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TOEFL: Everything you need to know

Edvoy
Edvoy
Last updated: Sep 6, 202223 min read
TOEFL: Everything you need to know

TOEFL is a standardized English language test offered by Educational Testing Services (ETS). Many universities worldwide use TOEFL to assess their international applicants to ensure that they can study via the English language. 

To study at a university in an English-speaking country, a TOEFL certificate is often required and is accepted by most institutions around the globe.

TOEFL tests your ability to read, listen to, speak, and write in English.

In this comprehensive walk-through, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the TOEFL exam.  

Table of Contents

TOEFL at a glance

TOEFL Full NameTest of English as a Foreign Language
Official Websiteets.org/toefl
TOEFL exam format (iBT only)
  • Reading

30-40 questions

54-72 minutes

  • Listening

28-39 questions

41-57 minutes

  • Break - 10 minutes
  • Speaking

Four tasks

17 minutes

  • Writing

Two tasks

50 minutes

Exam RegistrationRegister online at ETS official website
TOEFL exam fee

Fee dependent on location & exam type


 

  • Approx 155 GBP in the UK 

(15,800 INR)


 

  • Approx 13,700 INR in India

(135 GBP)

TOEFL Test Centres4500 located around the world

Different types of TOEFL test

There are two main types of TOEFL exams:

i) TOEFL-iBT (internet based test)

The internet-based TOEFL is the most popular option; it consists of four sections: reading, listening, speaking, and writing. It lasts around 3 hours. 

Here’s a glance at how it looks, which we go into more detail on below:

SectionTimeTotal QuestionsTypes of questions
Reading60 - 80 Minutes36 - 563 - 4 Reading Comprehension Passages
Listening60 - 90 Minutes34 - 512 - 3 Conversations & 4 - 6 lectures
Speaking20 Minutes6 TasksThe candidate must talk about a specific topic or academic issue.
Writing50 Minutes2 TasksAfter reading a passage and a classroom lecture, students can express opinions or provide a logical interpretation.

ii) TOEFL-PBT (paper based test)

The paper-based examination is the less popular TOEFL option and is slowly being phased out by ETS. At present, it’s only really offered in places with no internet connection available.  It lasts about 2 hours and 25 minutes. 

Here’s a quick look at how the format differs from the iBT:

SectionTimeTotal QuestionsQuestion Type
Reading54 Minutes30 Multiple Choice Questions3 Reading Comprehension passages with ten questions each
Listening41 Minutes28 Multiple Choice QuestionsThree lectures and two conversations, and 28 questions
Writing50 Minutes2 Questions2 Tasks

Three other TOEFL exams you may hear about are: 

i) TOEFL - CBT - This examination was popular in the past but superseded the Internet-based test in 2006.

ii) TOEFL - ITP - In academic settings, the Institutional Testing Program (ITP) is widely used to assess non-native English speaker’s ability to communicate in English.

iii) TOEFL - Junior Tests - The TOEFL Junior Tests evaluate the English proficiency of middle school students aged 11+.

Which TOEFL exam should international students take?

Prospective international students should try to take the TOEFL iBT if possible. There are thousands of test centres worldwide, and it’s the most widely accepted and trusted TOEFL exam. 

TOEFL eligibility: Who can take TOEFL?

TOEFL (both IBT and PBT) tests are open to everyone. The TOEFL eligibility criteria is minimal. It is generally taken by those students who want admission to universities, schools, or educational institutions in English-speaking countries.

TOEFL syllabus & exam pattern (structure)

TOEFL Syllabus

Reading, writing, listening, and speaking are the four sections of the TOEFL iBT syllabus, as is the case with all major English language assessments.

Here’s a breakdown of what to expect in each section of the TOEFL iBT section (note that TOEFL PBT does not cover speaking):

  • Reading

The TOEFL Reading section is designed to measure your ability to read and comprehend academic literature. 

  1. Question types: 3–4 passages, ten questions each, 8 of which are multiple-choice (4 options, one correct answer)
  2. Total no. of questions: Up to 40
  3. Full time: 54-72 minutes

Listening

You will be tested on your ability to understand conversations and lectures in English in the TOEFL iBT Listening segment of the exam.

This includes:

  1. Basic comprehension.
  2. Understanding the speaker's attitude and level of assurance, as well as linking and synthesizing information.

The Question types are, 

  1. A total of 30 questions are asked from the three to four lectures (each lasting 3-5 minutes and containing 500-800 words)
  2. A total of 12 questions are asked  (each lasting about 3 minutes and involving 12–25 conversations)
  3. Full no. of questions: 40+
  4. Total time: 41–57 minutes

Speaking 

English-language proficiency in academic settings is measured by the TOEFL Speaking part. 

