TOEFL Preparation:

Understanding Each Section Of The TOEFL

Wondering how to start your TOEFL preparation?

What questions exactly will you face on the test day?

How do you prepare for each section so you do your best?

Let’s jump right in and get some answers!

One of the best ways to start you preparation is by knowing the structure and question types in each section of TOEFL.

TOEFL question types

1.How to kickstart your TOEFL Preparation?

Do you find yourself getting really nervous at the thought of the TOEFL test? Don’t worry – you’re not the only one. But while you might be confused about the right way to start with your TOEFL Preparation, the good news is, it’s not rocket-science.

So, when thinking of TOEFL Preparation, you must ensure to cover these 4 points:
1.Extensive English Practice
2.Learning the TOEFL test format
3.Picking good TOEFL Preparation materials
4.Taking TOEFL Practice Tests

1.Extensive English Practice:

The TOEFL exam is an English-proficiency test. It is all about your fluency and how well you know the English language. So, it is but obvious that your TOEFL Preparation must start with improving your English skills.

How do you do that?

To start with, work on your vocabulary. Improving your Vocabulary does not have to be a dull affair. There are a ton of Vocabulary apps on the PlayStore to pick from.

One such app is the Vocabulary App (which happens to be designed by yours truly) and this is also the highest-rated on the Playstore. The App includes all the words you need to learn to take your Vocabulary to the next level and improve your TOEFL Speaking and Writing scores.

Besides learning from the app, what you can do on a daily basis is:

  • Read the newspaper every day. Pay close attention to each and every word. Google the meanings of words you do not understand.
  • Don’t limit yourself to newspapers, read articles from reputed magazines and online publications
  • If you have the time – pick up a novel! Or, you can go the technical route and pick up a book about word-learning

These resources should be more than enough to help you improve your English skills and will be a great way to kickstart your TOEFL Preparation.

2.Learning the TOEFL Test Format:

You cannot start your TOEFL preparation without taking into account the format of the TOEFL test. Knowing the format will give you an indication of how much time you need to spend across the various sections and question types. 

The format of the TOEFL test is as follows:

TOEFL Exam Pattern for TOEFL Preparation

3. Picking good TOEFL Preparation materials:

There are a ton of TOEFL prep material available out there. But, it goes without saying, they’re not all created equal. If you find that you’re not making progress at the rate you’d like to be, you should consider getting professional help for your TOEFL preparation.

There are several good TOEFL classes – both online and offline. The benefit of enrolling in these classes is that you will get the right study material, professional guidance on how best to prepare for the TOEFL test and you don’t have to worry about creating a study-plan for yourself, as these courses will take care of that for you.

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4. Taking TOEFL Practice Tests:

Whatever the score you’re aiming for, you must practice as much as possible. Like with any skill, practice makes man perfect. No matter how much knowledge you acquire for the test, you will have a hard time in the actual exam if you don’t practice your skills regularly.

So, take as many practice tests and see where you’re going wrong. Make sure you’re taking timed tests – this is very important because the TOEFL is a timed exam and plenty of students lose points simply because they’re unable to keep time. Focus on turning your weaknesses into strengths. The next time you take a test, see if you’ve improved on your weaker areas.

Prepare. Practice. Repeat.

This should be your mantra for your TOEFL Preparation. In fact, this should be your mantra when preparing for anything. With the right tools, the right mindset and the right feedback, acing the TOEFL test should be a breeze!

2.TOEFL Reading Section

TOEFL Reading Section Structure:

First up, we have the TOEFL Reading section. A quick recap of the structure – It’s worth anywhere between zero to thirty points, sixty to eighty minutes long with three to four passages to read.

TOEFL Reading Section StructureEach of those passages is treated as a subsection. One important thing you need to know is about the order in which you can attempt questions.

Now, each of these passages and an accompanying set of questions is considered one subsection of sorts. So within a subsection you are free to attempt the questions in any order.

You heard it right!

Let’s say you have passage number one with twelve questions. Within these twelve questions, you can answer them in any order you like.

But once you have finished answering all of these questions and you move on to set number two which say has 13 questions, you cannot go back to set one.

TOEFL Reading Section Question Types

Similarly, the moment you move on to set number three again, you cannot go back. So you have to be a little bit careful over here in how you attempt your questions.

Whenever you want to move on to the next passage, be one hundred percent sure that you are done attempting all of the questions.

