What is the Pattern of iBT TOEFL Exam

iBT TOEFL exam is a very popular standardised exam for measuring an individual's proficiency in the English language. The duration of the iBT TOEFL exam is four hours and it is divided into four sections namely Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. These sections have integrated tasks as well as independent tasks. The integrated tasks test more than one skill at a time and are a better simulation of real life situations which almost always demand the use of a combination of skills, be it Listening and Speaking or Listening, Reading and Writing. Let us discuss each section in turn.

Reading Section:

In the iBT TOEFL exam, the Reading and Listening sections are the lengthiest. The Reading section has 3-4 passages which are around 700 words in length. You will be asked to answer 36-56 questions on the basis of your understanding of that passage. You will be given 60-80 minutes for attempting this section depending on whether there are 3 passages or 4. The passages are academic in nature and do not require possession of any special knowledge to understand them. The kinds of questions that appear in the Reading section of iBT TOEFL exam are related to vocabulary, inference, scanning text for information, understanding the main idea and writing a summary. Most questions are multiple choices where you have to select one out of four options given. Some questions could have more than one correct option and you would be required to select all of them. One passage of the Reading section could be a passage that contains experimental questions and hence would not be scored. The ETS tries out new questions for future tests in this way.

Listening Section:

The Listening section of iBT TOEFL exam takes up around 60-90 minutes and has a combination of academic lectures and student conversations. The candidate will be asked to hear 2-3 student conversations and 4-6 academic lectures on the basis of which he is to answer questions based on his understanding of the recordings. All recordings are 3-5 minutes long. Note taking is allowed in this section. You are required to understand the main idea and content of the recordings and the sequence of information given. The questions are multiple choices again.

Speaking Section:

The Speaking section has 6 tasks to be completed in 20 minutes. The tasks are of two types – independent speaking tasks and integrated speaking tasks. There are two questions in the independent speaking tasks that require you to state and defend a personal choice/preference that you are asked to make by the narrator of the question. The integrated speaking tasks are further divided into two. Two questions will ask you to combine your listening and speaking skills to answer questions. First you will listen to a discussion between persons who are talking about a problem and you will be asked to give your opinion about that problem and suggest a solution. Next, you will hear an academic lecture which you will then have to talk about and summarise whatever you have heard in the lecture. The last two types of questions will require you to combine your listening, reading and speaking skills; one of which will present a passage which will have information about some campus problem following which a recording will be played in which the speaker puts forward his opinions. You are asked to summarise the opinions of the speaker in context to the passage. The last question will have a passage describing a general academic concept and the recording will further illustrate that concept with the help of examples. You will be asked to combine the information heard and read and convey the meaning of the passage.

Writing Section:

The Writing section has two tasks - one integrated and one independent - to be completed in 50 minutes. The integrated task will require you to read a passage and then listen to a lecture related to that passage. You are required to write an essay that summarises the information heard and read and relate them both all within 150-225 words. The independent task asks you to express your opinions on a general topic and justify the same with reasons and examples in a minimum of 300 words.

All sections are scored from 0-30 and the total score of the test is on a scale of 0-120. For more information, go to the official website of ETS (http://www.ets.org/toefl/ibt/prepare/sample_questions) to find sample questions for all sections.

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