Each of the four activities is based on a realistic scenario.

Question 1 is referred to as an "independent speaking task" since your response must be based solely on your thoughts, views, and experiences on the given topic. (Time to prepare: 15 seconds; time to respond: 45 seconds)

Questions 2 - 4 are called "integrated speaking exercises" because you must combine your listening, reading, and speaking skills, just like you would in a classroom. (Time to prepare 30 seconds; time to respond 60 seconds)

Total no. of questions: 4

Total time: 17 minutes

Writing

To pass the TOEFL Writing section, you'll need to write in English in an academic setting. 

There are two writing activities to be completed during this section:

  • Written response to a brief passage and short lecture (20 minutes) (reading time: 3 min; listening time: 2 min; writing: 15 min)
  • Essay based on a prompt involving personal experience or viewpoint(30 minutes).
  • Total no. of questions: 2
  • Total time: 50 minutes

TOEFL iBTpattern (structure)

SectionTime allocatedTotal questionsQuestions pattern
Reading54 - 72 Minutes30 - 40 QuestionsRead the passages and answer the questions that follow them.
Listening41 - 57 Minutes28 - 39 QuestionsAnswer questions about short lectures or classroom discussions
Break10 Minutes--
Speaking17 MinutesFour tasksDiscuss a known topic and materials you've read or listened to.
Writing50 MinutesTwo tasksWrite your answer after reading a text and listening to a recording.

TOEFL Scoring

There are four sections, and the TOEFL scores for each range are between 0 and 30.  Based on your final scores, you will fall into one of the following levels:

  • Advanced
  • High-intermediate
  • Low-intermediate
  • Below low-intermediate 

The breakdown of the scores under each section is as follows:

SectionExpertise LevelScores
Reading
  • Advanced
  • High-intermediate
  • Low-intermediate
  • Below low-intermediate 
  • 24–30
  • 18–23
  • 4–17
  • 0–3
Listening
  • Advanced
  • High-intermediate
  • Low-intermediate
  • Below low-intermediate 
  • 22–30
  • 17–21
  • 9–16
  • 0–8
Speaking
  • Advanced
  • High-intermediate
  • Low-intermediate
  • Below low-intermediate 
  • 25–30
  • 20–24
  • 16–19
  • 10–15
  • 0–9
Writing
  • Advanced
  • High-intermediate
  • Low-intermediate
  • Below low-intermediate 
  • 24–30
  • 17–23
  • 13–16
  • 7–12
  • 0–6

The Speaking portion is only featured in the TOEFL iBT exam. The new TOEFL paper-delivered test includes only the Reading, Listening, and Writing parts. The score ranges and proficiency levels are the same on both tests for these three parts.

The TOEFL scores have been clearly explained in our article. Read it for a deeper understanding!

TOEFL preparation

People who want to study abroad know how vital the TOEFL exam is, which is why it might be intimidating. However, with the proper preparation, the test can be made easy. We’d always recommend giving yourself plenty of time to prepare — at least 6-8 weeks. 

We’ve written a helpful article about our top 10 tips to help prepare for the TOEFL exam. Check it out when you get a moment, but here’s a short summary:  

Tips to prepare for the TOEFL exam:

  1. Get to know the format
  2. Pick up a study guide
  3. Create a study routine
  4. Read and listen to English outside of TOEFL
  5. Practice speaking (even to yourself)
  6. Practice timed writing
  7. Practice note-taking
  8. Practice test, practice test, practice test
  9. Make a game of it
  10. Don’t forget the QWERTY keyboard

The best books for TOEFL preparation

TOEFL requires a significant amount of preparation. 

For TOEFL preparation, it's essential to become familiar with the test's format and style of questions. A helpful TOEFL study book with sample questions and answers is the best method to achieve this. As a result, you will have fewer unpleasant surprises when you take your test!

Check out our article on the five best books for TOEFL exam preparation! We’ve listed these books below but have a read of our article to find out why we like them and to help you make a better choice!

5 Best books for TOEFL exam preparation

  • The Official Guide to TOEFL (6th edition)
  • Barron’s TOEFL iBT (17th edition)
  • Collins English for Exams, TOEFL Listening & Speaking Skills
  • Collins English for Exams, TOEFL Reading & Writing Skills
  • English Grammar in Use (5th edition), Cambridge University Press


TOEFL sample questions & practice tests

To get more familiar with the styles of questions in the TOEFL exam, have a good read of the sample from the reading section below. Further sample questions can be found on the ETS official website.  

Directions

In this section, you will read several passages. Each one is followed by several questions. You are to choose the best answer, A, B, C, or D, to each question.

