TOEFL Overview 

The TOEFL test is a standardized test that many colleges and universities in the United States require international students to take to ensure a comprehensive understanding of English to help ensure they perform well in U.S. classrooms.Short for Test of English as a Foreign Language, the TOEFL test is divided into separate sections, and different colleges in the United States have different TOEFL score requirements that extend to the separate categories as well as in summation.

TOEFL Test Formats 

Currently, there are three types of test options available. While the material covered on the test will be the same, they vary in the degree of technology required to conduct them.


PBT stands for Paper-Based Test. This is the most traditional approach to taking the TOEFL test. In most cases, you will not be taking the test in paper form as the CBT and iBT formats offer more security and faster scoring results. In some locations where computers are not currently available, however, the TOEFL PBT will continue to be offered.


IBT stands for Internet-Based Test. Since its inception in 2005, the TOEFL iBT has replaced the CBT as the preferred method of taking the TOEFL test. The iBT format is the only form of the TOEFL test that contains a speaking component. This is the primary reason it has become the preferred TOEFL test among colleges in the United States as it provides the most accurate representation of a student’s conversational English abilities. Usually for Indian Students TOEFL iBT is the only available option.

The new TOEFL iBT takes about four hours. It is administered via a computer from a secure testing center network. Instructions are embedded within each section and there is no need for separate instruction tutorials. Unlike the computer-based format TOEFL iBT is not computer-adaptive, which means that the test itself covers the full range of skills. All test takers in a session at one test center receive the same test. Note taking is allowed during the whole exam.

The test comprises of four sections – reading, listening, speaking and writing. All the four sections are taken on the same day.


There are two formats for reading sections. On the short format you will read three passages. On the long format you will read five passages. After each passage you will answer 12-14 questions about it. Only three passages will be graded. You may take notes while you read but notes are not graded. Then answer a series of multiple choice questions related to your reading.


Somewhat similar to the Reading section, the Listening section will offer you audio excerpts as opposed to written texts for evaluation. The excerpts will include a combination of conversational dialogues as well as sections from lectures, similar to those you might experience in a U.S. classroom. After you have listened to each excerpt, you will be given a set of multiple choice questions to answer.

Speaking (TOEFL iBT only)

The Speaking section of the TOEFL test is designed to measure your level of conversational English. Like the Listening portion, you may listen to audio excerpts of conversations and/or lectures. After listening, you will be expected to verbally answer three questions related to your listening. Otherwise, you may be asked questions relative to your own life and experiences. You will be given a short amount of time to gather your thoughts before delivering your answer. This portion of the TOEFL test will be conducted by telephone.


The writing section of the test, also known as the TOEFL essay, will require you to write an academic response that connects the information presented to you in the Reading and Listening sections. For this reason, it is recommended that you take notes in those previous sections. Most answers range in length from 150-225 words. You will be given 20 minutes for the Writing section of the TOEFL test.

Reading 3-5 passages; 12-14 questions in each passage 60-100 minutes 30
Listening 4-6 lectures; 6 questions each 2-3 conversations; 5 questions each 60-90 minutes 30
Break 10 minutes
Speaking 2 independent tasks 4 integrated tasks 20 minutes 30
Writing 1 integrated task 1 independent task 20 minutes 30 minutes 30
Total 230 – 240 minutes 120

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