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Everything You Need To Know About TOEFL

» Everything You Need To Know About TOEFL

January 30th, 2008 by admin

By Manjusha Nambiar
TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) tests the English language skills of non-native students who want to study or work in countries where English is the language of communication. It is an exam developed by ETS (Educational Testing Service). More than 6,000 institutions and agencies in 110 countries rely on TOEFL scores to select students with the English skills needed to succeed.

TOEFL tests all four language skills that are important for effective communication: speaking, listening, reading and writing. There are three versions of the TOEFL: paper-based, computer-based (CBT) and internet-based (iBT). The majority of test centers now use the Internet Based TOEFL (iBT).

Paper-Based & Computer-Based TOEFL The computer-based TOEFL (CBT) was introduced in 1998. Its format is very similar to that of the original paper-based test. In areas where the computer-based test is not available, the paper-based test is used. Remember that you cannot change your answers in the first two sections of the CBT after you have confirmed them on the computer. There are more “types” of questions in the CBT, such as clicking on a phrase and looking at a diagram. Before you start the CBT you will take a tutorial which shows you how to answer the questions properly. The total time you will spend taking the paper-based test is 2.5 hours. The CBT takes approximately 4 hours (including tutorials).

TOEFL format (paper based)
Listening comprehension (30 minutes)

Part A: short dialogues
Part b: Long conversations
Part c: mini-lectures

Structure and written expression (25 minutes)

Sentence completion (15 questions)
Error recognition (25 questions)

Reading comprehension (55 minutes)

50 questions – approximately 5 passages

Computer based
Adaptive listening (60 minutes) Part A: short dialogues
Part B: conversations, academic discussions, mini-lectures

Adaptive structure (15-20 minutes)

Sentence completion (approximately 10 questions)
Error recognition (approximately 15 questions)

Reading comprehension (70-90 minutes)

Over 60 questions – approximately 6 passages

Writing (30 minutes)

1 essay topic

Internet-Based TOEFL (iBT)

The TOEFL (iBT) was launched in 2005. It is intended to replace the other two versions of the test and is gradually becoming available worldwide. The new TOEFL iBT is a linear and not a computer adaptive test. This means that every candidate answers questions from the same range of difficulty, rather than receiving questions based on their ability levels.

The TOEFL iBT consists of four sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. All four sections are taken on the same day, and the entire test is about four hours long. What is most unique about the test is that it asks you to combine, or integrate, more than one language skill, just like you do every day. For example, sometimes you read a passage, listen to a short lecture about a topic, and then speak or write a response. And you can take notes throughout the entire test just like you would in a real academic class. Language heard on the TOEFL iBT is designed to sound like real-life conversations. The reading passages are taken from real textbooks and course materials.

TOEFL iBT format
Reading (60-100 minutes)

3-5 passages (12-14 questions each)

Listening (60-90 minutes)

4-6 lectures and academic discussions (6 questions each)
2-3 conversations (five questions each)

BREAK 10 minutes

Speaking (20 minutes)

6 tasks (2 independent, 4 integrated)

Writing (50 minutes)

I integrated task, 1 independent task

Test registration
Go online to register for a test. You can also register by phone or mail. When you register for the test, you can designate which universities you want to receive your scores. Or, you can wait until you receive your scores before sending them to your selected universities. Your scores will be available online 15 business days after you take the test. ETS will also send you a paper score report for your records.

TOEFL requirements
TOEFL is a source of anxiety for most international students who are not educated in English. But remember that it is almost unavoidable. Required TOEFL scores vary by institution, usually, the more prestigious the university, the higher the TOEFL score. So contact your selected university or college to determine their score requirements. On the TOEFL Web site at you’ll find a list of 6,000 institutions that accept TOEFL scores. You can also view a list of score requirements for some representative universities.

TOEFL waivers
Some universities have what is called a TOEFL waiver option. You can opt for this option if you are willing to study at the university’s Intensive English Program (or another affiliated English program) until acquiring the required level of proficiency in English.

The author is an English language instructor based in Mumbai. Visit her website to learn English.

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