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TOEFL iBT Test Format

TOEFL Overview

The new TOEFL iBT takes about four hours. It is administered via a computer from a secure
testing center network. Instructions are embedded within each section and there is no need for
separate instruction tutorials. Unlike the computer-based format TOEFL iBT is not computer-
adaptive, which means that the test itself covers the full range of skills. All test takers in a
session at one test center receive the same test. Note taking is allowed during the whole exam.
The test comprises of four sections - reading, listening, speaking and writing. All the four
sections are taken on the same day.

The chart below gives general overview of the sections included in the TOEFL iBT, the number
of questions and the timing for each section.

Test Number and type of questions Timing Maximum


section points
Reading 3-4 passages; 12-14 questions in each passage 60 - 80 minutes 30
Listening 4-6 lectures; 6 questions each 2-3 60 - 90 minutes 30
conversations; 5 questions each
BREAK 10 minutes
Speaking 2 independent tasks 4 integrated tasks 20 minutes 30
Writing 1 integrated task 1 independent task 20 minutes 30 30
minutes
TOTAL 230 - 240 120
minutes

Question types

Unlike the computer-based and paper-based TOEFL, some of the sections in TOEFL iBT contain
integrated tasks. Those tasks measure the ability of the test takers to combine different language
skills in order to communicate effectively and prove they are ready for academic success. For
example, test takers may be required to read a short passage, listen to a part of a lecture and
respond orally or in writing. In all parts of the test note-taking is allowed.

Choose a section for thorough description:

 TOEFL iBT Reading Section


 TOEFL iBT Listening Section
 TOEFL iBT Speaking Section
 TOEFL iBT Writing Section
TOEFL iBT Reading Section
(60 - 80 minutes)
This section tests the candidates' abilities to understand academic texts and passages to succeed
in university settings. The academic reading section aims at three main features:

1. Reading to find information


o Tests the candidate's ability to find information and key facts in the text by just
scanning it
o Tests the candidate's ability to increase fluency in reading
2. Basic comprehension
o Tests the candidate's ability to understand the general topic or main idea, the
major points, important facts and details, contextual vocabulary and word
references (words that refer to other words in the text)
o Tests the candidate's ability to make deductions about what is meant in the text
but not explicitly stated
3. Reading to learn
o Tests the candidate's ability to understand the organization and the purpose of the
text/passage
o Tests the candidate's ability to understand how the ideas are related
o Tests the candidate's ability to categorize the information into charts or a
summary in order to recall main points and important details
o Tests the candidate's ability to make conclusions about the relationship between
the ideas throughout the text/passage

TOEFL iBT Reading Section Organization

The reading section consists of 3 to 4 passages. It cannot be predicted whether the particular
session will contain 3 or 5 texts. However, if the reading section contains more passages it would
be at the expense of the listening part of the test and it will be containing fewer lectures to listen
to and vice versa. Each text in the reading is about 700 words with 12 to 14 questions related to
the text. Each text in the reading is about 700 words with 12 to 14 questions related to the text.
The 1st passage stands alone and you will have 20 minutes to read it and answer the questions.
The 2nd and 3rd passages share a total time of 40 minutes, so if you are a bit slow for the second
passage you will not be stopped when the 20th minute ends and you could catch up with the third
passage. You should be very careful about the time as the system will cut you off right after it
ends.

The texts are taken from university-level textbooks readings with just minor changes and cover
variety of different subjects and topics. The test takers are not expected to be familiar with the
topics. The questions are designed in a way that all information needed for providing correct
answer is present in the texts. The texts/passages are classified into three major categories:
 Exposition - explains a topic/subject
 Argumentation - presents a point of view about a topic and provide arguments to support
it
 Historical

Sometimes, texts introduce several prospective or points of view about the topic which
candidates should notice while reading. Test takers are asked at least one question to demonstrate
their understanding of the general organization of the text. The text could be organized in several
common types:

 Classification
 Compare and contrast
 Cause and effect
 Problem and solution

Sometimes, a definition of a difficult word or phrase in the text could be provided. The word or
phrase that contains a definition is underlined and differently colored. Test takers have to click
on the word so that the definition appears in the lower left-hand corner of the screen.

Type of questions

The questions in the Reading part are organized around three major question formats:

1. Multiple-choice format - questions with four choices with a single answer


2. Sentence insertion - questions asking to insert a sentence into the text (where the sentence
fits best) at one of four provided choices.
3. Reading to learn questions - contain more than four choices and more than one possible
correct answer. Test takers are expected to sort information provided in the question into
a category chart or summary. Summary and chart questions are worth more than 1 point.
Those questions are marked with the exact number of points they are worth. Chart
questions could be with five (worth up to 3 points) or seven options (worth up to 4
points). For the chart questions there is a possibility for gaining partial credit.

Remember

1. The allotted time for the different parts of the reading is for reading the text and
answering the questions.
2. Test takers are not expected to be familiar with the topics presented in the reading part.
All information needed for providing the correct answer is contained in the texts.
3. Download our Reading Tips to improve your reading skills.

Reference: www.TOEFL.org
TOEFL iBT Listening Section
(60-90 minutes)
This section measures students' abilities to understand spoken English in academic or everyday
settings. In order to succeed in an academic environment, students must be able to listen to
lectures and conversation and, most importantly, to understand the information provided orally.
In TOEFL the academic listening is done for three main purposes:

1. Listening for basic comprehension


o Students are tested whether they are able to comprehend the main idea of the
lecture/conversation, the main points and important details related to the main
idea but it is not required all the details to be comprehended
2. Listening for pragmatic understanding
o The students are tested whether they can understand the degree to which the
speaker is certain or uncertain
o To recognize what is the speaker's purpose
3. To connect and combine the information flow coming from two or more sources
o To understand the organization of the provided oral information
o To find the relationship between the presented ideas - compare/contrast,
cause/effect, steps in a process
o To draw conclusions and make inferences on what is implied in the
lecture/conversation
o To connect different pieces of information presented
o To recognize introductions and conclusions in the lecture or change of topic

TOEFL iBT Listening Section Organization

The Listening section measures the candidate's ability to understand conversations and lectures
in English. The section is divided into separately timed parts (2 or 3). Each part consists of 1
long conversation and two lectures. The test takers hear each lecture or conversation only once.
Lectures and conversations are 3-5 minutes long. While listening the time is not running. The
allotted time of 10 minutes for each section is only for answering the questions.

Academic lectures represent the kind of listening during university classes. Some of the lectures
are entirely done by the professor, while in others students are engaged in the discussion by
asking or answering questions.

The conversations in TOEFL iBT may occur between students and professor or teaching advisor
or between students and university officials.

After each lecture or conversation, candidates have to answer some questions related to the
lecture/conversation. The questions typically ask for the main idea, supporting details, and
speaker's purpose or attitude.
Type of questions

In the Listening section four question formats occur:

1. Multiple-choice format with four question choices provided and only one correct answer
2. Multiple-choice questions with 2 answers out of 4 possible choices
3. Questions that ask test takers to order events or steps in a process
4. Chart questions - require test takers to match objects or text to pre-set categories.

In some questions part of the lecture/conversation is repeated and the question is refers to this
particular part of the lecture/conversation.

Remember

1. You are allowed to take notes during all parts of the TOEFL iBT. You can use your notes
when answering the questions.
2. Test takers are not expected to be familiar with the topics presented in the lectures.
Finding the correct answer is not related with previous knowledge about the topics, rather
with the information provided during the lecture/conversation.
3. During the listening the time is stopped. Then the time should not bother you. Time is
running only when answering the questions.
4. Download our Listening Tips for improving your listening skills.

Reference: www.TOEFL.org
TOEFL iBT Speaking Section
(Approximately 20 minutes)
The speaking section in TOEFL iBT comes right after the 10-minute break. TOEFL iBT
Speaking section is intended to measure test takers' ability to speak about a variety of topics.
Each question should be answered as completely as possible within the given time. In total, the
section consists of six questions divided into two types - independent speaking tasks (question 1
and 2) and integrated speaking tasks (questions 3, 4, 5 and 6).

In academic settings students must be able to:

 Give adequate responses to questions


 Take part in academic discussions with other students or professors
 Participate in everyday conversations
 Express their opinion about discussed subjects
 Summarize and orally reproduce information read in textbooks or listened to in the
classroom
 Communicate with university officials in libraries, sport centers, housing office,
bookstore and etc.

TOEFL iBT Academic Speaking section tests students' ability to speak effectively under
abovementioned criteria.

TOEFL iBT Speaking Section Organization

The speaking section is approximately 20 minutes long and includes six questions. During all the
section, test takers are allowed to take notes on a piece of paper and use their notes when
speaking. For each question students are given short time to prepare and organize their
responses. Test takers are required to wear headphones in order to receive instructions, listen to
the questions and be isolated from listening to the others' responses. Test takers provide
responses orally, speaking into a digital microphone. Responses are not kept on the computer,
but the records are immediately sent to the ETS's Online Scoring Network.

Independent speaking tasks

Question 1 and question 2 ask test takers to speak about familiar topics. Students are expected to
provide an answer based on their own ideas, opinions and experience. The answers should be
clear and coherent. After hearing the questions students are given 15 seconds to prepare their
responses and 45 seconds to speak.

Preparation time: 15 seconds


Response time: 45 seconds
Integrated speaking tasks

(Read/Listen/Speak) Questions 3 and 4 ask students to read a short passage first, listen to a
conversation or part of a lecture related to the passage they have read and speak in response to a
question. Information from both reading text and listening should be combined into the response.
Test takers have to use reasons and examples to support their answer. For reading the passage,
test takers are allotted 45 seconds. They also have 30 seconds to prepare their response to the
question and 60 seconds to speak.

Reading time: 45 seconds


Preparation time: 30 seconds
Response time: 60 seconds

(Listen/Speak) In questions 5 and 6 students will first listen to part of a conversation or lecture.
Further, they will be given the question and 20 seconds to prepare their response. The speaking
time for those questions is set at 60 seconds.

Preparation time: 20 seconds


Response time: 60 seconds

Remember

1. Note-taking is allowed during all sections in TOEFL iBT. Notes could be very helpful
especially for the speaking section. Please, download our note taking strategies.
2. Speak clearly and coherently. Raters should be able to understand you and follow your
thought.
3. Provide answers that are right to the question. Do not speak about unrelated topics. Try to
stick to the main point of the question.
4. Support your answers with details, reasoning and examples based on your ideas,
experience (for the independent tasks) or based on the information given in the passages
or conversations/lectures (for the integrated tasks).
5. Download our Speaking Tips for improving your speaking skills.

Reference: www.TOEFL.org
TOEFL iBT Writing Section
(50 minutes)
TOEFL iBT Writing section measures students' abilities to communicate effectively in writing in
academic settings. Students must be able to present their ideas clearly and in an well-organized
manner. Responses are typed into a computer and automatically sent to the ETS's Online Scoring
Network for evaluating and scoring.

TOEFL iBT Writing section includes two writing tasks:

Task 1: Integrated writing task (20 minutes)

(Reading/Listening/Writing) In the integrated writing task test takers have 3 minutes to read a
short text at about 230-300 words. The text is on an academic topic. When the time finishes the
reading text disappears. The reading text is followed by a lecture (listening) on the same topic
presented from different perspective. The listening passage has the same length - 230-300 words.
When the listening finishes the reading text appears again with the question that test takers are
expected to answer. A writing box on the screen is provided for typing the response. Students
write a summary of the important points in the listening and explain how those are related to the
reading text. During writing the reading passage is on screen and students can refer to it every
time they wish to. The writing response should be between 150 and 225 words in length. There is
a word counter that counts the words in the response.

