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TOEFL Exam Pattern 2024: Different Sections, Latest Updates, and More

Revised TOEFL Exam

TOEFL Exam Pattern 2024: Different Sections, Latest Updates, and More

Comprising four sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing, Test of English as a Foreign Language, the TOEFL exam pattern is a widely popular English exam for evaluating the candidates’ proficiency in this language. The exam is essential for studying abroad, immigration, and work purposes in multiple countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or any other major English-speaking country.

The TOEFL exam offers tests in two formats- TOEFL IBT (internet-based test) and TOEFL PBT (paper edition test). The TOEFL IBT is a Home test that follows a similar pattern, with some differences.

In this blog, we have discussed the TOEFL iBT (internet-based test) pattern, its different sections, and the latest updates. Later on, we will understand the difference between paper-based and online TOFEL exams.

TOEFL Exam Pattern and Its Different Sections 

The TOEFL exam pattern and syllabus have four sections to check multiple English skills of the students, including reading, listening, speaking, and writing, which examine whether the candidates are eligible to live, work, and study in an English-speaking country. To qualify for this exam, students get 2 and a half hours. Candidates can divide the test time into different sections for time management.

Section Estimated Timing Questions/Tasks Section Overview 
Reading 35 minutes 20 questions Read passages and respond to questions.
Listening 36 minutes 28 questions Answer questions about brief lectures or classroom discussions.
Writing 29 minutes 2 tasks Read a passage, listen to a recording, type your response.

State and support an opinion in an online classroom discussion.

Speaking 16 minutes 4 tasks Speak over any given topic and talk about material you read and heard.

1. TOEFL Reading Sections

A section to assess how comfortably you can read and understand the English language comprises two reading passages. Each includes a text length of approximately 700 words that requires the candidate to answer 20 questions. The test usually contains an extract from university textbooks and provides a glossary of terms that are not often used.

Key takeaway:

  • Total no. of questions: 20
  • Description: 2 passages (approx 700 words), 10 questions each
  • Total time: 35 minutes

2. TOEFL Listening Sections

To stay in any European or American country, it’s essential to understand various English accents, listen, and understand the conversation. Thus, to check this skill, the TOEFL listening section lets candidates work on listening to 3 lectures (6 questions each), 2 conversations (5 questions each), and responding to 28 questions based on these lectures and conversations. Each lecture includes 6 questions, and each conversation consists of 5 questions.

Key takeaway: 

  • Total no. of Questions: 28
  • Description: 3 Lectures (6 questions each), 2 Conversations (5 questions each)
  • Total time: 36 minutes

3. TOEFL Writing Sections

The TOEFL writing section deals with the candidate’s English writing ability and is crucial to TOEFL scores. In this section, candidates need to complete two writing tasks. One in which the applicants read a short passage and listen to a pre-recorded short lecture, then wroeite a response. The second task consists of writing an academic discussion in which candidates need to state and support an opinion in classroom discussion.

Key takeaway:

  • Total no. of Tasks: 2
  • Description: Write a response after reading and listening, Offering opinion over classroom discussion
  • Total time: 29 minutes (task 1 about 20 min, Task 2 about 9)

4.TOEFL Speaking Sections 

The speaking section of this exam, specially tailored to evaluate speaking skills alongside reading and listening, requires candidates to speak over the given topics. The section includes 4 questions.

One deals with an Independent speaking test in which candidates need to present any idea or opinion on a specific topic, and the other three provide an integrated speaking test that requires candidates to listen and speak or listen and read and speak. Candidates get 10-15 seconds for preparation and are required to talk over it for 45 to 60 seconds on each question.

Key takeaway:

  • Total no. of Question: 4
  • Description: Independent speaking, Integrated speaking test
  • Total time: 16 minutes

Latest Updates in TOEFL Exam Pattern 

The conducting body of TOEFL, ETS, has updated the TOEFL iBT exam pattern from July 26, 2023. The change has been made to improve the testing experience for test takers; it has shortened the time taken to complete the TOEFL test while also making some other significant content changes. Moreover, ETS has improved the test’s registration procedure and platform navigation to help make it more straightforward. Here are some prominent changes in the test pattern.