Once you are sure that you will not need to go back quickly to revise, only then move on to the next passage.

TOEFL Reading Section Questions:

Now, let’s take a quick look at the question types. As you know, these are reading comprehension questions. They are all based on a passage. You have 4 different types of questions that test different things.

toefl reading part question formats

First, there is the ‘Multiple Choice Question’. Some information is given in the passage for which you will encounter these types of questions –

  1. The ‘detail oriented question’, which basically tests a particular detail.
  2. Inference questions
  3. Questions that test whether you understood the purpose for which something was said,
  4. Questions that test your vocabulary,
  5. Questions that test whether you understood what something refers to in a passage,
  6. Questions that ask you to identify a simplified version (‘essential information’) of a sentence in the passage and questions that ask you to
  7. and Questions that ask you to identify a detail that is NOT specified/mentioned in the passage.

Next…

You will face questions in which you are required to insert a new sentence from outside the passage.

You have to take this new sentence, figure out where best it fits in the passage and then plug it in there.

Third, there are questions that require you to accurately summarize what you read in the passage and finally, table type questions in which you would have to categorize information according to what you read in the passage.

All of these are, of course, passage based. So as a rule of thumb, do not use information from outside the passage. Stick to what the passage says as much as you can.

TOEFL Reading Section – Passages:

The test contains three to four passages so let’s find out a little bit more about these in detail. Each of these passages is around 700 words in length, not a very short passage so you really have to bring your energy, bring your focus and stay tuned.

TOEFL Passage-based questions

All of these passages present extracts of academic material from university-level textbooks and all of them introduce a discipline or a topic so you will not need to know anything in advance.

Whatever information you need is contained in the passage. It will deal with a variety of subjects and subject knowledge is not required. Everything is going to be introductory in nature. After all, it’s a test of your language proficiency and not your subject knowledge.

To summarize…

There are four different question formats in the reading section. They’re all passage based – so you have multiple choice questions, ‘insert a sentence’ type questions, filling the table questions and passage summary questions.

Before you attempt the exam, it’s recommended you take a high-quality TOEFL reading practice test.

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TOEFL Reading Preparation:

There are many ways to improve your Reading score in the TOEFL exam. First and foremost, you need to improve your reading speed to do well on this section. As we covered earlier, the passages you’ll encounter on the test are not short. You’ll need to get used to reading fairly lengthy, academic passages quickly.

Make reading a habit – even when reading this blog, try not to skim over anything.

This habit will help you a great deal.

Make improving your Vocabulary a priority as well. Or you may find yourself stumped by unfamiliar English words in the TOEFL Reading passages you encounter.

Make a list of any unfamiliar words you come across when reading passages as part of your TOEFL reading practice.

3.TOEFL Listening Section

TOEFL Listening Section Structure:

Now let’s move on to the TOEFL Listening section. A quick recap of the structure first : the Listening Section is scored on a scale of zero to thirty points. You have 60-90 minutes to attempt the section and around 34 to 51 questions to answer ; The break up of these questions is that you’ll get 4 to 6 lectures with 6 questions each, 2 to 3 conversations with 5 questions each.

An important point to make here is that unlike with the Reading section in which you can move around freely within a subsection, in the Listening section, you cannot do this.

TOEFL Listening Section structure

An important point to make here is that unlike with the Reading section in which you can move around freely within a subsection, in the Listening section, you cannot do this.

Once you have answered a question and you’ve moved on to the next question, there’s no going back.

Let’s say you are listening to the very first audio. Maybe it’s a lecture, and naturally there’s a ‘question number 1’ in this lecture. Say, you’ve answered Question number 1, and you move on to question number 2. You cannot go back to question 1 even within the same audio, the same set of questions.

As soon as you finish a question, you are done.

So you have to be even more careful, starting with the listening section, because for the rest of the exam, you cannot go back. The Reading Section is the only place in which you have a little bit of freedom to answer questions out of order.

TOEFL Listening Section Questions Types:

Listening Section question types

The Listening Section question types are all audio based. They are ‘Multiple Choice’ type questions for which more than one correct answer maybe present. You will be told how many answers you have to select.

In addition, you will also face ‘Filling the Table’ – type questions for which, again, you will have to categorize information.

The third type of question is the ‘Order and Sequence’ questions in which you will have to point out the order in which something was explained in a lecture or conversation.

