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What is TOEFL?

About TOEFL - The TOEFL iBT® test, administered via the internet, is an important part of  journey to study in a english-speaking country. The TOEFL iBT test measures your ability to use and understand english at the university level. And it evaluates how well you combine your listening, reading, speaking and writing skills to perform academic tasks.

There are two formats for the TOEFL test. The format you take depends on the location of your test center. Most test takers take the TOEFL iBT test. Test centers that do not have internet access offer the Paper-based Test (PBT).

Who Takes the TOEFL iBT Test?

More than 27 million people from all over the world have taken the TOEFL test to demonstrate their English-language proficiency. The average English skill level ranges between intermediate and advanced.

  • Students planning to study at a higher education institution
  • English-language learning program admissions and exit
  • Scholarship and certification candidates
  • English-language learners who want to track their progress
  • Students and workers applying for visas

Who Accepts TOEFL iBT Test Scores?

More than 8,500 colleges, agencies and other institutions in over 130 countries accept TOEFL scores. For more information, including using your scores to satisfy visa requirements in Australia and the United Kingdom, how to find institutions that accept TOEFL scores, and more, see Who Accepts TOEFL Scores.

Where and when can TOEFL iBT Test be taken?

The TOEFL test has more test dates (30–40) and locations (4,500 test centers in 165 countries) than any other English-language test in the world. You can retake the test as many times as you wish.

What Does the TOEFL iBT Test Cost?

The cost of the test can range from US$160 to US$250 and varies between countries. For information on registration, fees, test dates, locations and formats, select your test location.

TOEFL iBT Listening Section

Academic Listening Skills

The Listening section measures your ability to understand spoken English. In academic settings, students must be able to listen to lectures and conversations. Academic listening is typically done for one of the three following purposes:

 Listening for basic comprehension

  • Comprehend the main idea, major points, and important details related to the main idea (Note : comprehension of all details is not necessary)

Listening for pragmatic understanding

  • recognize a speaker’s attitude and degree of certainty
  • recognize a speaker’s  function or purpose

Connecting and synthesizing information

  • Recognize the organization of information presented
  • Understand the relationships between ideas presented (for examples, compare/contrast, cause/effect, or steps in a process)
  • Make inferencesand draw conclusions based on what is implied in the material
  • Make connections among pieces of information in a conversion or lecture
  • Recognize topic changes (for examples, digressions and aside statements) in lectures and conversations, and recognize introductions and conclusions in lectures


Listening material in the test includes academic lectures and long conversations in which the speech sounds very natural. You can take notes on any listening material throughout the entire test.

Listen section Format:

Listening material

Number of Questions


4-6 lectures, 35 minutes long, each about 500-800 words

6 questions per lecture

60-90 minutes

2-3 conversations, about 3 minutes long, about 12-125 exchanges

5 question per conversation

60-90 minutes

Academic Lectures

The lectures in the TOEFL iBT reflect the kind of listening and speaking that occurs in the classroom. In some of the lectures, the professor does all or almost all of the talking, with an occasional comment by a student. In other lectures, the professor may engage the students in discussion by asking questions that are answered by the students.

Conversion in an Academic Setting

The conversions on the TOEFL iBT may take place during an office meeting with a professor or teaching assistant, or during a service encounter with university staff. The contents of the office conversations are generally academic in nature or related to course requirements. Service encounters could involve conversations about a housing payment, registering for a class, or requesting information at the library.

Listening Question Formats

After the listening material is played, you both see and hear each question before you see the answer choices. This encourages you to listen for main ideas.

There are four question formats in the Listening section:

  • traditional multiple-choice question with four answer choices and a single correct answer
  • multiple-choice questions with more than one answer (e.g./ two answers out of four or more choices)
  • questions that requires you to order events or steps in a process
  • questions that require you to match objects or text to categories in a chart


  • Note taking is allowed. After testing, notes are collected and destroyed before you leave the center for test security purposes.
  • A multiple-choice question measures understanding of a speaker’s attitude, degree of certainly, or purpose. These questions require you to listen for voice tones and other cues and determine how speakers feel about the topic they are discussing.
  • In some questions, a portion of the lecture or conversation is replayed so you do not need to rely on memory of what was said.
  • In the replay format, you listen to part of the conversation or lecture again and then answer a question

TOEFL iBT Reading Section

Academic Reading Skills

The reading section measures your ability to understand university-level academic texts and passages. In many academic settings around the world, students are expected to read and understand information from textbooks and other academic materials written in English. The following are three purposes for academic reading:

Reading to find information

  • Effectively scanning text for key facts and important information
  • Increasing reading fluency and rate

Basic comprehension

  • Understanding the general topic or main idea,  major points, important facts and details, vocabulary in context, and pronoun references
  • Making inferences about what is implied in a passage

Reading to learn

  • Recognizing the organization and purpose of a passage
  • Understanding relationships between ideas
  • Organizing information into a category chart or a summary in order to recall major points and important details
  • Inferring hoe ideas throughout the passage connect


Reading section format

Length of each passage

Number of passages and questions


Approximately 700 words

3 – 5 passages

60 – 100 min



12 – 14 questions per passage


Reading passages

The TOEFL iBT uses reading passages from university-level textbooks that introduce a discipline or topic. The excerpts are changed as little as possible so the TOEFL iBT can measure how well students can read academic material.

The passages cover a variety of different subjects. You should not be concerned if you are unfamiliar with a topic. The passage contains all the information needed to answer the questions.

All passage are Classified into three basic categories:

  • exposition
  • argumentation
  • historical

Often, passages present information about the topic from more than one perspective or point of view. This is something you should note as you read. Usually, you are asked one question that allows you to demonstrate that you understood the general organization of the passage. Common organization types that you should be able to recognize are:

  • Classification
  • Compare/contrast
  • Cause/effect
  • Problem/solution

You must read through or scroll to the end of each passage before receiving questions on that passage. Once the questions appear, the passage appears on the right side of the computer screen. The questions are on the left.

You do not need any special background knowledge to answer the questions in the Reading section correctly, but the definition of difficult words or phrases in the passage may be provided. If you click on the word, a definition appears in the lower left part of the screen.

The 60 to 100 minutes allotted for this section include time for reading the passage and answering the questions.

Reading Question Formats

  There are three question formats in the Reading section:

  • questions with four choices and a single answer in traditional multiple choice format
  • questions with four choices and a single answer that ask test takers to “insert a sentence” where it fits best in a passage
  • “Reading to learn” question with more than four choices and more than one possible correct answer.


Reading to learn questions

These questions test your ability to recognize how the passage is organized and understand the relationships among facts and ideas in different parts of the passage.

You are asked to sort information and place the text options provided into a category chart or summary. The summary questions are worth up to 2 points each. The chart questions are worth up to 3 points if there are five options presented and up to 4 points if there are seven options presented. Partial credit is given in this question format.

Paraphrase questions

Questions in this category are in multiple-choice format. They test your ability to select the answer choice that most accurately paraphrases a sentence from the passage.

Glossary feature

You can click on some special purpose words and phrases in the reading passages to view a definition or explanation of the term.

TOEFL iBT Speaking Section

Academic Speaking Skills

Students should be able to speak successfully in and outside the classroom.  The Speaking section measures your ability to speak effectively in academic settings.

In classroom, students must:

  • Respond to questions
  • Participate in academic discussions with other students
  • Synthesize and summarize what they have read in their textbooks and heard in class
  • Express their views on topics discussion

Outside of the classroom, students must:

  • Participate in casual conversations
  • Express their opinions
  • Communicate with people in such places as the bookstore, the library and the housing office


The Speaking section is approximately 20 minutes long and includes six tasks.

  • The first two tasks are independent speaking tasks on topics familiar to you. They ask you to draw upon your own ideas, opinions and experiences when responding. (However, you can respond with any idea, opinion or experience relevant to completing the task.)
  • The remaining four tasks are integrated tasks where you must use more than one skill when responding. First read and listen, and then speak in response. You can take notes and use those notes when responding to the speaking tasks. At least one requires you to relate the information from the reading and the listening material.

