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The TOEFL® Format

TOEFL Format

There are two forms of the TOEFL: the paper-based (PBT) and the internet-based (iBT) tests. Even though the paper-based format is still used in several around the world, it is very rare compared to the places that use the iBT format. So we will look into only the iBT format in this post.

Generally, the TOEFL iBT is divided into 4 sections, each tests a different language skill of the test taker. The next section of the test will not change based on your performance of the previous section. That means the test will not get harder if you do very well in the previous chapter and will not get easier if you don't do so well in the previous section. Now, let's look at each section separately more careful.


TOEFL Reading Section

The first section is the reading section. This section will test your ability to understand academic written English articles. The material in this section may not be familiar with you since it is not from fiction books, novels or popular culture news but college level academic articles. The vocabulary will be more difficult than the casual fun read and also the writing style will be different. You need to practice getting used to the writing style of academic articles before taking the test. That will help you increase your reading speed since you don't have much time in the exam room. The reading passages can cover a wide range of topics: from art, history to social science and sciences.

You will have one hour to read three reading passages and answer the follow-up questions. In particular, you will have 20 minutes to read each passage and answer about 14 questions associated with that passage. Sometimes, when the passage uses words that are very specific to the topic mentioned and not often used in daily English, the passage will highlight the word and you can click on it for a definition of the word. Each question worth the same point, even with the one that asks you to choose more than one answer. So don't get stuck too long at one question, you don't have much time.


TOEFL Listening Section

Similar to the reading section, the listening section will also last about one hour. This section will test your ability to understand both academic lectures and daily conversations related to university and campus students' lives. You will get to listen to 4 or 6 lectures and 2 or 3 conversations. During the whole section, you have the option to take notes of the recordings. The lectures are often from about 3 to 5 minutes long with lots of information. Taking notes during lectures may be essential to retaining information after you are done listening to the recordings. The conversations are often much shorter. However, taking notes during conversations can still be very useful.


TOEFL Speaking Section

The speaking section is the shortest of all. The whole section only lasts about 20 minutes. There are two types of questions in the speaking section: the independent and the integration questions. With the independent, you will get up to one minute to answer a question asked based on your personal opinions and experience. With the integration, you are asked to read a passage and/or listen to a recording then use the information from the reading and/or listening to build your spoken answers. There will be 6 questions in total in the Speaking section.


TOEFL Writing Section

The writing section is very similar to the speaking section. There are also an independent section and an integration section. The independent section will last for 30 minutes, asking you to write a persuasive essay to answer the question using your own personal experience, knowledge, and opinions. The integrated task lasts 20 minutes. It will require you to combine three skills: reading, speaking and writing in one task. You will have to combine the information from the recorded lecture and the reading passage to answer the question asked. It is very important to manage your time during the writing section. Since you have more control over the distribution of your time during this section, it can also mean it is easier for you to lose track of time. So be careful with time management when writing.