What is TOEFL

What is Toefl and What is Its Purpose

Any TOEFL test-taker's first question will be what is TOEFL? And what is its format? In this article we attempt to answer that question along with other related questions. TOEFL is designed to test candidates reading, listening, speaking, and writing skills. Broadly speaking, TOEFL contains questions which test candidates ability to grasp and express in English. The duration of the TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT is four hours. The candidate has to answer all the questions in a section within the given time. Time allotted for the section depends on the number of questions in that particular section. The Internet-based Test (IBT) is popular among test-takers; however, the Paper-based Test (PBT) is also available. As the name itself indicates, the TOEFL iBT is delivered through secured networks over the internet. The TOEFL iBT is not computer-adaptive. Note-taking is allowed. The notes have to be returned to the supervisor before leaving the test center and they will be destroyed (does not apply to the TOEFL PBT listening section).

Tool bar

Another question that might be asked by a test-taker is what is TOEFL iBT tool bar? The tool bar on the screen provides information about the question number and the remaining time for the particular section. The volume button is for adjusting the volume for the audio clips. Help information is available; however, candidates are not given additional time to read it. In the reading section, using the tool bar test-takers can view passages, review the answers, and get information about the skipped and the answered questions.

Reading Section

If a candidate asks what is TOEFL reading section all about; our brief and quick answer would be it is all about understanding academic texts. Yes, in the TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT reading sections, candidates have to show their ability to understand the academic texts. Candidates don't have to be subject experts to answer the questions; the passages contain all the required information. They have to identify the relationships between ideas and concepts. Candidates have to demonstrate their efficiency in organizing and re-presenting the information which they have read. Test-takers are required to explain hidden or indirectly suggested intentions in the passages.

On the TOEFL iBT reading section, 3 to 5 passages of 700 words are given. 60 to 100 minutes of time is allotted. 12 to 14 questions are set on each passage. Glossary will be provided for the specialized vocabulary if it appears in the passages (does not apply to the TOEFL PBT).

The following types of questions are asked on the TOEFL iBT reading section:

  • Four choices, single answer

  • Four choices, single answer in which candidate has to put a sentence in the passage where it suits

  • More than four choices, more than one possible correct answer.

Listening Section

Purpose of this section is to test how well a candidate follows academic lectures and natural speech. Candidates may murmur, "New wine in the old bottle! What is TOEFL writing section's uniqueness then?" Yes, you are right. Broadly speaking, the skills that are tested in the reading section are also tested here with a different medium. Test-takers listen to audio instead of reading texts. Additionally, test-takers have to identify speaker's attitude and intention on the basis of tone.

In the TOEFL iBT, 4 to 6 lectures of 500 to 800 words are played. 6 questions are asked on each lecture. 2 to 3 conversations of 3 minutes duration are also played. 5 questions are asked on each conversation. The allotted time for the TOEFL iBT listening section is 60 to 90 minutes; for the TOEFL PBT, it is 30 to 40 minutes.

The following types of questions are asked on the TOEFL iBT listening section:

  • Four choices, single answer.

  • More than four choices, more than one possible correct answer.

  • Questions that demand to arrange steps or events in a sequence.

  • Matching type questions

On the TOEFL PBT, listening section will be in three parts. In the first part, candidates listen to the short conversations and the questions will be based on them. In the second part, the questions will be based on the long conversations. In the final part, candidates have to answer the questions that are based on the talks which they listen to. The time allotted for this section is 55 minutes. Please note that the candidates are not allowed to take notes in the listening section of the TOEFL PBT. candidates should also remember that they should not turn pages over until the supervisor instructs to do so

Speaking Section

If candidates ask, "what is TOEFL speaking section's uniqueness?" our answer might create a bit of excitement. They have to speak into a microphone. Yes, in this section, test-takers answers are recorded and evaluated by the ETS trained and certified evaluators. This section aims to test candidates speaking skills. They are asked to justify their personal preferences. They also have to support their expressed opinions and views with proper arguments. In other questions, candidates have to read and listen to the passages. After that, they have to answer the questions by synthesizing information from both the sources. The allotted time for this section is 20 minutes.

Writing Section

In universities and colleges, forming an independent opinion and critical thinking are very vital. This section is designed to measure that ability. 50 minutes are allotted for this section. Candidates have to write two essays. If candidates feel, "writing is common in all the tests what is TOEFL iBT writing section's uniqueness?" we will say that they have to do something new in the first task of the TOEFL writing section. In the first task, they are required to read a passage and listen to an audio extract which gives different perspectives on the same topic. Then, they have to present their version by combining the information obtained from both the sources. Essay has to be of 150 to 225 words. The second task ascertains candidate's opinions and views about an issue. The candidate has to compose the essay utilizing his experience and knowledge. Expected essay length is 300 words.

On the TOEFL PBT, candidates have to write what ETS calls the Test of Written English(TWE). Candidates have to write an essay in the allotted time of 30 minutes

Structure and Written Expression Section

This section appears on the TOEFL PBT. The section tests candidates knowledge of sentence construction and other grammatical elements that are used in the standard written English. Candidates have to correct the errors in the sentences and they also have to meaningfully complete the sentences.

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