Like all other sections of the TOEFL iBT, the Speaking section is delivered via computer. For all speaking tasks, you use a headset with a microphone. Speak into the microphone to record your response. Responses are digitally recorded and sent to ETS’s Online Scoring Network where they are scored by certified raters.

Speaking Task Types

Task Type

Task Description


 Independent Tasks





Personal Preferen

This question asks the test taker to express and defend a personal  choice from a given category-for example, important people,        places, events or activities that the test taker enjoys.                                         

Preparation time:15 seconds

Response time: 45 seconds





  This question asks the test taker                   to make and defend a personal                      choice between two contrasting                       behaviors or courses of action.                                 


Preparation Time: 15 seconds

Response Time : 45 seconds

Integrated Tasks




Campus Situation


Topic: Fit and Expl

A reading passage (75-100 words) presents a campus-related issue.

A listening passage (60-80 seconds,150-180 words) comments on the issue in the reading passage.

The question asks the test taker to summarize the speaker’s opinion within the context of the reading passage.






Preparation Time: 30 seconds

Response Time: 60 seconds


Academic Course


Topic: General/Specific

A reading passage (75-100 words) broadly defines a term, process, or idea from an academic subject.


An excerpt from a lecture (60-90seconds; 150-220 words) provides examples and specific information to illustrate the term, process or idea from the reading passage.


The question asks the test taker to combine and convey important information from the reading passage and the lecture excerpt





Preparation Time: 30 seconds

Response Time : 60 seconds

Campus Situation


Topic Problem/Solution

A reading passage (75-100 words) broadly defines a term, process, or idea from                                       an academic subject.


An excerpt from a lecture (60-90 seconds; 150-220 words) provides examples and specific

information to illustrate the term, process or idea from the reading passage.


The question asks the test taker to combine and convey important information from the reading passage and the lecture excerpt





Preparation Time: 20 seconds

Response Time: 60 seconds


Academic Course


Topic : Summary

The Listening passage is an excerpt from a lecture (90-120          

Seconds; 230-280 words) that      

explains a term or concept and           

gives  concrete examples to illustrate the term and concept


The question asks the test taker to summarize the lecture and demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the examples and overall topics 






Preparation time: 20 seconds

Response Time : 60 seconds

TOEFL iBT Writing Section

Academic Writing Skills

In all academic situations where writing in English is required, students must be able to present their ideas in a clear, well-organized manner. The Writing section measures your ability to write in an academic setting.

  • Often students need to write a paper or an essay response on an exam about what they are learning in their classes. This requires combining information they have heard class lectures with what they have read in textbooks or other materials. This type of writing can be referred to as integrated writing. In this type of writing, students must:
  • take notes on what they hear and read, and use them to organize information before writing
  • summarize, paraphrase and cite information from the source material accurately
  • write about the ways the information they heard relates to the information they read

For example, in an academic course, a student might be asked to compare and contrast the points of view expressed by the professor in class with those expressed by an author in the assigned reading material. The student must successfully draw information from each source to explain the contrast.

  • Students must also write essays that express and support their opinions. In this type of writing, known as independent writing, students express an opinion and support it based on their own knowledge and experience.

For example, students may be asked to write an essay about a controversial issue. The students use past, personal experience to support their position.

In all types of writing, it is helpful for students to:

  • identity one main idea and some major points that support it
  • plan how to organize the essay (e.g., with an outline)
  • develop the essay by using reasons, examples and details
  • express information in an organized manner
  • use effective linking words (transitional phrases) to connect ideas and help the reader understand the flow of ideas
  • use a range of grammar and vocabulary for effective expression
  • use grammar and vocabulary accurately; use idiomatic expressions appropriately
  • follow the conventions of spelling, punctuation and layout


The total time for the Writing section is 50 minutes. Test takers write their responses to two writing tasks (see the table below). Responses are typed into the computer and sent to ETS’s Online Scoring Network where they are scored by certified raters.

