Your Guide to the Basics of TOEFL

In this article, you will familiarize yourself with all the components of TOEFL and come to know what this test is all about. The other aspects of this guidance include descriptions of the TOEFL sections and the question types.

What is TOEFL?

Familiarizing the test-takers with the exam is the most important function of the guide. TOEFL is the abbreviation for Test of English as a Foreign Language. It is accepted by almost 8,500 colleges around the world in 130 countries and taken by about 27 million students around the world. TOEFL is usually taken by non-native speakers of English all around the world. It is also popular among the people who would like to migrate to English-speaking countries.

What Does TOEFL Test?

It tests your proficiency in English and your ability to converse in this language. The standard of English that is tested in TOEFL is between advanced and intermediate levels of English. There are two formats of this test; Computer-based Test (iBT) and Paper-based Test (PBT). The iBT is followed in almost all test centers. However, in places where iBT is not available there is a provision to take the paper-based test or PBT.

What are the Sections in TOEFL?

There are 4 sections in iBT. The total test time is four and a half hours. The PBT requires three and a half hours to complete in addition to an extra 30 minutes for the writing test (TWE). Let's look at the sections of both.

Sections in PBT:

  • Listening Comprehension: 30-40 minutes, 50 questions
  • TWE: 30 minutes, 1 topic
  • Reading Comprehension: 55 minutes, 50 questions
  • Structure and Written Expression: 25 minutes, 40 questions

Sections in the iBT:

  • Reading: 60 - 100 minutes, 36-70 questions
  • Speaking: 20 minutes, 6 tasks
  • Listening: 60-90 minutes, 34-51 questions
  • Writing: 50 minutes, 2 writing tasks

Note that there is a 10 minute break between the Reading and Listening sections in iBT.

What are the Question Types in TOEFL?

Here is a description of the TOEFL question types.

Reading: The Reading section tests the abilities of the candidate to assimilate information that is provided and to reproduce it in a coherent manner. The passages in this section are central to a main idea. You may be asked direct or indirect questions from the passage itself. The content of the passages will be pertaining to general understanding; for example, historical, or biographical accounts. An extensive vocabulary is required to understand contextual meaning of words in this section. This section is general for both  iBT and PBT.

Listening: The Listening section will include 4-6 lectures around 3-5 minutes long coupled with 2-3 conversations around 2-3 minutes long. The lecture could include one or two speakers; usually a conversation between a professor and his students is recorded. The conversation will be a formal interaction; for example between a professor and the teaching assistant discussing matters of official importance in a formal setting like an office. This section is general for both iBT and PBT.

Speaking: The first two tasks in this section are independent speaking tasks. You will be asked to express your ideas or opinions about certain familiar topics at hand. For the other tasks, the test taker may be required to use more than one or two skill sets. For example, the test taker may be asked to read or listen to something before responding. This section is specific to iBT.

Writing: You will be given two tasks to complete. The first task will be an integrated one, which simply means you will be made to listen and read and then write a response. The second task will be an independent task where a test-taker will be required to write his opinion on the subject. This section is general for both iBT and PBT.

For more information on TOEFL, refer to the official website: