TOEFL

What you need to know about TOEFL iBT: A beginner's guide

By Edvoy• Last updated: Mar 18, 2024
What you need to know about TOEFL iBT: A beginner's guide
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The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is an important exam for anyone looking to study in an English-speaking country.

The TOEFL iBT (internet-based test) is the most commonly used version of the exam and assesses the test taker's abilities in reading, listening, speaking, and writing.

In this guide, we will explore the format and content of the TOEFL iBT and how to take the exam.

What is TOEFL iBT?

The TOEFL iBT (internet-based test) is a standardised test that measures the English language proficiency of non-native speakers. The test is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and is used by thousands of universities, colleges, and agencies worldwide to assess English language proficiency.

The test is designed to comprehensively evaluate a test taker's ability to use and understand English at an academic level, emphasising the skills needed to succeed in an English-speaking academic setting.

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TOEFL iBT sections

TOEFL iBT consists of four sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing.

SectionTime LimitQuestionsTasks
Reading54 - 72 minutes30 - 40 questionsRead passages and respond to questions
Listening41 - 57 minutes28 - 39 questionsAnswer questions about brief lectures or classroom discussions
Break10 minutes--
Speaking17 minutes4 tasksTalk about a familiar topic and discuss material you read and listened to
Writing50 minutes2 tasksRead a passage, listen to a recording, type your response

Here is a more detailed breakdown of each section of the TOEFL iBT:

1. Reading section

The Reading section of the TOEFL iBT measures your ability to understand academic texts and passages written in English. The section consists of 3–5 passages, each between 700 and 900 words in length, with 12–14 questions associated with each passage. The questions are designed to measure your ability to understand the main ideas, important details, the meanings of words and phrases, and the passage's organisation.

The questions associated with each passage may be multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, or matching. Questions in the multiple-choice format will ask about the passage's main idea, the author's purpose, and details from the text. Fill-in-the-blank questions require providing a word or phrase from the passage to answer the question. Matching questions require matching a word, phrase, or sentence from the passage with an option from a list.

Also read: What is the TOEFL exam eligibility criteria?

2. Listening section

The Listening section of the TOEFL iBT measures your ability to understand spoken English. The section consists of six tasks, which include lectures and conversations. The lectures are 3–5 minutes long, and the conversations are 3 minutes long. The questions are based on the main ideas, supporting details, and organisation of the lectures and conversations.

In the lectures, a professor, a student, or someone else gives a presentation on an academic topic. In the conversations, two or more people have a conversation about an academic topic. Then, you have to answer a few multiple-choice questions about the lectures and conversations. The questions will ask about the conversation's main ideas, details mentioned, a speaker's opinion, and how certain ideas are connected.

You are given 20 minutes to answer all the questions in the listening section. The questions are simple, but they do require you to pay close attention to the audio material. Therefore, listening carefully and understanding the material are the most important skills for doing well in this section.

3. Speaking section

The speaking section of the TOEFL iBT is designed to evaluate your English language speaking skills. This section consists of six tasks which are completed within a total of 20 minutes.     
The first two tasks are independent speaking tasks which require you to speak for 45 seconds without interruption. You will be presented with a written prompt and then asked to respond to it using your own words, in a clear and coherent manner.

The third and fourth tasks are integrated speaking tasks which require you to combine your listening and speaking skills. You will receive a short lecture or conversation followed by a written prompt. You must listen to the lecture or conversation and then answer the prompt based on the content of the lecture or conversation.

The fifth and sixth tasks are integrated speaking tasks which require you to combine your reading and speaking skills. You will be presented with a written passage, followed by a written prompt. You must read the passage and then answer the prompt based on the content of the passage.

4. Writing section

The writing section assesses your ability to write in English in an academic context. The section lasts for 50 minutes and consists of two tasks: an integrated writing task which measures your ability to read, understand and analyse information from two sources and an independent writing task which measures your ability to generate and express ideas in written English.

The integrated writing task consists of three sections. In the first section, you have to read a passage and then listen to a lecture on the same topic. The passage and lecture will be on a general academic topic relevant to the field of study. In the second section, you must respond to a question by combining information from the passage and the lecture. The third section consists of a short survey asking you to rate your performance in the task.