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Finally, the fourth type of question you will encounter involves listening to a ‘clipped audio’ and answering questions based on that.

Remember, you can listen to all of these only once. So pay very close attention when you’re tackling the Listening Section.

So how does the Listening Section work?

English test toefl listening

Well, you begin by listening to a recording of a lecture or conversation from an academic environment. After that, you will have to listen. You have to answer several questions for every single audio playback that you’ve heard.

So you’ll get a lecture, then you’ll have to answer a bunch of questions on the lecture. Then a conversation followed by a bunch of questions on that conversation. Sometimes, rarely, you will get a short clip of an audio – most likely from a lecture or conversation you already heard.

You cannot re-attempt anything once you have submitted.

Lecture / Conversation type questions in TOEFL listening section

There will be a still image that will accompany every lecturer conversation. And the point is, it’s trying to tell you the kind of environment in which the speakers are situated. So you understand who the speaker is, what kind of classroom setting he or she is in, how many speakers are present, what kind of communication is this, what kind of situation, what kind of environment are they in?

All of those things will be something you could understand from the images that are provided with every lecture or conversation.

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4.TOEFL Speaking Section

TOEFL Speaking Section Structure:

Structure of TOEFL Speaking SectionNow, a quick look at the speaking section. To recap : It’s worth anywhere between zero – thirty points. You have twenty minutes to complete six tasks. The TOEFL speaking question types are slightly different.

You’ll get both TOEFL ‘Independent Questions’ and ‘Integrated Questions’.

For an ‘Independent question’, you will just be given a task and you just have to speak something personal about that particular question.

TOEFL Speaking Section Question Types:

Question types in TOEFL speaking section

These are the following TOEFL Speaking topics. The ‘Integrated’ type of questions come in two variations. Type A – you will have to listen to something (typically one conversation and one lecture) and based on what you hear, you will have to respond.

The other type – let’s refer to it as Type B over here – will involve both reading and listening. So you’ll have to read a passage, listen to a lecture and then respond or read a small notice and then listen to a conversation and then respond.

So there will be one of each of these types. As you can see, you have a total of six tasks. Two of each of these kinds. Some of them are going to be integrated where different skills are all coming together to test you.
So you have to really pay attention and be prepared to use your time well.

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TOEFL Speaking Section Preparation:

Time will be allotted for you to prepare and for you to speak. You should really practice for TOEFL speaking section so you can use that time well, pay attention to the audio tracks. There will be a time limit for reading passages here so you won’t be able to see the passage again. You have only less than a minute to read each passage, so you better focus and take notes.

5.TOEFL Writing Section

TOEFL Writing Section – Integrated Type Questions:

TOEFL Writing Section - Integrated Type QuestionsTo give you a little bit more information, the Integrated Writing task tests how well you can analyze the relationship between the lecture and the passage. It is not about your ability to convey a personal opinion.

An effective response of this type is usually somewhere between 115 to 250 words. You could always write a little bit longer. They will not penalize you for longer responses.

For the integrated type, you will first read a passage on say, an economic topic. You will have a fixed amount of time to read this passage. So you better focus when you’re doing that because after – this passage will go away and you will have to listen to a lecture that is related to the topic. The passage and the lecture are related.

After all this, you will be given twenty minutes to respond to a question. And the question will require you to draw connections between the passage and the lecture in some way.

Focus on the passage, focus on the lecture and bring things together. In the end, that is how you should do it.

TOEFL Writing Section – Independent Type Questions:

TOEFL Writing Section - Independant Type Questions

The TOEFL independent writing task, on the other hand, is about how well you develop and organize your ideas. It’s also about your language skills. So here is where you talk about your experiences and express what you’re thinking. An effective response is usually around 300 words.

The ‘Independent writing’ task is quite simple – you have to respond to a question, and that question will ask you to state, explain and support your opinion on a very general issue.
You will not need any subject matter knowledge for either of these question types. The topic at hand will be a general issue that everyone would have an opinion on. You have thirty minutes to plan, wight and revise your essay.

That wraps up the four sections.

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Bonus TOEFL® Resources

Introduction to the TOEFL®

Types of Questions on the TOEFL® Exam.

TOEFL® Scores: Everything you need to know

now it's your turn

I'd like to hear from you

You did it! You’re now two steps closer to a phenomenal TOEFL score!

Which section do you think you’ll do best on?

Is there any question type in particular you’re worried about?

Leave a comment below letting us know!

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