Writing Task types

Task Type

Task Description





Integrated Writing Task



Test takers read a short text about 230-300 words                                    (reading time, 3 minutes) on an academic topic.                                                              


Test takers may take notes on the reading passage.


The reading passage disappears from the screen during the lecture that follows. It reappears when test takers begin writing so they can refer to it as they work.


Test takers listen to a speaker discuss the same topic from a different perspective. The listening passage is about 230-300 words long (listening time, 2 minutes).


The listening passage provides additional information that relates to points made in the reading passage. Test takers may take notes on the listening passage.


Test takers write a summary in connected English prose of important points made in the listening passage, and explain how these relate to the key points of the reading passage. Suggested response length is 150-225 words; however, there is no penalty for writing more as long as it is in response to the task presented.







Independent Writing from Experience and Knowledge

Test takers write an essay that states, explains, and supports their opinion on an issue. An effective essay will usually contain a minimum of 300 words; however, test takers may write more if they wish. Test takers must support their opinions or choices rather than simply list personal preferences or choices.


Typical essay questions begin with statements such as:

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Use reasons and specific details to support your answer.


Some people believe X. Other believes Y. Which of these positions do you prefer/agree with? Give reasons and specific details.




About Test Scores

Score Scales:

The TOEFL iBT provides scores in four skill areas:

Listening                  0 – 30

Reading                   0 – 30

Speaking                  0 – 30

Writing                     0 – 30

Total Score              0 – 120

The total score is the sum of the four skill scores.

Rating of Speaking and Writing Responses


Response to all six Speaking tasks are digitally recorded and sent to ETS’s Online Scoring Network. The responses from each test takers are scored by 3 to 6 different credit raters. The response for each task is rated on a scale from 0 to 4. The average of all six ratings is converted to a scale of 0 to 30.

 Raters listen for the following features in test taker responses:

  • Delivery: How clear was the speech? Good responses are fluid and clear, with good pronunciation, natural pacing and natural-sounding intonation patterns.
  • Language use: How effectively does the test taker use grammar and vocabulary to convey ideas? Raters determine the test taker’s ability to control both basic and more complex language structures, and use appropriate vocabulary.
  • Topic development: How fully do test takers answer the question and how coherently do they present their ideas? How well did the test taker synthesize and summarize the information in the integrated tasks? Good responses generally use all or most of the time allotted, and the relationship between ideas and the progression from one idea to the next are clear and easy to follow.

It is important to note that raters do not expect test takers’ responses to be perfect. Even high-scoring responses may contain occasional errors and minor problems in any of the three areas described above.


Responses to all Writing tasks also are sent to ETS’s Online Scoring Network. The responses are rated by 2 to 4 certified raters on a score scale of 0 to 5. The average of the scores on the two writing tasks is converted to a scaled score of 0 to 30.

  • The responses to the integrated writing task is scored on the quality of writing (organization, appropriate and precise use of grammar and vocabulary) and the completeness and accuracy of the content.
  • The independent writing essay is scored on the overall quality of the writing: development, organization and appropriate and precise use of grammar and vocabulary.

It is important to note that the raters recognize that the responses are first drafts. They do not expect test takers to produce a well-researched, comprehensive essay. For that reason, test takers can earn a high score with a response that contains some errors.

Score Reports

The score reports now provide better information than ever about a student’s   readiness to participate and succeed in academic studies in an English-speaking setting. Score reports include:

  • four skill scores
  • total score

Scores are reported online 15 business days after the test. Test takers can view their scores online free of charge. Colleges, universities and agencies can also view scores online when examinees have selected them as a score recipient. Paper copies of score reports will be mailed shortly after the scores are posted online. Score reports also include performance feedback that indicates whether a test taker’s performance was high, medium or low and describes what test takers in these score ranges know and can do with the English language. In the future, performance feedback will also include suggestions for improvement.

Score requirements

Each institution sets its own requirements for TOEFL iBT scores. Test takers should consult their target institutions to determine their specific TOEFL iBT score requirements. A list of colleges, universities and agencies that accept TOFEL scores and a list of institutional score requirements reported to ETS can be obtained at

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