requirement is higher than her score, whereas the GRE expectations are significantly below her score. At the TOEFL screening level, all applicants who scored below 77 shall be rejected. So her application will never reach the department for consideration, no matter how strong other credentials might be.
Another key difference is in the amount of study needed. Although this is very subjective, an average student who is not a native speaker of English can easily devote six months pf studies for GRE Verbal alone, assuming one hour of effort per day. Same student would need approximately one month of preparation for the TOEFL.
Many students ask how much should I aim for. Our answer is you should score as much as possible. However to put a number, a score of 600 out of 800 is considered a good score. A TOEFL score of 105 out of 200 can be considered more than sufficient to get you in any University, as the required TOEFL score is between 75 and 100 for most top universities.