TOEFL®  PREP – WHAT IS THE TOEFL?

WHAT IS THE TOEFL?

What you need to know about the TOEFL, TOEFL scores, TOEFL test availability, and the TOEFL sections

ABOUT THE TOEFL

The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is designed to measure whether someone is prepared to live and thrive in an English-speaking environment. TOEFL is offered in iBT (Internet-based test) format.

TOEFL scores are often used by universities and colleges as an admission requirement for students who have received their education in a non-English speaking country.

The TOEFL is organized by the Educational Testing Service (ETS).

WHAT IS ON THE TOEFL?

The TOEFL exam measures how well you understand both written and spoken English and how well you speak and write in English. The content of the test is geared towards academic subjects and settings, such as those encountered during undergraduate studies in the U.S. universities. The TOEFL does not test any specific academic knowledge or erudition.

WHAT ARE THE TOEFL SECTIONS?

The TOEFL contains four distinct sections, measuring the four basic English proficiency skills:

  • Reading
  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Writing

The sections follow this specific order during the test session. Each section is scored on the scale of 0 to 30. Thus, the total score for the test is between 0 and 120.

READING

Overview Questions Duration Scoring
The test taker reads three or four passages from academic texts and answers questions about each passage.

Two main question types: Multiple Choice and Drag-and-Drop.

3 or 4 passages, 10 questions per passage 54 or 72 minutes Raw scores converted to scaled scores
Overview The test taker reads three or four
passages from academic texts
and answers questions about
each passage.
Two main question types:
Multiple Choice and Drag-and-
Drop.
Questions 3 or 4 passages, 10 questions per
passage
Duration 54 or 72 minutes
Scoring Raw scores converted to scaled
scores

The first section of the TOEFL exam is the Reading Comprehension section, which is used to measure your aptitude to read and understand short passages in written English.

You will be required to answer questions based on information that is stated or implied in each passage. The TOEFL reading section does not test your memory or knowledge of the reading material, it only tests how well you comprehend the words on the page. In other words, you do not need to study for the topics within the TOEFL Reading section – you only need to ensure your English is good enough to understand what you are reading so that you will be able to answer the questions correctly.

TIP: Visualize the material as you read it! The best way to comprehend a prompt is to picture what you are reading – this will make it easier to answer the questions correctly when you come to the end of the prompt.

LISTENING

Overview Questions Duration Scoring
The test taker listens to lectures, classroom discussions, and conversations and answers questions.

Two main question types: Multiple Choice and Drag-and-Drop.

3 to 4 lectures, 6 questions per lecture

2 to 3 conversations, 5 questions per conversation

41 to 57 minutes Raw scores converted to scaled scores
Overview The test taker listens to lectures,
classroom discussions, and
conversations and answers
questions.
Two main question types:
Multiple Choice and Drag-and-
Drop.
Questions 3 to 4 lectures, 6 questions per
lecture2 to 3 conversations, 5 questions
per conversation
Duration 41 to 57 minutes
Scoring Raw scores converted to scaled
scores

The TOEFL Listening section tests how well you can understand spoken English. You will be tested on both short and long conversations that resemble what you might hear if you were with a group of people in an English-speaking environment.

There are between 5 and 7 total listening passages in this section of the TOEFL exam. The passages are either lectures or conversations.

  • Lectures – Passages used to resemble a classroom lecture. Each lecture is 3 to 5 minutes in length and involves either just the professor speaking or a discussion between both the professor and students. There are either 3 or 4 lectures in this section, each followed by 6 questions.
  • Conversations – Passages used to resemble conversations you might have in an English-speaking environment. There are 2 or 3 conversations in this section; each lasts about 3 minutes and is followed by 5 questions.

TIP: The most important strategy you can utilize during the TOEFL Listening section is to TAKE NOTES! This will enable you to go back on what you’ve heard and more confidently answer the questions after the audio has finished playing.

Question Types

  • Listening for Comprehension: Examines whether you can comprehend basic information from the passage.
  • Listening for Attitude: Tests whether you are able to understand how the speaker feels about the subject-matter.
  • Listening for Connections: Tests how well you are able to connect different parts of the passage to draw conclusions.

