TOEFL 101

A Complete Guide To TOEFL Exam (2020)

Do you feel nervous when you think about your TOEFL exam?  

Well – everybody else does too

But the first step towards an excellent score is knowing what the TOEFL is all about. 

We’re going to cover it all right here- the what, why, who and how! 

TOEFL

1.What is the TOEFL Exam?

TOEFL Full Form:

The full form of ‘TOEFL’ is – ‘Test of English as a Foreign Language’, and it is a test conducted by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). That’s right, the same people that conduct the GRE every year.

The TOEFL exam is conducted in two versions: Internet-based test (iBT) and Paper-based test (PBT). The TOEFL iBT which was introduced in 2005 is considered an upgraded version of TOEFL CBT(Computer Based Test). Even though scoring on each section for both versions (iBT and PBT) is distinct, both versions have the same exam pattern. Of the two, 97% of students prefer to take the TOEFL iBT.

Difference between TOEFL PBT and TOEFL IBT:

ClassificationTOEFL PBTTOEFL iBT
Full Form Paper Based Test Internet Based Test
Exam Duration 4 hours 3 hours
Venue Locations where the iBT® is not available Online
Frequency of conducting 4 times a year Over 50 times a year
Exam Fee US$180 $160 - $300
Score range 310 to 677 0-120
Exam Pattern Reading, Writing, Listening and Structure Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking

What is the importance of the TOEFL Exam?

A TOEFL score is something that you need for applying to any college in the U.S. or in Canada, and it is something that is required for all non-native English speakers who wish to apply for an undergraduate or postgraduate course.

But here’s the kicker:

Who can take the TOEFL Exam?

We know that a lot of universities ask for the TOEFL Score as a part of their admissions process, but where else are these scores used? Here’s a look: 

  • Students planning to pursue an academic course in an English-speaking country
  • Working professionals applying for a visa to move abroad
  • Students applying for scholarships and other certifications 
  • Those learning the English-language can also take the TOEFL Exam to measure their progress 
  • Certain jobs ask for a TOEFL Score when screening candidates

There are universities and businesses in other English speaking countries, like the U.K or Australia, France, Germany and so on who do accept a TOEFL score for various other purposes.

TOEFL Eligibility:

From the passages above, it is clear now that the TOEFL exam is taken by those who want to study abroad or work abroad. With regards to ‘TOEFL eligibility’, the good news is there is no eligibility criteria so to speak. Anybody could technically write the TOEFL exam.

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Interestingly enough, there is no age limit to take the TOEFL test! But in order to attempt the exam, you need to carry a valid passport as proof of identity at the time of the exam.

Even though there is no limitation to giving the TOEFL exam, if you plan to pursue your higher education at any university/college abroad, you do need to check eligibility criteria set by the university.

TOEFL Registration:

You can register for the TOEFL exam at any time of the day and on any day of the week. You need to pay close attention while you are entering your details. ETS specifically mentions that the name with which you register for the TOEFL exam should be an exact match with the identification that you bring to the exam center.

TOEFL registration closes 7 days before the test date but you can still register for the exam with a late fee of $40 up until 4 days before the exam.

  • The first step to registering for the TOEFL exam is creating an account by visiting the “TOEFL login” page.
  • Enter your personal information, address and other important information regarding your country, language and Background (like your field of interest, current education and countries you wish to study, work or settle)
  • Log in with the username and password you created and click on “Register/Find TOEFL Test Centers, Dates”.
  • Enter your location and select the 2-month period that you’d like to take the exam in. You can also search through a restricted reservation code provided by the institution if applicable.
  • Once you select the date you’ll be provided with the address of the test centers using which you can register immediately by providing proof of ID (Passport) and making the payment.
  • You can also select four universities to which you want to send your TOEFL scores. You do have the option to add more universities with an additional payment of $20 USD for each university.

TOEFL Exam Overview:

TOEFL Full Form Test of English as Foreign Language
Conducted By Education Testing Servies (ETS)
Well-known as English Proficiency Test
TOEFL Exam Fee $160 - $300
Eligibility No specific Eligibilty Criteria
TOEFL Score Validity 2 Years
Official wesite https://www.ets.org/toefl
TOEFL Exam Pattern Click Here

TOEFL Exam Update:

The ETS TOEFL exam has received a few updates starting August 1, 2019! These updates include changes in the TOEFL exam duration and the number of questions in each section. Before you worry, know that overall test takers will benefit from these changes!

For starters, the TOEFL exam duration has been shortened by 30 minutes. So the test will now be 3 hours long with no changes in question types and format. However, the number of questions in the reading, speaking and listening sections were reduced to lower the time.

Here is a quick comparison between the old and new versions of the TOEFL exam.

SectionOld VersionNew Version
Reading3-4 passages
12-14 questions/passage
60-80 minutes
3-4 passages
10 questions/passage
54-72 minutes
Listening4-6 Lectures, 6 Questions/lecture
2-3 Conversations, 5 Questions each
60-90 minutes
3-4 Lectures, 6 Questions/lecture
2-3 Conversations, 5 Questions each
41-57 minutes
Speaking6 Tasks
20 minutes
4 Tasks
17 minutes
Writing2 Tasks
50 minutes
No change

2.Who accepts TOEFL scores?

There are 10,000+ colleges, agencies and other institutions, and over 150 countries that accept TOEFL scores as of today and every year, over 50 computer-based tests are being administered via the Internet all over the globe.

Apart from universities, other organizations too accept the TOEFL Score for different purposes.

As per ETS,

  • Immigration departments use them to issue residential and work visas.
  • Medical and licensing agencies use them for professional certification purposes.
  • Individuals use them to measure their progress in learning English.

Even though the TOEFL Exam score is used for so many purposes, it is mainly used by universities in English-speaking countries as a part of their admission process.

So, let’s see where these TOEFL Scores are accepted across the world.

Countries that Accept TOEFL Scores:

  • United States of America – Approximately 9 out of every 10 universities in the USA accept TOEFL scores and it is the most widely taken English-language test in the country.
  • Canada – Over 75% Canadian Universities accept the TOEFL Scores
  • United Kingdom – More than 95% Universities in the United Kingdom accept these scores
  • Germany – The TOEFL Exam is preferred over any other English-language test
  • New Zealand and Australia – All universities in Australia and New Zealand consider a TOEFL Exam score a reliable metric in their admission process
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How to view your TOEFL results?

The TOEFL exam underwent a few upgrades on August 1, 2019. ETS has now included a section called “My Best Scores” which will give you the best individual scores of the writing, listening, speaking and reading sections from all attempts in the last 2 years.

Even though most schools don’t accept these scores, there are a few schools that do.

So how do you check your score?

There is an advantage to taking the TOEFL exam in this regard. You will receive a mail after the exam with information of when you scores will be available. Typically, it takes 10 days to get a TOEFL score report.

You can login to your ETS account and check your results by clicking on “view scores”. You can also download your PDF score report.

How to send your TOEFL scores?

You can choose to send your TOEFL scores to 4 institutions before taking you test i.e., while registering for the test. The exam fee you pay during registration includes these 4 TOEFL destinations.

You can send your TOEFL scores to more than these 4 destinations at any time with a fee of US$20 per report. Approximately after 13 days, your score reports will be sent to destinations you have chosen. 

Follow these steps to send your TOEFL scores to additional institutions.

  1. Log in to your ETS account and select send additional score reports.
  2. Choose the destinations and make the payment via credit/debit card, e-check or Paypal.
  3. You can send you score report for 2 years from your test date after which your TOEFL scores are not valid.

You can also send through fax to +1-610-290-8972 by filling out the additional score report request form.

3.How many times is the TOEFL iBT test
conducted in a year?

