The TOEFL iBT - Every Thing You Need To Know

TOEFL iBT - Every Thing You Need To Know

What is TOEFL iBT test?

The TOEFL is an acronym of the "Test of English as a Foreign Language". The TOEFL iBT test evaluates your English ability in terms of reading, speaking, listening and writing. This test is also evaluates how well you combine these four skills to perform academic tasks to ensure students are able to proceed and succeed on their chosen course in a country where the curriculum is taught in English.

The TOEFL iBT test is one of the world’s most widely acknowledged English language assessment. According to ETS organization, the test is accepted by more than 11,500 universities and other institutions in over 160 countries including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The TOEFL test is conveniently offered via three testing options:

  1. The traditional TOEFL iBT test

  2. The TOEFL iBT Home Edition

  3. The TOEFL iBT Paper Edition

A Brief History of the TOEFL Test

The TOEFL test was developed by the National Council on the Testing of English as a Foreign Language, group of educators and government officials formed in 1962 for the purpose of creating an English-language assessment for international students who wished to study at universities in the United States. Since its initial launch in 1964, the TOEFL test has undergone several major revisions motivated by advances in theories of language ability and changes in English teaching practices.

In 1965, administration of the TOEFL was taken over by Educational Testing Service (ETS) and the College Board. ETS is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1947 to administer the standardized tests of its constituent members, who were better suited to test creation and development than test administration.

A major drawback to the original version of the TOEFL was that it did not evaluate writing and speaking skills. For these purposes, writing and speaking tests were being developed during the 1970s and 1980s. The Test of Spoken English (TSE) and Test of Written English (TWE) were respectively added to the TOEFL in 1980 and 1986.

Since then, a series of revisions have been made to the TOEFL test content; the most notable one was launched in 2005, known as TOEFL iBT (Internet Based Test), which includes a number of innovative design features, including integrated tasks that engage multiple skills to simulate language use in academic settings, and test materials that reflect the reading, listening, speaking, and writing demands of real-world academic environments.

TOEFL iBT Test Structure

The TOEFL iBT is a three-hour, computerized test. The test consists of four main sections: Reading, Listening, Writing and Speaking. During the test, you will use one main skill for each section. Also, in some sections, you need to perform tasks that combine two to three English communication skills. For example; in speaking section, you need to listen and then speak in response to a question. In other questions, you need to read, listen and then speak in response to a question.

The order of the sections, how long each section is, and how many questions or tasks each section contains are shown in Table 1.

Table 1: The overall TOEFL iBT test pattern
toefl structure, toefl pattern, toefl sections, ibt, teofl statsplat

It is recommended to train yourself to understand more than one English accent during your preparation for TOEFL test because the listening parts of the Speaking and Listening questions include native-speaker with different English accents (North America, the U.K., New Zealand or Australia) to better reflect the variety of accents you might encounter while studying abroad.

1. TOEFL Reading Section

The TOEFL iBT Reading section is the first section you will have during the TOEFL iBT test. This section is designed to evaluate your English reading ability and your understanding the kind of materials used in an academic environment.

The reading section includes 3 or 4 reading passages, each passage contains about 700 words, with 10 questions per passage. You have 54 to 72 minutes to answer all the questions in the section.

The Reading passages are excerpts from university-level textbooks that would be used in introductions to a discipline or topic. The passages cover a variety of different subjects as shown in Table 2.

Table 2: Most common TOEFL reading topics
toefle topics, useful reading topics for TOEFL, subjects to read for toefl, reading materials for toefl ibt

There are three Reading question types: Multiple Choice, Inserting a Sentence, and Reading to Learn. To become familiar with the Reading questions types, download TOEFL iBT Reading Practice Sets (PDF).

2. TOEFL Listening Section

The Listening section of the TOEFL iBT test is designed to designed to measure your ability to understand lectures and conversations. The test includes listening for basic comprehension and pragmatic information which is the attitude of certainty of the speaker, in addition to connect and synthesize information.

