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Are you thinking about taking the TOEFL IBT test? What should you know about the TOEFL IBT and it’s different sections of the test? GlobalExam provides you with all the answers!

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Are you ready to know all about the TOEFL IBT and its four sections? Let’s dive in!

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Why Is It Important to Know the Structure of the Test?

You might ask yourself why should you consider passing the TOEFL exam? On top of that, if your level of English is already quite advanced, you might also wonder: why should you know the structure of the test? While it is true that practicing and improving your English is essential, it is not enough! Each section indeed has its specificities, which you must study in order to complete your test efficiently! If you wish to study abroad in the USA or another country, you must make sure that you get a high score on the exam.

Knowing the components of the four sections of the test will allow you to become familiar with what’s expected of you. Each section indeed includes specific questions and types of exercises, for which you will have a limited amount of time. To not get caught by surprise, make sure you’ve carefully examined and studied the components of each section. In addition, it is also highly recommended to train for each of them!

What Are the Four Sections of the TOEFL IBT Test?

The four sections of the TOEFL IBT are Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing. They take place in the following order:

SectionTime LimitQuestions
Reading54-72 minutes30-40 questionsRead passages and respond to questions
Listening41-57 minutes28-39 questionsAnswer questions about brief lectures or classroom discussions
Break10 minutes//
Speaking17 minutes4 tasksTalk about familiar topic and discuss material you read and listened to
Writing50 minutes2 tasksRead a passage, listen to a recording, type your response

TOEFL Reading: What Is the Structure of the Section?

We will be going over the TOEFL Reading Section’s Structure. This section is specifically designed to assess how well you can read and understand academic content. You will have to read 3 or 4 passages, each approximately 700 words long. After reading the passages, you will have to answer 10 questions for each of them. Overall, you will have 54 to 72 minutes to answer all the questions of this section.

Types of questions:

  • Factual information questions: these questions ask you to recognize information that is explicitly stated in the text (e.g. major ideas, supporting details or definitions). These questions can read like: “Paragraph X answers which of the following?”
  • Negative factual information questions: for these questions, three of the four answers are true. You will need to determine which one is false. These questions can read like: “According to paragraph X, which one of the following is not true?”

Some useful tips for both types of questions:

  • For the factual information questions: Don’t select an answer just because It contains words or phrases from the paragraph. Instead, evaluate each option to determine if it is correct.
  • For the negative factual information questions: Remember that you’re looking for an answer that either isn’t in the paragraph, or directly contradicts information in the paragraph.

TOEFL Listening: What Does the Section Consist Of?

This section is designed to evaluate your capacity to understand conversations and lectures in English. It includes two types of comprehension skills:

  • Basic comprehension
  • Pragmatic understanding (corresponding to the speaker’s attitude and degree of certainty) and connecting and synthesizing information

Then, there are two types of listening items during the Speaking test, namely lectures and conversations. Both of these use campus-based language. Here is the general structure of the TOEFL Listening Section:

  • 3 or 4 lectures: each of those last from 3 to 5 minutes, with 6 questions per lecture.
  • 2 or 3 conversations: these are conversations with two speakers. Each of them are 3 minutes long, with 5 minutes per conversation.

Last but not least, you can take notes on any audio item throughout the test, which will help you answer the test questions. Overall, you will have 41 to 57 minutes to complete the Listening section.

TOEFL Speaking: What Is the Format of the Section?

The Speaking section of the TOEFL IBT is designed to measure your ability to speak English in an academic setting. It includes 4 tasks resembling real-life situations, which you might encounter inside and outside the classroom.

  • Question 1: it is an “independent speaking task” meaning that it requires you to use your own ideas, opinions and experiences in your responses.
  • Question 2: it is an “integrated speaking task” meaning that it requires you to combine your English-language skills (including speaking and listening, or listening, reading and speaking) as you would in other contexts outside the classroom.

Before each response, you will get 15 to 30 seconds of preparation time. Your response will be 45 or 60 seconds long.

To respond, you will have to speak into the microphone on your headset. Your responses will be recorded and sent to ETS for evaluation. To ensure fairness and quality, your performance will be scored by a combination of AI scoring and certified human professionals. Overall, you will have 17 minutes to complete the Speaking section.

Some useful tips

  • Use preparation time to organize your thoughts.
  • Take notes but don’t write a full response.
  • Graders want to hear you speaking, not reading!
  • Don’t memorize responses before the test. Memorized responses will lower your score.
  • You don’t need to organize your response into sections like a written essay. Speak naturally and use common connecting words and phrases.

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TOEFL Writing: Section Format, Structure and Instructions

The TOEFL Writing section’s format is designed to evaluate your ability to write in English in an academic context. You will be expected to be able to present your ideas in a clear, well-organized and concise way.

What does it consist of?

  • The integrated writing task (20 minutes): you will have to read a short passage and listen to a short lecture, then write in response to what you read and listened to. Your response should generally be between 150 and 225 words, unless stated otherwise.
  • The independent writing task (30 minutes): you will have to write an essay based on personal experience or opinion in response to a writing topic. There is no specific length but the response should usually be above 300 words.

You will be typing your responses on a computer keyboard. These will be sent to ETS, where they are scored by a combination of AI scoring and certified human professional to ensure fairness and quality. Overall, you will have 50 minutes to complete the Writing section.

Some useful tips

Here is some helpful advice to help you obtain the score you need for both writing tasks.

For the integrated writing task:

  • Read the passage carefully and look for the main idea and supporting ideas. We also advise that you take notes on key points.
  • You don’t need to memorize the passage since it will stay on screen when you write.
  • During the lecture, take notes and listen for points that respond to the reading passage.
  • For the writing part of this question, you can for instance be asked to summarize the points in the lecture and explain how they relate to specific points in the reading passage.

For the independent writing task:

  • The question often asks you about your opinion on certain topics. Regardless of the questions, use specific reasons and examples to support your argument.
  • Make an outline before you start writing: this will help keep your writing concise and structured.
  • Don’t try to memorize paragraphs on various topics before you take the writing text to relate them to the topic you receive. The content will most certainly not be appropriate to the specific question you’re asked.

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The Grading System and Total Duration of Each Section

The TOEFL score and the grading system works as follows:

  • Test takers will receive 4 scaled section scores as well as a total score;
  • Each section has a score range of 0 to 30;
  • These are added together for a total score of 0 to 120;
  • Each skill has 4 or 5 proficiency levels.

Important: there are no passing or failing scores set by the TOEFL Program or ETS. Each institution or agency sets its own score requirements. You will hence need to contact them directly to know how your scores will be interpreted or used.

Advanced (24-30)
High-Intermediate (18–23)
Low-Intermediate (4–17)
Below Low-Intermediate (0–3)
Advanced (22–30)
High-Intermediate (17–21)
Low-Intermediate (9–16)
Below Low-Intermediate (0–8)
Advanced (25–30)
High-Intermediate (20–24)
Low-Intermediate (16–19)
Basic (10–15)
Below Basic (0–9)
Advanced (24–30)
High-Intermediate (17–23)
Low-Intermediate (13–16)
Basic (7–12)
Below Basic (0–6)

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