Task 2: Independent writing task (30 minutes)

(Essay)In this task students are asked to write an essay that expresses and supports their opinion
on a certain topic. The support should be based on test takers' own knowledge and experience.
This task is the same as the one in the paper-based and the computer-based TOEFL. The length
of an effective essay should be minimum 300 words.

Remember

1. Listening during the independent writing task is played only once. Effective note taking
could help to list important facts from the listening and avoid forgetting them. Download
our effective note taking strategies.
2. Both tasks are timed independently - 20 minutes for the integrated writing and 30 minutes
for the independent writing.
3. Allot some time to plan the outline of your essay. Scratch down some notes.
4. Do not just list your opinion or choices. Use reasons, examples and details to support
your opinion/choice.
5. Use linking words to connect ideas and help the reader follow your thoughts.
6. Download our Writing Tips for improving your writing skills.
Strategies for TOEFL iBT Reading Section
The first component you will have to do when you sit for the TOEFL iBT exam is the Reading.
The Reading Section measures your ability to read and understand academic texts (passages) in
English. Reading is a critical skill in academic environment. Students have to read a lot and
comprehend the information presented in their textbooks or other reading materials. As we
discussed in TOEFL iBT Format Section on i-Courses.org, three are the main purposes for
academic reading in TOEFL iBT:

1. Reading to find information


2. Basic comprehension
3. Reading to learn

The Reading Section in TOEFL iBT consists of 3-5 texts; each text is about 700 words long.
Each Reading text is followed by 12 - 14 questions related to the text. The first passage stands
alone for a time of 20 minutes and the 2nd and 3rd passages share a total time of 40 minutes for
reading and answering the questions. The system will cut you off right after the time ends.
Therefore, you must be not only good at reading but also very fast. To the end of this document
we will provide some important guidelines on how to prepare for the TOEFL iBT Reading and
how to behave at the reading test in order to improve your final score.

Preparation Strategies
Read, Read, Read. Read in English regularly. Focus on academic texts from university textbooks
or other materials. Do not stick to one or two topics that you are interested in. Read from variety
of subjects - science, social science, business, arts, geography, history, economics, and others.
Academic texts, apart from textbooks, could be found in variety of articles and academic
publications on the Internet or university libraries.

Find the purpose of the passage. Knowing the purpose of the reading you may easily find what
the writer is trying to accomplish. The purpose of the passage in most of the readings is
embedded in the introductory paragraph which is one of the most important paragraphs in the
text. Most of the passages in TOEFL iBT will try to do the following:

 To Explain - to present the information on a specific topic in explanatory manner. These


texts contain mostly factual information.
 To Resolve - it aims at finding solution for some sort of dilemmas or questions that need
answers. Usually there would be a debate.
 To convince - to persuade the reader of the validity of certain viewpoint or idea. There
would be opinions and support with evidence in those type of passages.

Increase vocabulary. When reading wide variety of texts on different subjects you should make a
word list. Organize your list in topics for better results. Example topics could be business,
geography, science and others. Make flashcards to help you learn those word lists. Use the words
learned in your writings and speaking.
Take notes. During all sections of TOEFL iBT note taking is allowed. It is a crucial component
for success. It is difficult to remember all facts and details from a reading text in order to answer
the questions. You also don't have enough time to search for those again in the text. So, the
solution is called note taking. When skimming and reading the texts you should write down all
important facts and details in order to find them fast and easily when you need them. See also
our effective note taking strategies.

Learn how to skim the text. Skimming means reading the text quickly to obtain very first general
impression on what the text is about, what its main idea is. Skimming corresponds with Reading
to find information objective in TOEFL iBT. You should develop your ability to skim quickly
but at the same time to identify all major points in the passage. Take notes. See also our
skimming strategies.

Read after skimming. Only skimming is not enough. Read the passage again. This time read it
more carefully, but don't forget that you have limited time. Take notes. Identify the passage type
- classification, cause/effect, compare/contrast, problem/solution, etc.

Try to guess the meaning of unfamiliar words in the passages, the context can help to do that.
After that, check those words in the dictionary. Guessing the words from the context brings great
advantages - you save time and it doesn't disturb your comprehension of the texts.

Highlight some of the pronouns (he, him, they, them, etc.) in the texts. Identify to which nouns in
the particular text the highlighted pronouns refer.

Practice making general inferences and conclusions based on what is implied in the text.

Learn to organize the data presented in the passage in charts and tables. Create charts with
categories and place the important data from the passage in the appropriate category. In TOEFL
iBT you are not asked to create charts. Rather, charts are provided and you are asked to
categorize the information in pre-defined categories.

At the exam strategies


Relax! You don't have to be familiar with the topic of the TOEFL iBT Reading passage. All the
information needed to provide correct answers is in the text. The definition of some of the
subject-specific words is available during the test. Those words are colored and underlined.

Be fast but try to avoid thinking about the clock. Concentrate on what you read and what exactly
the questions ask for.

Take a guess. There is no penalty for an incorrect answer in TOEFL iBT. Do not leave blank
answers. In each case they don't bring you points. If you see you are running out of time, just
take a guess and mark answers for all remaining questions. There is 25 % chances to guess the
right answer.
Stop thinking about Reading. When your section time is over, just stop thinking about the
Reading section. Prepare for the Listening section. If you have not done well in the Reading, you
may compensate it with the next components. So, stop thinking about the Reading.

Use i-Courses.org scored reading materials to practice, monitor your progress, and receive
creative feedback with guidelines on how to improve your weaknesses and strengthen your
strong sides.

Strategies for TOEFL iBT Listening Section


TOEFL iBT Listening section is delivered immediately after the Reading section. The Listening
section of TOEFL iBT measures your ability to understand spoken English in academic settings.
In TOEFL iBT the listening is done for 3 major purposes:

1. Listening for basic comprehension.


2. Listening for pragmatic understanding.
3. To connect and combine ideas presented in multiple information sources.

Each part of the Listening section (2 or 3 parts) consists of 1 long conversation and two lectures.
The test takers hear each lecture or conversation only once. Lectures and conversations are 3-5
minutes long. During the listening the time is not running. The allotted time of 10 minutes for
each part is only for answering the questions.

Preparation Strategies
Listen to spoken English from multiple sources as much as possible. Listen to English spoken
movies and English spoken TV channels, listen to the radio and as many other listening sources
as you may find. It would be better if your passages are academic or close to what is in TOEFL
iBT. The more you practice listening, the better listener you will become.

Listen for the main idea. It is usually found at the beginning of the listening passages, while the
details are dispersed throughout the lecture. The main idea will give you understanding of what
the conversation/lecture is about. Then you may listen for details.

Learn to find how the ideas are presented in the listening passage. Some of the main relations
between ideas include cause/effect, compare/contrast, and steps in a process.

Learn to listen for signal words that indicate different part of the passage - introduction, major
steps, examples, conclusions, etc.

Build your vocabulary. While listening, try to guess the meaning of unfamiliar words from
context. It is very important since there is a big chance to come across words you don't know at
the real test. Then, you should guess their meaning. Write down every word you don't know and
include it in your wordlist. Try to memorize it and use it in your speaking and writing.
Flashcards could be a great way to improve your vocabulary.
Listen to conversations or lectures with variety of accents. In TOEFL iBT Listening section there
is a variety of accents and pronunciations. For this reason, you should practice listening to a
people with different accents and pronunciation patterns.

Practice note-taking. Note-taking is allowed during all sections of TOEFL iBT. Effective note-
taking may highly improve your performance. It is almost impossible to memorize all clues and
details provided in the Listening section. Moreover, you can hear the passages ONLY ONCE.
Therefore, to answer the questions you have to rely on what you remember from the passage and
your notes. See also our Effective Note-Taking Strategies.

Summarize in writing what you have heard, using your notes. Thus, you will learn to find the
purpose and main idea of the listening, and also the most important details. You will also learn to
take and use notes. It also helps in improving your writing skills.

Familiarize yourself with the type of questions in TOEFL iBT. Make sure that during the
preparation you learn what answers are required by the different types of question. Some
questions may ask you to provide two answers, others to click in a chart box. If you are familiar
with the question types, you may save important time.