Both lectures and conversations are two types of listening items in the TOEFL listening section (Table 3) and both use academic and campus-based language. You have 41 to 57 minutes to complete the section and you can take notes on any audio item throughout the test to help you answer questions.

Table 3: TOEFL listening section items
TOEFL listening section, toefl listening questions, toefl tasks

The TOEFL Listening section has eight different question types:

  1. gist – content (like a main idea question)

  2. gist – purpose (only in the conversation items)

  3. detail questions

  4. understanding the speaker’s attitude

  5. understanding the function

  6. making inferences

  7. understanding organization

  8. connecting content

To become familiar with the Listening questions types, please check the following links:

3. TOEFL Speaking Section

The speaking section is designed to measure your ability to speak English effectively in academic settings (e.g. university). These tasks mimic real-life situations you might face both inside and outside of a classroom.

The speaking section is composted of 4 questions, as shown in Table 4, the first question is called the independent task. Questions 2–4 are called integrated tasks. The first question is called "independent tasks" because your answer will be not dependent on a passage or a conversation; it requires you to directly answer on a question depending on your own opinions, ideas and experiences when you respond. The rest of the questions are called 'integrated tasks' because they require you to combine more than one English-language skill — listening and speaking, or listening, reading and speaking.

Table 4: TOEFL speaking section tasks.
TOEFL speaking section, toefl tasks, toefl speaking questions, toefl questions types

You have a total of 17 minutes to complete the Speaking section. You will get 15–30 seconds of preparation time before each response to a question, and your response will be 45 or 60 seconds long.

To become familiar with the Speaking questions tasks, please check the following links:

Remember that the listening parts of the Speaking and Listening questions include native-speaker with different English accents (North America, the U.K., New Zealand or Australia) to better reflect the variety of accents you might encounter while studying abroad. Therefore, It is recommended to train yourself to understand more than one English accent during your preparation for TOEFL test.

4. TOEFL Writing Section

The TOEFL Writing section is the last section of the test. This section is also known as the TOEFL essay section because it is designed to measure your ability to write assays in English and to present your ideas in a clear, well-organized manner. also checking your knowledge of English grammar and vocabulary.

The Writing section consists of two writing tasks; integrated and independent writing task. The first task is called "integrated" because it combines elements of listening, reading and writing. You will be asked to read a short text and listen to a lecture or a conversation, then write in response to what you read and listened to. The second task is an opinion essay, where you are directly asked to offer your thoughts on a general question (Table 5).

You will have a total of 50 minutes to complete both writing tasks and taking notes during listening and reading is allowed.

Table 5: TOEFL writing section tasks
TOEFL writing section tasks, toefl writing questions

According ETS organization, the writing tasks are designed to measure your English proficiency, so you don not need deep knowledge of specialized topics to get a high score. Raters recognize that each essay is a first draft, and you can receive a high score with an essay that contains some errors.

To become familiar with the Writing tasks, please check the following link:

The TOEFL iBT Scores

For each TOEFL iBT section, your score will range between 0 and 30.The score range of each section is broken down into 4 or 5 proficiency levels (Table 6) to help you accurately determine your proficiency level for each English language skill. Scores you got from each section will be added together for a total score of 0 to120.

Table 6: Proficiency level of each TOEFL section
TOEFL scores, toefl grading, toefl ibt marks, toefl proficiency level scores, toefl points
Source: Interpreting TOEFL iBT® Scores

It is worth mentioning that there are no passing or failing scores set by the TOEFL Program or ETS. Each institution (e.g., university) has its own score requirements. Therefore you need to look up the English language requirements for the institution you are considering.

How to Register for the TOEFL iBT Test?

Registering for the TOEFL iBT test is easy. You need first to register in the ETS official website by clicking on "sign in / register" button to create an account. After creating your account, the website well take you to another page titled "My TOEFL Home". On that page, you need to click on a button titled "Register / Find Test Center, Dates", and choose your registration options such as dates and available centers. Then, follow the website steps and instructions such as filling personal information, making the test payment fee and finally getting a booking confirmation via email.

For more information, please check the following links: