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The Test Of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is the one of two most popular standardized tests for English language proficiency in the world, the other being IELTS. TOEFL scores are accepted by almost all universities and colleges across the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
TOEFL is generally conducted via the Internet Based Test (iBT) although the Paper Based Test (PBT) is held at some select centers. TOEFL scores are universally used to gain admission into universities and colleges across the world for non native English speakers. TOEFL score can also be used for migration and Permanent Residency (PR) purposes.
TOEFL iBT is divided into 4 sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing. The test can take anywhere from 3 hours 10 minutes to 4 hours 20 minutes depending upon the candidate. A 10 minute break is allowed after completing the first two sections. All the sections test the candidate’s basic language skills and the tasks focus on everyday situations faced in academic and real life situations.
- Duration: 60 – 80 minutes
- 3 – 4 passages, each approximately 700 words in length.
- Each passage has 12 – 14 questions.
- Candidates are required to answer questions on areas of interest such as cause-effect, compare- contrast and argumentation.
- Duration: 60 – 90 minutes
- 6 passages, each 3-5 minutes in length.
- This section usually contains 2 conversations and 4 lectures or discussions.
- The conversations are generally between a student and a professor or a student service provider such as a librarian or a student counselor.
- The lectures and discussions are class room scenarios where a professor talks about a particular topic interspersed with random questions and discussions between the professor and the students.
- Each conversation and lecture can only be heard once although the test taker is given a piece of paper to make a note of the important parts of the topic.
- Duration: 20 minutes
- 6 tasks: 2 independent and 4 integrated.
- The 2 independent tasks require the test takers to speak about familiar topics such as their hobbies or strengths and weaknesses.
- The integrated tasks are named so because they combine the aspects of both reading and listening into the speaking task. The integrated tasks require the test taker to read a small passage, listen to a conversation or a lecture and are then required to answer questions based on what he has read and listened to.
- The test takers are allowed to take notes and are also give a short preparation time before answering the questions.
Note: Both the listening and speaking sections contain audio recordings in which the speakers have a variety of accents such as American, Australian, Canadian and the British. So the test taker must prepare himself by getting used to hearing different accents and pronunciation patterns.
- Duration: 50 minutes
- 2 tasks: 1 independent and 1 integrated.
- The independent task requires the test taker to state their opinion or choice about a particular and subject and also requires them to explain their opinion and give a clear picture about their ideas.
- The integrated task has a short passage on an academic topic, followed by a lecture (listening). The test taker is asked to summarize the high lights of the lecture and is also asked to explain how they relate to the passage.
NOTE: Any of the 4 sections will contain extra material and questions during the test. The test taker must take particular care in answering these questions because there is no way of knowing which questions of that particular section will be considered for evaluation. For example, in the writing task, if the test taker is given 3 writing tasks, any 2 of the tasks can be evaluated leaving the other one as a dummy.
TOEFL iBT has a total score of 120 marks out of which each section is given 30 marks each. One must answer atleast one task in each section in order to qualify for evaluation. TOEFL can be attempted any number of times but the gap between each attempt must be 12 days. One also cannot book for another test during these 12 days.
Test takers can access their scores online around 10 days after the test and the printed copy is mailed to them 13 days after the test.
- Duration: 30-40 minutes
- This section is divided into 3 parts. The first part has short conversations with 30 questions. The second has longer conversations with 8 questions. The final part has a lecture followed by 12 questions.
STRUCTURE AND WRITTEN EXPRESSION
- Duration: 25 minutes
- This section contains 15 questions on sentence completion and 25 questions where the test taker has to identify the errors in the sentence construction.
- Duration: 55 minutes
- The test taker has to read passages and answer 55 questions.
- Duration: 30 minutes
- The writing section is called the TWE test (Test of Written English) and the test taker is required to write an essay on the given topic in about 250-300 words.
The final PBT score has a range of 310 – 677 but takes into account only the first 3 sections of Listening, Structure and Reading. The TWE score is reported separately on a scale of 0 – 6.
Note: PBT is being phased out by ETS with over 96% of test takers giving the TOEFL iBT.