SPEAKING

Overview Questions Duration Scoring
The test taker is provided with a microphone to record responses to two types of prompts: one is about expressing an opinion on a familiar topic; the other is about answering a question based on reading and listening passage(s). 1 independent task

3 integrated tasks

17 minutes 0-4 points per task; sum of task points converted to scaled scores
Overview The test taker is provided with a
microphone to record responses
to two types of prompts: one is
about expressing an opinion on
a familiar topic; the other is
about answering a question
based on reading and listening
passage(s).
Questions 1 independent task

3 integrated tasks

Duration 17 minutes
Scoring 0-4 points per task. The sum of
task points converted to scaled
scores.

The Speaking section of the TOEFL exam measures how well you are able to speak English in an academic environment. For each of the four speaking tasks, you will be required to record yourself speaking in response to a prompt. The Speaking section evaluates your delivery, use of language, and topic development.

There are a total of four questions in this section. One will be an independent task, while the remaining three will be integrated tasks.

  • Independent task – There is NO reading or listening involved in this task. Instead, you will record your own opinions on a certain subject-matter; therefore, there is NO wrong answer – you will be scored on how well you can argue your opinion using correct English. You will have 15 seconds to prepare and 45 seconds to speak.
  • Integrated task – You will be required to record a response after reading and listening to certain passages. You will have 30 seconds to prepare and 60 seconds to speak after each question.

TIP: Choose a side of the argument during your first 15 seconds of brainstorming and identify one or two supporting statements to back up your position. PACE is key! Practice speaking in a slow, deliberate, and enunciated manner before the exam.

WRITING

Overview Questions Duration Scoring
The test taker composes written responses to two tasks, by typing essay responses based on reading and listening prompts. 1 independent task

1 integrated task

50 minutes 0-5 points per task; sum of task points converted to scaled scores
Overview The test taker composes written
responses to two tasks, by
typing essay responses based
on reading and listening
prompts.
Questions 1 independent task

1 integrated task

Duration 50 minutes
Scoring 0-5 points per task. The sum of
task points is converted to
scaled scores.

The Writing section tests your written ability in order to measure how well you would perform in an English-speaking environment. The Writing section is computerized – therefore you will be typing rather than writing with pen and paper. The standard U.S. keyboard (QWERTY) is used.

The Writing section features two parts: an integrated task and an independent task.

  • Integrated task – You will be required to read a passage and listen to a speaker on the same subject matter; you must then write about that topic. This part takes about 20 minutes. There is no limit to how much you can write, but most average between 150 and 225 words.

TIP: Look for three main points that are related and base your answer around these points.

  • Independent task – You must take a position on an issue and support it with evidence and reasons. This part takes about 30 minutes and does not require reading or listening. There is no limit to how much you can write, although the average word count is around 300.

TIP: Use examples and reasons to back up your opinion and proofread to ensure your spelling and punctuation are correct!

You will not need specific knowledge around any of the Writing section topics – these are subject-matters that anyone can answer. This section of the exam only tests how well you can write in English.

WHAT IS A GOOD TOEFL SCORE?

You can score between 0 and 120 on the TOEFL, and the exam does not give a pass or fail grade. Higher education institutions set their own TOEFL requirements. However, the scores students receive are valid for a period of two years after the test date.

Since 2019, there is a new scoring system in place: MyBest Scores. This new feature combines your best scores for each section from all of your valid TOEFL iBT scores in the last 2 years. All TOEFL iBT score reports sent after August 1, 2019, regardless of the test administration date, automatically include MyBest scores along with the traditional scores from your selected test date.

HOW LONG IS THE TOEFL?

On the test day, you can expect to sit for the exam for about 3 hours, including test-taking time and optional breaks. Note that this time does not include your check-in time at the testing center. It is recommended that you arrive at the testing center at least 30 minutes before your exam.

TOEFL
Section
Time
Reading 54 or 72 minutes
Listening 41 to 57 minutes
Break 10 minutes
Speaking 17 minutes
Writing 50 minutes
Total
Approximate
Time
3 hours

WHEN TO TAKE THE TOEFL?

Test administrations are available throughout the year.

Each institution has specific deadlines for submission of test scores. You should therefore get in contact with the institution you are interested in and allow appropriate time for the receipt of scores by the Admissions Office.

Scores are posted online approximately 6 days after the test date. The PDF version of the score report is available to download within 8 days after your test. Score reports are also mailed to you (if you requested a paper copy) and sent to your selected institutions or agencies within 11 days after the test date.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO TAKE THE TOEFL?

Fees to take the TOEFL vary by country and range from $160 to $240.