3 Reasons You Should Be A TOEFL Instructor

toefl instructor

3 Reasons You Should Be A TOEFL Instructor

As as an EFL instructor, do want to increase your marketability? Do you want to make dreams come true? Do you want the reward of real teaching value? Then you should be a TOEFL instructor. I know. I know. TOEFL is not really an EFL or an ESL course. It is “test prep.” Worse, TOEFL texts are huge and full of arcane academic stuff. Yuk. Who wants to teach that? You do.

Increase Your Marketability

TOEFL (test-of-English-as-a-foreign-language) is the most widely taken academic English-language proficiency test in the world. It is four-hours long and consists of four sections: reading, listening, speaking and writing. Non-native, English-speaking students, who wish to study in the United States must take the TOEFL test and meet the scoring requirements of those schools to which they are applying. According to Educational Testing Services (ETS), over “22 million have taken the TOEFL test worldwide.” Of that number, the majority are foreign students hoping to study in the U.S. And they are arriving in record numbers.

The Institute of International Education reports that from 2013-2014, “the number of international students at colleges and universities in the United States increased by eight percent to a record high of 886,052.” The reason? The U.S. continues to be the number one destination for international students wishing to pursue their education abroad. The National Foundation for American Policy confirms as much, stating that “foreign students…account for 70.3 percent of all [U.S.] full-time graduate students.” In many graduate electrical engineering programs, the percentage of graduate students is 90 percent.

And those stats are just for university students. Foreign high-school students and professionals, such as dentists and pharmacists, are also coming to the U.S. in record numbers. To study or work in the U.S., these individuals, as well as foreign university students, must submit applications to the schools and licensing agencies of their choosing. They must also submit a TOEFL score, one that meets or exceeds the scoring requirement set by the school or agency. To get the TOEFL score they need, many test-takers enroll in TOEFL preparation courses. Yet taking one TOEFL course is often not enough. Many test-takers will repeat a TOEFL course as many times as necessary until they get the score they need.

Suffice it to say, the boom in foreign students and professionals seeking entry into the U.S. for educational and professional purposes means TOEFL instructors are in demand. And that is good news for EFL instructors. If you are an EFL instructor looking for work—and your résumé says you can teach TOEFL—your will increase your marketability. Moreover, you can capitalize on this skill set and market yourself as a freelance, online TOEFL tutor. Believe me, there has never been a better time to be a TOEFL instructor.


Photo Shutterstock

Make Dreams Come True           

For many test-takers, TOEFL is a nightmare, an insurmountable wall that stands between them and their dreams of studying and/or practicing professionally in the United States. That wall becomes a mountain once they realize that TOEFL is not as easy as they thought.

As a TOEFL instructor, my job is to help my students conquer their fears so they can conquer the mountain. I do so by teaching them the strategies they need for TOEFL success. Yet that is only half the battle. When the dentist has given up all hope of getting the TOEFL score he needs to actualize his dream of attending a U.S. dental school, I must inspire him to carry on. When the pharmacist has taken the TOEFL test six times, and has failed to get the speaking score she needs to be a licensed U.S. pharmacist—and she has missed the speaking requirement by one point each time—I must console her as she cries. I must restore her confidence. I must make her believe that she can do it, that she will make her dream come true.

Yes, I am TOEFL instructor, but more importantly, I am a coach, a cheerleader, a friend, a shoulder to cry on, and a source of inspiration for my students. In short, their futures are in my hands. I cannot make this claim about any other course I have taught. Not one. For the past thirty years, I have taught all levels of non-credit ESL. I have taught credit-level English at the undergraduate and graduate levels. These courses were rewarding in their own right yet as a teacher, nothing has brought me greater joy than helping my TOEFL students actualize their dreams. Imagine the joy when the dentist and the pharmacist finally got the scores they needed. Imagine the tears of relief when the student finally got the TOEFL score she needed to get into the MBA program of her choosing. Finally, the doors into their futures are wide open. Their lives are no longer on hold. The mountain has been conquered at last.

Even to this day, I get emails from former TOEFL students thanking me for helping them get the TOEFL scores they needed. I have helped make their dreams come true. As a TOEFL instructor, you will too.


Photo Shutterstock

Create Real Teaching Value

When you teach TOEFL, the value you bring to classroom is real and immediate. A good example is the TOEFL essay. Many of my TOEFL students have had little or no experience writing American-style essays thus I must teach them how to write a proficient, high-scoring essay. Once they grasp the basic concept of the American-style essay, the lights go on. They get it. The mystery is solved and their confidence soars. This jolt of confidence is reflected in higher practice essay scores. This holds true for all tasks on the TOEFL test. By demonstrating to my students that TOEFL is not impossible—that the wall can be climbed, the mountain conquered—I give them the confidence they need to succeed in class and on test day.

Soon after the course ends, my students take the TOEFL test. Some get the scores they need while others fall short of the mark. Yet in all cases, my students thank me. Those satisfied with their scores thank me for helping them actualize their dreams. For those who need to retake the test, yes, they are disappointed; however, they thank me for giving them the confidence they need not only for TOEFL success going forward but also with the daily challenge of communicating proficiently in English. With every email of thanks, I know that I, as a teacher, have created real value in the classroom, value that has had an immediate and lasting impact on the lives of my TOEFL students. As a TOEFL instructor, you will do the same.


Photo Shutterstock

Go For It!

In the increasingly competitive field of ESL teaching, having TOEFL on your résumé is a marketable skill that will set you apart. But be warned: there is no certification process for teaching TOEFL. With TOEFL, you are on your own. That is how I started teaching TOEFL. My program director gave me a TOEFL text and said, “Go for it!” The same holds true today. Yet once you get going, you will realize that TOEFL is more than just a test-prep course. You will discover that is it the most rewarding course you have ever taught. Best of all, you will create real teaching value in the classroom while making dreams come true.

Photo Shutterstock

Get weekly articles and resources straight to your inbox




  • Peter Jewell says:

    Thanks for this article, interesting to know the various avenues of the efl world. My question is…… Is there any opportunity for efl teachers from the UK to find work in the U.S as a toefl or efl teacher. I would love to have this opportunity but suppose (perhaps wrongly so) that the market already has sufficient U.S teachers who furthermore are not required like myself to pay for a working visa. Do you have any advice or know any Brits that have had success in finding work in the U.S.

    • Bruce Stirling Bruce Stirling says:

      Peter – For non-US citizens, cracking the US job market is next to impossible. However, if you have a special skill no other American has (think a pro athlete), and your US employer needs that skill to do business, then your US employer can get you a US work visa. Teaching ESL/TOEFL in the US is not considered a special skill. Bruce Stirlig

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

fourteen + 12 =