How-is-the-TOEFL-Test-Structured-02
TOEFL, TOEFL Writing, TOEFL Integrated Writing, TOEFL Independent Writing

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is an English language proficiency exam. It was designed by Educational Testing Service (ETS), an organization that specializes in standardized tests for higher education in the USA. The exam tests English reading, listening, speaking and writing skills.

There are two forms of the TOEFL, the computer-based (TOEFL iBT) and the paper-based (TOEFL paper-delivery). Each form of the TOEFL has a different structure:

Structure of TOEFL iBT

Sections (in order)TimeQuestions/TasksSummary
Reading Section60-80 minutes36-56 multiple choiceAnswer questions based on 3-4 texts
Listening Section60-90 minutes34-51 multiple choiceAnswer questions based on 4-6 audio clips
Break10 minutes
Speaking Section20 minutes6 tasks:
2 Independent tasksExpress opinion orally
4 Integrated tasksSummarize information orally
Writing Section50 minutes2 tasks:
1 Integrated taskSummarize information in an essay
1 Independent taskExpress opinion in an essay

Each section of the TOEFL has its own time limit, types of questions/tasks and format. Here is a breakdown of the testing format for each section.

Reading Section Format

The Reading Section comes first and takes between 1 hour and 1 hour and 20 minutes. The reason for this is because test makers sometimes want to try out new questions in the exam. These are called experimental questions. If your exam has experimental questions in it, then it will be longer (1 hour 20 minutes) and will have more question (48 to 56 instead of 36 to 42). There is no way of knowing which questions are the experimental ones, so answer every question to the best of your ability.

 

Your main job in the Reading Section is to read 3 to 4 passages and then answer questions about them. The reading passages are approximately 700 words and there are 12 to 14 questions for each passage. These are college-level academic passages, covering topics such as art, history and science. The best approach to the Reading Section passages is to read the entire passage first before you start answering the questions.

TOEFL writing correction service

The questions in the Reading Section are based on your level of comprehension of these passages, such as the meaning of a word or phrase, what inferences can be made from a sentence, or the author’s purpose for a part of the passage. Sometimes you will have to recall a detail from the passage, or insert a given sentence into the paragraph where it makes the most sense. They are always in the form of multiple-choice questions, with four answers to choose from. Each question is worth 1 raw point. Then the raw points are totaled together and converted to a scaled score out of 30. A good reading score is typically about 22.

 

There is one exception to these question types, which is called the summary question. This one is rare and usually only appears once on the Reading Section, if at all. For this question, you are given a summary sentence with 6 answer choices. You have to choose 3 that best express the most important ideas of the passage. This question is worth 2 raw points.

 

You are not timed for each passage in the Reading Section, so it is important to use your time wisely. Ideally, you should spend about 5 minutes reading each passage, and about one minute on each question. This means that for each passage and question set, you should spend around 20 minutes in total. Try to stick to a pace of one minute per question as best as you can. If you get a difficult question, skip it and return to it later. If you run out of time at the end, make a random answer choice. There are no penalties for wrong answers in the TOEFL exam.

 

Listening Section Format

The Listening Section comes second and is between 1 hour and 1 hour and 30 minutes. Like the Reading Section, this is because test makers sometimes want to try out new experimental questions in the exam. There are 34 questions for the 1-hour test, and 51 questions for the 1 and a half hour test because the latter has experimental questions in it. Remember, there is no way of knowing which questions are the experimental ones, so answer every question to the best of your ability.

 

Your main job in the Listening Section is to listen to audio clips and then answer questions about them. The audio clips are only in English, and typically have the North American English accent. There are two types of audio clips: lectures and conversations. You will listen to 4 to 6 lectures in the exam and each one lasts 3 to 5 minutes and are followed by 6 questions. They are college-level lectures covering topics such as history, psychology or science.

 

You will also hear 2 to 3 conversations. These clips are about 3 minutes each and are followed by 5 questions. These conversations are typically between two individuals, students and/or teachers, talking about aspects of college life. For both types, you will only hear the audio clip once, but don’t worry because you are able to take notes while listening.

 

The questions are based on your level of comprehension of the audio clips, such as recalling a detail from the passage, or explaining the purpose from a part of the audio clip. They are always in the form of multiple-choice questions, with four answers to choose from. Unlike the Reading Section, some questions will ask for one answer choice while others ask for more than one answer choice. Each answer is worth 1 raw point. Then the raw points are totaled together and converted to a scaled score out of 30. A good listening score is typically above 21.

Like in the Reading Section, it is important to use your time wisely. Ideally, you should spend about 10 minutes in total listening to the audio clip and answering each question set. Again, try to stick to a pace of one minute per question as much as possible. Unlike the Reading Section, the Listening Section does not allow you to skip or go back to previous questions or clips. You will listen to the clip once, and then answer the questions in order. Therefore, it is very important to read the question you are asked closely, and read the answer choices carefully.

 

The Break

You will get a 10 min break in the middle of the exam, and it is mandatory. It is best during the break to get up and walk around. You still have a lot more sitting to do afterwards. Try to get some fresh air if you can so you can breathe and relax. Use the restroom, have a snack, drink some water. Do what you need to so you can get ready for the next part of the exam.

