Your Insider Guide to the TOEFL

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Test Sections for the TOEFL

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TOEFL iBT Reading

Test-takers can expect to see either three or four reading passages on this section of the TOEFL iBT (in the former case, students are given 60 minutes to answer all questions, while an extra 20 minutes are allowed if their test includes an additional passage). The typical length of each reading section passage is about 700 words, and each passage includes 12-14 questions. All questions are multiple choice, and most have four answer choices and one correct response. There are, however, a relatively small number of questions with four answer choices and more than one correct answer. Responses to reading section questions are either objectively correct or objectively incorrect, and ETS grading for this portion of the TOEFL is therefore done by computer. "Raw scores" (the total number of correct answers) are converted to scaled scores of 0 to 30, taking into account the difficulty level of the questions. The TOEFL iBT is not computer adaptive, and there is no penalty for guessing.

TOEFL iBT Listening

The listening section features audio recordings of 4-6 lecture excerpts and 2-3 conversations over a period of 60-90 minutes (as with the reading section, the exact timing depends on the number of exercises included on a specific TOEFL administration). Lecture excerpts are drawn from many different academic subjects, and are intended to imitate undergraduate general education courses. Some exercises have the instructor as the only speaker, but others may be presented in classroom discussion format. Conversation-based exercises are oriented around common aspects of university life, such as professor office hours or a visit to the registrar's office. The context of each lecture or conversation is clarified by on-screen pictures (an image of an instructor standing at the front of a classroom, for example, is an indication that the associated exercise is a one-speaker academic lecture). Question types include multiple choice with one correct answer, multiple choice with more than one correct answer, and multi-step problems with yes or no answers. ETS electronic grading of the listening section ultimately results in scaled section scores of 0 to 30.

TOEFL iBT Speaking

Six exercises (or "tasks) are included on the speaking section of the iBT, and total timing for this section is 20 minutes. Two are "independent tasks," in which students must record spoken responses to questions about their opinions or life experiences. The four "integrated tasks" require students to answer questions about recorded conversations or reading passages, and topics can be either academic or general. Responses are completed by speaking into a microphone, which is provided at the test center. For each exercise, test-takers are allowed 15-30 seconds to prepare and 45-60 seconds to record their answers. Speaking section scores of 0 to 30 are calculated from the evaluations of human ETS graders.

TOEFL iBT Writing

On the iBT's writing section, students are given a total of 50 minutes to complete two written essays. The first is known as an "integrated writing task." As the term indicates, this essay requires synthesis of several language skills, and the integrated essay is based on reading passages and lecture excerpts. ETS recommends a length of 150 to 225 words for the integrated essay, and test-takers are allowed 20 minutes to finish this task. The second essay is an "independent writing task," which involves expressing and supporting the student's opinion on the general issue mentioned in the essay prompt. Effective independent essays are generally about 300 words in length, and the timing for this task is 30 minutes. Writing section scores of 0 to 30 reflect the judgments of human ETS graders.