The Independent Writing task requires you to write an essay responding to a prompt. The prompts typically ask you to present your opinion on a given issue and then support your position with details and examples. You are expected to use standard written English and appropriate grammar and word choice.

How to take TOEFL iBT

Taking the TOEFL iBT is a straightforward process. Here are the steps to take the test:

1. Create an ETS account

The first step is to create an account on the ETS (Educational Testing Service) website. You will need to provide personal information and create a username and password.

Also read: How to register for the TOEFL exam 2023?

2. Select a test date and location

Once you have created an account, you can select a test date and location that works for you. You can view available dates and locations on the ETS website.

3. Pay the exam fee

The TOEFL iBT exam fee varies by location, but it typically costs between $180 and $300. You can pay the fee using a credit card, debit card, or PayPal account.

4. Check the required ID documents

You must bring valid identification documents with you to the test centre. The requirements for acceptable ID documents can vary by country, so check the ETS website for the specific requirements in your location.

5. Prepare for the test

To prepare for the test, you can use official TOEFL iBT study materials, such as the Official Guide to the TOEFL Test, 5th Edition, or take a prep course. Many online resources are also available, such as practice tests and sample questions.

Also read: Best books for TOEFL exam preparation

6. Arrive at the test centre

On test day, arrive at the test centre at least 30 minutes before your scheduled test time. You will need to check in with the test centre staff and provide your identification documents.

7. Take the test

The TOEFL iBT test lasts about four hours and is divided into four sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. Each section is timed, and you will have a short break between sections. You must follow the instructions and complete each section before moving on to the next.

8. Receive your scores

After completing the test, you can view your scores online within six days of your test date. Scores are valid for two years and can be sent to institutions of your choice for an additional fee.

Also Read: Tips to prepare for the TOEFL Exam

TOEFL iBT scoring pattern

The TOEFL iBT is scored on a scale of 0 to 120. Each of the four exam sections is scored on a scale from 0 to 30 points.

SkillLevel
ReadingAdvanced (24-30)
High-Intermediate (18-23)
Low-Intermediate (4-17)
Below Low-Intermediate (0-3)
ListeningAdvanced (22-30)
High-Intermediate (17-21)
Low-Intermediate (9-16)
Below Low-Intermediate (0-8)
SpeakingAdvanced (25-30)
High-Intermediate (20-24)
Low-Intermediate (16-19)
Basic (10-15)
Below Basic (0-9)
WritingAdvanced (24-30)
High-Intermediate (17-23)
Low-Intermediate (13-16)
Basic (7-12)
Below Basic (0-6)

The overall TOEFL iBT score is the sum of the four section scores.

The listening and reading sections are scored based on the number of correct answers to the questions. Each correct answer is awarded one point, while incorrect and unanswered questions are not awarded any points.

The writing section is scored based on the quality of the written work. The essay is graded holistically by two independent scorers, who assign a score from 0 to 5 points for each of the following criteria: focus, organisation, support, development, and language use. The total score is based on the average score of all responses.

The speaking section is scored based on the quality of the spoken response. The response is graded holistically by two independent scorers, who assign a score from 0 to 4 points for each of the following criteria: topic development, delivery, language use, and pronunciation. The total score is based on the average score of all responses.

Also read: TOEFL scores explained: What do they mean and how to retake the test?

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Conclusion

Taking the TOEFL iBT exam can be a daunting task for many people, especially for those who are unfamiliar with the format and structure of the test. However, with the right preparation and guidance, you can feel confident and ready to tackle this important step in achieving your English language goals.

Frequently asked questions

1. What is TOEFL iBT?

The TOEFL iBT (internet-based test) is a standardized test that measures the English language proficiency of non-native speakers. The test is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and is used by thousands of universities, colleges, and agencies worldwide to assess English language proficiency.

2. What is the validity of TOEFL iBT scores?

TOEFL iBT scores are valid for two years from the date of the test.

3. What are the different sections of TOEFL iBT?

The TOEFL iBT has four sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. The Reading section measures the ability to understand academic passages in English. The Listening section measures the ability to understand spoken English in academic and social settings. The Speaking section measures the ability to express ideas in spoken English. The Writing section measures the ability to write in English in response to a given task.

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