Answer all questions about the information in a passage based on what is stated or implied in that passage.

Passage

A new atomic clock being developed for navigation

satellites will perform better than previous devices. The

clock will use a new microwave cavity design to

provide a compact and lightweight package and new

electronic techniques to maintain long-term stability.

The clock can provide precise navigation information

because it is stable to one second in three million

years. The differences in the time when signals from

four satellites arrive at one location can be used to

calculate that position to within a few yards.

Sample questions

  1. From the passage, it can be inferred that which of the following characteristics of the clock mentioned will be most impressive?
  • Its compact size
  • Its weight
  • Its accuracy
  • Its ability to measure distance

Answer: The passage discusses that the navigation information provided by the clock is very precise. Therefore, you should choose answer C.

 2.It can be inferred from the passage that the new clock will be

  • long-lasting
  • harmful to humans
  • produced in great numbers
  • very attractive looking

3. According to the passage, signals from how many satellites will be used to calculate a position?

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4

4. What is the primary purpose of the passage?

  • To teach a lesson
  • To sell a product
  • To support a theory
  • To provide information

TOEFL practice tests

The ETS official website is the best place to go to complete practice tests. There, you’ll be able to sit the test just as you will at the test centre. As well as this you’ll get your results within 24 hours. 

On top of that, it’s free of charge! 

We’d recommend doing at least one, but preferably two or more practice tests before your actual exam. 

TOEFL exam application, registration & booking

The TOEFL iBT exam dates are offered on at least 60 occasions a year at official test centres worldwide, so you shouldn’t have much trouble finding a convenient booking for your test. 

If possible, try to schedule your test at least four months in advance and 2 to 3 months ahead of any deadline you may have (e.g., to send results to a university) before your earliest deadline. 

Please note the following:

  1. Walk-in registration is not allowed at test centres.
  2. You should familiarise yourself with the TOEFL registration fees, payment methods, and payment regulations before registering (all available on the ETS website)
  3. Please double-check that the name you enter when registering matches the name on your identification (ideally your passport).
  4. It is the policy of ETS that it will accommodate test takers with impairments or medical needs. Learn more about accessible accommodations and registration procedures by visiting Disability Accommodations on the ETS official website.

Registering for TOEFL Examination

How do you register for the TOEFL exam?

You may register by phone, mail, or using your ETS account, either online or via the official TOEFL app.

  • Registration through ETS Account.

Using your ETS account to register is the fastest and easiest way. With the online registration system, you'll get the following benefits:

  • Get access to the official test preparation. 
  • A test centre locator powered by Google Maps.
  • The possibility to register 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Registration Process

  • Create a username and password and submit.
  • Choose the test date and the available test centres, then select the time that fits your schedule.
  • Fill out the rest of the registration form, and pay for your test.

Phone Registration for the TOEFL iBT Test

  • Call +1-443-751-4862 or 1-800-468-6335 if you are testing in the United States, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, or Canada.
  • Your Regional Registration Centre must be contacted for all other locations. You can select them from the ETS website. 
  • Paying by credit/debit card (American Express, Discover, JCB, China Union PayTM, Diners ClubTM, MastercardTM, or VISA) is available when enrolling by phone.
  • You can only pay with an electronic check (e-check) if you have a bank account in the United States, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, or Canada. To receive payment, it must be made in US dollars only.
  • You can even register for TOEFL by Mail!
  • You must first download and complete a Registration Form to register by mail. 
  • There are some specific codes that must be entered manually.  Take a look at the official website to know about the codes. 
  • Your completed form and payment should be mailed to the address mentioned on the ETS website.

As soon as you have registered

A confirmation email will be sent after your online registration is complete, including the test date, time, and test centre information. 

On your ETS account, you can also access this information. Verify that none of your registration data has changed the day before your test by logging into your account the night before (for example, a different time or building than originally scheduled).

How to Register for TOEFL Online (India)

  1. Sign up on the ETS website to begin the registration process. Verify that the name entered on the registration form matches the name on the identity document carried on test day.
  2. You will receive a confirmation once you have entered all the essential information and created a profile.
  3. Username and password must be entered to log in, and then the "TOEFL Test" must be selected from the drop-down menu on the home page.
  4. Before continuing, please read the information and click 'I Agree' to confirm your agreement.
  5. When the test date and centre shows, the registration is complete.

Note - ETS will accept Aadhar cards as student identification as of July 1, 2021. 

The pandemic has slowed down the issuance of new passports. Therefore students who have not yet received their passports can temporarily use their Aadhar cards as identification evidence. 

TOEFL exam centres and home edition

  • TOEFL Home edition

It's crucial to feel safe and comfortable throughout testing, as this will help you succeed. 