 

Speaking Section Format

Just as there are many similarities between the Reading and Listening Sections, there are also some similarities between the Speaking and Writing Sections. Instead of getting questions, you will be given tasks. There are no experimental tasks in the Speaking and Writing Sections.

 

You will have 6 tasks in the Speaking Section, and 20 minutes to complete them. First, you have 2 Independent Speaking tasks. You will have 15 seconds to prepare and 45 seconds to speak. In these two tasks, you will speak about your opinion on a topic. The question prompt will give you options, and you have to choose one to speak about and give supporting reasons and examples. Use your prep time to outline 2 or 3 main points to discuss with one or two supporting reasons. Make use of your scratch paper to jot down your thoughts.

 

The 4 tasks after this are the Integrated Speaking tasks. You will have 20 or 30 seconds to prepare and 1 minute to speak. The Integrated tasks integrates reading passages and/or audio clips, so you still have to use your reading and listening skills in the Speaking Section. You should take notes about the passages and audio clips because you will only get to read and listen to them once. For Tasks 3 and 4, you will have 45-50 seconds to read a short passage, which is roughly 100 words in length, and listen to a 1-minute audio clip. Then you have 30 seconds to prepare and 1 minute to speak. For Tasks 5 and 6 you will only listen to an audio clip, which is roughly 2 minutes long. Then you have 20 seconds to prepare and 1 minute to speak. The topics for Task 3 and 5 relate to campus life, similar to the topics in the conversation clip type from the Listening Section. The topics for Tasks 4 and 6 are related to an academic course, similar to the topics in the lecture type clips from the Listening Section.

 

The scoring of the Speaking Section is different from the Reading and Listening Sections. Each of the 6 tasks is scored between 0-4 then the scores are totaled and converted to a scaled score out of 30. A good speaking score is typically above 22.

 

Remember, the Speaking Section test will take place in the same room as the other test takers, and your responses will be recorded with the microphone on your headset. This means it will be quite noisy in the testing room, so prepare to speak clearly and loudly enough to be heard in your recording.

 

Writing Section Format

Similar to the Speaking Section, you will have tasks, not questions, to complete in the Writing Section. You will have 2 tasks and 50 minutes to complete them. There are no experimental tasks for this section either.

First, you will have the Integrated Writing task. Like the Integrated Speaking tasks, this task integrates a reading passage and an audio clip, so you still have to use your reading and listening skills in the Writing Section too. For this task, you will have 3 minutes to read an academic passage of approximately 300 words. Then you will listen to an audio clip of roughly 2 minutes in length. You should take good notes as you listen to the audio clip because you will only hear it once. The reading passage will then reappear as a reference for you, and after that, you will have 20 minutes to prepare and write an essay based on the reading passage and audio clip. Your essay should summarize and contrast the main points made by the author and the lecturer in the audio clip. The official recommended length of this essay is between 150 and 225 words, but you should try to write closer to 300 words.

 

Finally, you have the Independent Writing task. You will have 30 minutes to plan and write an essay about your opinion on a topic. The question prompt will give you options, and you have to choose one to write about with supporting reasons and examples. You should spend the first 2-3 minutes to outline 2 or 3 main points to discuss with a supporting reason or two. Again, make use of your scratch paper for this.

 

The Writing Section scores each task between 0-5. Then the scores are totaled and converted to a scaled score out of 30.  A good writing score is typically above 22.

 

Most test centers offered the computer-based version, but the TOEFL paper-delivery is offered when the TOEFL iBTtest is unavailable. The paper-based TOEFL is only 3 hours long because there is no Speaking section, no experimental questions and no break.

 

Structure of the TOEFL Paper-delivery

Sections (in order)TimeQuestions/TasksSummary
Listening Section60 minutes34 multiple choiceAnswer questions based on 4 audio clips
Reading Section60 minutes36-42 multiple choiceAnswer questions based on 3 texts
Writing Section50 minutes2 tasks:
1 Integrated taskSummarize information in an essay
1 Independent taskExpress opinion in an essay

Each section is scaled to a score of between 0 and 30, and then they are totaled for a final score between 0 and 120. ETS sends individual scores for each section approximately 10 days after the exam. The TOEFL score is valid for 2 years.

TOEFL Scoring

SectionsRaw scoreScaled scoreLevel
Reading Section0-56 (1 point per question)0-30Low (0–14)

Intermediate (15–21)

High (22–30)

Listening Section0-51 (1 point per question)0-30Low (0–14)

Intermediate (15–21)

High (22–30)

Speaking Section0-24 (0-4 score per task)0-30Weak (0–9)

Limited (10–17)

Fair (18–25)

Good (26–30)

Writing Section0-10 (0-5 score per task)0-30Limited (1–16)

Fair (17–23)

Good (24–30)

There are TOEFL testing locations all over the world. There are approximately 500 TOEFL exam locations in the USA, and 4,500 TOEFL exam locations worldwide. Here are links to find out the test dates and locations for the TOEFL near you.

 

Generally speaking, the TOEFL costs around USD$200. However, depending on the country where you take the exam, it may be cheaper. Here are links to find out the price of the TOEFL near you.

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