#1: Shorter Test Time

The TOEFL exam used to take about 3 hours to complete. The latest TOEFL pattern can be completed in under 2 hours. The change makes the test the shortest among the three primary English language tests- the IELTS exam, which lasts 2 hours and 45 minutes, and the TOEIC exam, which lasts 2 hours and 30 minutes.

#2: Removal Of Unscored Questions

In the new internet-based TOEFL exam (TOEFL iBT), there are no extra questions in the Reading or Listening sections that do not add to the final score but for the ETS research purposes.

#3: Shorter Reading Section

The old TOEFL exam pattern used to include 3–4 passages, each with 10 corresponding questions in the Reading section. According to the new pattern, test takers encounter only 2 passages in the Reading section, each with 10 questions. The section earlier used to take 54–72 minutes now only takes 35 minutes to complete.

#4: New Writing Task

In the writing section, the Independent Writing task is being removed and replaced by a new Academic Discussion task. However, in the “Writing for an Academic Discussion,” test takers still have to give their opinions on a specific topic. While this is the same idea on which the Independent task is based, the Academic Discussion task will present the question as a hypothetical academic discussion forum.

Features of TOEFL New Exam Pattern

  • The new TOEFL pattern is for the internet-based TOEFL test.
  • The only new question format is changed for the Academic Discussion Writing task. The test takers can still use the old preparation material.
  • ETS has also revised its practice tests to reflect the new revisions.
  • The shorter test time would mean that test takers could take the test more comfortably. It would reduce fatigue, allowing test takers to focus and help increase their accuracy on the test.
  • The new modifications have also occurred to the user interface of the ETS platform, making the process of registering or rescheduling one’s TOEFL exam much easier.
  • With the new pattern, one can also track one’s score status, which would also help in planning how to meet college application deadlines.

Paper-based Edition and Online TOEFL Exam 

TOEFL online exam is commenced at home, and its paper test is organized at the center. However, in both test patterns, ETS takes the speaking section at home on your device. You take the reading, listening, and writing sections on paper at a test center. Then, within 3 days after taking the paper section, you’ll take the Speaking section at home.

Here is the difference between the PBT and IBT TOFEL exam pattern. Note that there are no recent updates in the paper-based TOEFL exam. Moreover, the question pattern for the test is similar. What differs is the duration, number of questions or tasks.

Total Test Duration 2.5 hours 3.5 hours
Reading Section Duration: 35 minutes Duration: 54–72 minutes
Questions:20 Questions: 30–40
Tasks: 2 passages Tasks: 3-4 passages
Listening Section Duration: 36 minutes Duration: 41–57 minutes
Questions: 28 Questions: 28–39 questions
Tasks: 3 lectures

2 Conversation

Tasks: 3–4 lectures

2-3 Conversation

Writing Section Duration: 29 minutes Duration: 50 minutes
Tasks: 2 Tasks: 2
Speaking Section  Duration: 16 minutes Duration: 17 minutes
Tasks: 4 Tasks: 4
Break  10 mins NA


In India, aspirants can register for any TOEFL test. However, to score well, aspirants need to understand its pattern, prepare appropriately for the test, and learn time management. If you’re also looking to appear for this exam, the TOFEL test preparation course can help you prepare for the test efficiently in a minimum time to score the required marks.

FAQs Related to the TOEFL Exam 

  • What is the TOEFL exam pattern?

The TOEFL exam pattern includes 4 sections: reading, listening, writing, and speaking.

  1. Reading Section: The reading section asks candidates to read the passages and respond to associated questions.
  2. Listening Section: The listening section deals with listening lectures and conversations and answers the related questions.
  3. Writing Section: Writing is about proving you understand how to write your point of view or ideas.
  4. Speaking Section: The Speaking section deals with how well you can communicate.
  • Is TOEFL a difficult exam?

Since the TOEFL test structure basically focuses on academic topics and includes a vast vocabulary, many candidates find it difficult.

  • What is the TOEFL test structure?

TOEFL has two test structures, one is IBT and the other is the Paper Edition test. However, both consist of four sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. 

  • Is TOEFL easier than IELTS?

Comparatively, IELTS is easier than TOEFL. Especially the reading section, which includes about 700 words, whereas the IELTS passage consists of 250 words. But, with the appropriate preparation, consistency, and practice, you can score well on the TOEFL exam.

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