  • There are more than 60 test dates each year at authorized testing facilities worldwide, and the TOEFL iBT Home Edition is available four days a week from practically anywhere. Test takers who wish to take their test at home can do so with the TOEFL iBT Home Edition.
  • Content, format, and on-screen experience of TOEFL iBT Home Edition are identical to those of a test completed at a test centre.
  • In a Test Centre

In all regions where it is safe to do so, TOEFL iBT test centres are open.

  • According to ETS, openings might vary by area and are subject to local conditions and regulatory constraints. 
  • To learn about the safety precautions, you must check with your local test centre to find out what procedures they've adopted.

Test Dates

What is the best way to ensure that you pick the proper exam date? 

Your deadlines are the most critical factor to consider. Our recommendation is to choose a date at least 2 to 3 months before your earliest admissions application deadline or other deadlines to allow ample time for score reporting and, if necessary, retesting.

On test day

Here’s a quick checklist of things to remember for the day of your TOEFL exam:

  1. To allow time for check-in, arrive at least 30 minutes before your scheduled testing time.
  2. The testing room is a no-food, no-drink zone unless you have a health accommodation that has been authorized. (Before registering for the test, you must request accommodations).
  3. The Registration Bulletin on the ETS website outlines the policies and procedures that will apply on test day. Be sure to familiarise yourself with them.
  4. Take your ID and a mask.
  5. Please do not try to bring any electronic equipment capable of recording, listening, or scanning data that is included in this category.
  6. Shortly before the test begins, the test administrator will assign you a seat.
  7. For the Speaking component of the test, you'll wear noise-reducing headphones and speak into a microphone.
  8. Ask for help by raising your hand, if any.
  9. If you need to leave the testing room or the testing centre, you must ask for permission. 

Receiving your TOEFL score

It takes around six days to receive your official score, but TOEFL recently introduced a feature called “instant scoring.” This feature allows you to view unofficial scores for your reading and listening sections. The other sections cannot be scored immediately as the answers are more detailed. 

  • By logging into your ETS account

Approximately six days following your test date, you can access your results in your ETS Account. 

You'll be notified via email when your scores are available, and you can access your account online or via the official TOEFL app. The score report can be downloaded as it is valid for two years.

  • Via postal service

Within 11 days after the test, you will receive a printed copy of your score report if you request one before taking the exam.

Delivery times will vary depending on local postal providers.

FAQs

How much does TOEFL cost?

The TOEFL cost depends on where you will sit the test. In the UK, TOEFL iBT costs approx 155GBP (15,800 INR), while in India, it costs approx 13,700 INR (135 GBP)

Is the TOEFL test hard?

The TOEFL is often considered easier than other standardized tests, such as the SAT,  ACT, and GRE. It focuses more on measuring your English abilities than your knowledge of mathematical equations or intricacies in writing.

Is TOEFL easier than IELTS?

The IELTS Academic test and TOEFL iBT are about the same level of difficulty. IELTS General is considered easier than both of these, as it doesn’t contain academia-oriented content. 

Why is TOEFL so expensive?

TOEFL is one of the most respected and in-demand English language assessments. Thus it is also one of the priciest.   

Can you take TOEFL at home?

Students can now take the TOEFL test from the comfort of their homes, thanks to the launch of the TOEFL at Home edition.

How long is TOEFL valid?

TOEFL is valid for two years after receiving your results. 

What is a good Toefl score?

A TOEFL score of 90 is considered to be the average.  Toefl test scores above 100 are considered good.

What do I need to bring for the TOEFL exam?

You must have your registration number and photo identification (passport or aadhar card for Indian students).

Is TOEFL multiple choice?

TOEFL consists of 4 sections, i.e., Reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

These sections will have some multiple-choice questions but not the entire exam.

Why do people fail TOEFL?

The main reason for not getting as good a grade as hoped in TOEFL is unpreparedness. By giving yourself plenty of time and taking the right preparation steps, you’ll do great. Check out our article for more tips to prepare for the TOEFL exam

Is TOEFL accepted in the USA?

TOEFL is accepted by most universities worldwide, including the USA. However, always check with your desired university or college ahead of booking your exam. 

What happens if I fail the TOEFL test?

You can retake the TOEFL test as many times as you wish, but the same fees apply. 

Do universities accept TOEFL Home Edition?

TOEFL iBT special home edition is accepted by more than 12000 universities and colleges worldwide.

Do you get your TOEFL scores immediately?

You can view your unofficial score for the reading and listening section immediately upon finishing your test. However, your official total score takes around six days to arrive online. You will receive an email notification, at which point you can access your score on the ETS website.

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