The TOEFL online test is conducted over 50 times a year at authorized test centers. One can retake the exam any number of times. But you cannot attempt the exam within 12 days of the previous attempt. It is administered in over 165 countries every year and there are over 4500 authorised TOEFL test centers.

So it is a very frequently conducted exam.

TOEFL Dates:

Follow the steps to find the available TOEFL dates and test center without logging into your TOEFL account.

  • Click on the ETS website that takes you to “TOEFL iBT® Test Centers and Dates” page.
  • Click on the link “see a list of testing locations, dates and fees”.
  • Enter the location where you want to give the TOEFL exam and find the test dates within 2-months period.
  • You will see a new screen with dates in the selected duaration.
  • Select the required TOEFL date and click on “Show test times and Register”.
  • You can register directly from here by creating a profile and filling the required information.

TOEFL fact – More than 35 million test takers have taken this exam since it was launched.

Also, remember:

You have to pay the cost of the TOEFL Exam every time you attempt the test, and since it is a 4-hour exam, It can be draining both mentally and financially, so make your decision accordingly.

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4.What is the TOEFL Exam Fee?

Depending on the country the test costs anywhere around $160 – $300 per attempt for the TOEFL iBT. For example the TOEFL exam fee in India is $180 per attempt (about  ₹12,487 ) where as in the United States the exam cost is $205.

Country-Wise TOEFL Exam Fee:

CountryFee
United States $205
India $180
Canada $245
UK $210
Germany $255
Australia $300
Bangladesh $160
South Korea $200

The exam fee for ETS TOEFL Paper Based Test (PBT) is $180.

  • If you register online, the ETS TOEFL registration closes 7 days before the test date. You need to pay additional charges of $40 if you want to register after the closing date.
  • If you want to reschedule the exam, a fee of $60 has to be paid before registering for the new ETS TOEFL exam date.

TOEFL iBT® Test Fees:

TypeFees
TOEFL iBT $160 - $300
TOEFL PBT $180
Rescheduling $60
Late registration $40
Reinstatement of canceled scores $20
Additional Score Reports (per agency) $20 each
Speaking/Writing Section Score Review $80
Both Speaking and Writing Section Score Review $160

5.What is the TOEFL score validity?

Unlike the GRE which is conducted by the very same ETS, TOEFL scores are not valid for 5 years. Your TOEFL score is valid for 2 years from the test date. So whenever you’ve taken the exam, your scores are valid for up-to two years from that date.

For example:

If you have taken the TOEFL test on June 20th 2019, your TOEFL score is valid until June 20th 2021. Remember you can only apply to universities within this time.

The reason behind this short TOEFL score validity is for universities to be able to be sure that you have the ability to thrive in an English-speaking country at the time of application.

A TOEFL exam score older than 2 years, no matter how good, is sadly not valid. You will need to re-take the test.

In fact, after two years, you wont be able access your score. So plan in advance and choose an appropriate TOEFL exam date so as to be able to use the TOEFL exam score as desired.

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6.What is the TOEFL Exam pattern?

Let’s take a look at the TOEFL syllabus now. We’re going to look at the different sections on the TOEFL exam, how much time each section takes, how many questions you can expect, the tasks you will have to do in each of those sections and finally we will also look at what these sections are trying to test.

TOEFL Exam Pattern:

Section Question Types Time Limit No.of Questions Score Range
Reading 3–4 passages from academic texts (about 700 words); 12–14 questions per passage 60-80 min 36–56 questions 0-30
Listening 4–6 lectures, some with classroom discussion, 6 questions each; 2–3 conversations, 5 questions each 60-90 min 34–51 questions 0-30
Break 10Min
Speaking 2 tasks to express an opinion; 4 tasks to speak based on reading and listening passages 20 Min 6 tasks 0-30
Writing 1 integrated task (write based on what is read and listened to); 1 independent task (support an opinion on a topic) 50 Min 2 tasks 0-30

TOEFL Reading Section:

This is the first section you will encounter on the ETS TOEFL test.

It is also one of the longest sections of the exam. The exam is a total of four hours long, maybe a bit longer or lesser.

It really depends on how many questions you get.

So around 4 hours, and of that, the very first section i.e. the TOEFL reading section time would be anywhere from 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes.

You can have anywhere between 36 and 70 TOEFL reading questions. The reason this is not a fixed number is sometimes they’re testing new material, and they will throw out one more extra passage at you that will form those extra questions, and you will not be told whether that will form a part of your score or not. So you should just come prepared to attempt that many TOEFL reading passage-questions.

What does the TOEFL Reading Section test?

You will be expected to read three or four passages at most and all of these passages will be from academic texts. Then you will have to answer questions based on those texts. So the whole point of the reading section is that it tests whether you have the ability to understand academic reading material that has been written in English.

After all, this is something you’re going to have to do if you’re going to the US or another English speaking country for academic purposes.

TOEFL Listening Section:

The TOEFL listening section time is anywhere between 60 and 90 minutes. That is an hour – an hour and a half. So it is possibly a little longer than the TOEFL reading section, and you get extra questions. You could get anywhere between 30 to 51 questions in the entire TOEFL Listening section.

What does the TOEFL Listening Section test?

This section of the TOEFL exam entails you to listen to lectures, classroom discussions and conversations and then you will have to answer a set of questions on each of these that you listen to. And, of course, this section is testing whether you have the ability to understand spoken English as it is used in colleges and universities.

So again, a largely academic context over here, a skill you will absolutely require if you’re going to do anything academic in any other country – in which English is the primary mode of communication.

So there you have two long sections, and that would cover the meat of your TOEFL exam. You will have a short break after these two sections, just about 10 minutes after which you will have to proceed to the next couple of sections.

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TOEFL Speaking Section:

The third section that you will encounter in the TOEFL test is the Speaking section. It is about twenty minutes long and you will be expected to do six tasks. At this stage, you will be asked to express an opinion on a familiar topic or speak based on reading and listening tasks given to you.

You will be given a microphone into which you will have to speak. You will not be speaking to a person. You do have to kind of practice and get used to speaking into a microphone if you’re not used to that.

You will not have any interaction as such – you will be given a prompt and you will have to respond to that on your own.

What does the TOEFL Speaking Section test?

These are the kind of tasks you will get: simply expressing your opinion, speaking based on a passage that you read, or based on a conversation or lecture that you listened to.

Those are your tasks and basically, this section in TOEFL iBT tests whether you have the ability to speak in English in an academic setting. All of this is preparing you to communicate in the academic setting that you are planning to go to.

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TOEFL Writing Section:

Finally, we have the writing section in TOEFL iBT, which is about fifteen minutes long. You have two tasks. That’s right, just two tasks in the writing section. You will have to write essay responses based on the premise that you are given.

And one of those tasks will involve reading and listening as well. You’ll have to read a passage, listen to a lecture and write a response that has to do with what you read and what you listened to.

The second task will involve supporting an opinion in writing, so it will be mostly your personal opinion. You will have to elaborate and really show that you can write something substantial and cohesive on your own for the second task.

What does the TOEFL Writing Section test?

This section is testing whether you have the ability to write in English in a way that’s appropriate for college and university coursework. Once again, this is testing you on a skill that you absolutely will need if you were to go to an academic environment in an English speaking country.

So as you can see, all four of these sections really test very important skills. And it is, in every possible sense, a basic test of your English proficiency.

Bonus TOEFL® Resources

Introduction to the TOEFL®

Types of Questions on the TOEFL® Exam.

TOEFL® Scores: Everything you need to know

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Now that you’re done, you can see that the TOEFL is a truly dynamic exam.

Have you started preparing for the TOEFL yet?

Or is there any section on the TOEFL test that you’re really nervous about?

Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

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