At the exam strategies


Forget about the Reading section. Now it is time to fully concentrate on the Listening section.

The clock is ticking only when you are answering the questions and not when you are listening
to the passages. So, when you listen, forget about the clock.

Prepare for note-taking. Before the section starts, write down the words 'main idea', 'major
points', and 'important details'. Under which word you will place your notes from the listening
passage.

Do not be distracted by the speaker's accent, speaking style and delivery. Focus on the content
and flow of information the speaker(s) deliver.

Listen to find clues that will help you understand what the speaker's purpose, attitude and degree
of certainty is. Listen for words that show relationship between ideas.

Pay attention to the visual materials. Some of the visual materials in the Listening section bring
important information. Blackboards show important words or phrases that are discussed during
the lecture. Illustrations and graphics support the information presented in the lecture. They are
available only when the lecturer refers to them.

Answering is different. In the Listening section you may not return to the previous questions to
correct your answers. Nevertheless, you have to confirm twice that you want to move to the next
question. First, when you provide your answer you have to press the NEXT button. After
pressing the NEXT button you may alter you answer. To move to the next question you have to
press OK button. Sometimes test takers forget this and lose important time. Please, set your mind
that you have to press two buttons.

Take a guess. There is no penalty for an incorrect answer in TOEFL iBT. It doesn't bring any
points. If you see you are running out of time, just take a guess and mark answers for all
remaining questions. There is 25 % chance to guess the right answer.

Use i-Courses.org scored listening materials to practice, monitor your progress, and receive
creative feedback with guidelines on how to improve your weaknesses and strengthen your
strong sides.

TOEFL iBT Scoring and Test Structure


Your TOEFL iBT® (Internet-Based TOEFL) scores will provide accurate information about
your ability to participate and succeed in academic studies in an English-speaking environment.
The TOEFL iBT will test English language skills in four areas, and your TOEFL score report
will contain five scores: one total score on a scale of 0 to 120, and four skill scores, each on a
scale of 0 to 30.

 Listening (0 to 30 points)

 Reading (0 to 30 points)
 Speaking (0 to 30 points)
 Writing (0 to 30 points)
 Total Score (0 to 120 points)

Your scores will be available online 15 business days after you take the TOEFL test. You will be
able to view them for free (as will the schools you chose to receive your scores). You’ll also be
mailed a paper copy of your score report 15 business days after your test date.

Due to the gradual phasing in of the TOEFL iBT, if you take the computer-based (CBT) or
paper-based TOEFL (PBT), your scores will be valid for two years after the date you take your
TOEFL test. For a while, anyone who has taken more than one form of the test will receive a
TOEFL score report with two or three sets of scores reported on the three different score scales.
Scores for the new Internet-based test will appear as TOEFL iBT to distinguish them from the
CBT and PBT scores.

TOEFL iBT Test Structure


Listening
 Length: 60–90 minutes
 4–6 lectures, each 3–5 minutes long with six questions apiece
 2–3 conversations, each 3 minutes long with five questions apiece
 Tip: Introduces more than one native English accent
 Scoring: 0–30 points

Speaking

 Length: 20 minutes
 2 independent tasks: speak about a familiar topic
 4 integrated tasks: speak based on what you read and hear
 Tip: You have 30 seconds to prepare and one minute to respond
 Scoring: 0–4 points, converted to a 0–30 score scale

Reading

 Length: 60–100 minutes


 3–5 passages from academic texts, each about 700 words long
 12–14 questions per passage
 Tip: Includes a glossary to define key words
 Scoring: 0–30 points

Writing

 Length: 50 minutes
 1 integrated task: write based on what is read and heard
 1 independent task: support an opinion
 Tip: Typing is required
 Scoring: 0–5 points, converted to a 0–30 score scale

Depending on your previous experiences with English and your comfort level in each of the four
language skills areas, you may want to focus your TOEFL preparation so it address any areas of
weakness.