TOEFL Exam: What is TOEFL Exam

Updated on 02 February, 2024

Mrinal Mandal

Mrinal Mandal

Study Abroad Expert

toefl exam

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is a standardized test to assess the English language proficiency of non-native English speakers willing to enroll in colleges/universities in English-speaking countries. More than 11,000 reputed universities accept it in more than 150 countries. It is managed and conducted by the Education Testing System (ETS). 

There are two types of TOEFL exams;  TOEFL iBT which is computer-based, and the other one is TOEFL iBT paper-based examination. TOEFL is mostly attempted by students who are planning to pursue higher education abroad.

TOEFL tests the English language proficiency of non-native English speakers based on four sections- Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. The four sections of TOEFL are designed to assess the overall English language skills and how proficient the applicants are while communicating in English. It is important to check their communication skills before they move to an English-speaking country for academic or professional purposes. 

TOEFL exam scores are accepted and recognized by the world's top economies, like the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia, and Germany. The test duration is around 3 hours, and the registration fee is USD 190. 

Applicants can get themselves registered through the official website of ETS or by phone or e-mail. The smooth registration, cancellation, and rescheduling process helps the applicants attempt the examination in the best manner. TOEFL is conducted more than 50 times a year, which makes it 4-5 times a month. The test stands valid for two years from the day of the declaration of the results. There are 4,500 test centers in 150 countries. ETS has not set any official TOEFL exam eligibility or prerequisite for the test-takers in terms of academic qualification or age criteria. It is intended for non-native English speakers from all over the world. 

Importance of TOEFL examination

The TOEFL examination is a globally recognized standardized English language proficiency test that helps non-native English speakers prove their language proficiency to be eligible to work and study in an English-speaking country. It is a general eligibility criterion, and applicants must have a valid TOEFL score to take admission or apply for employment. The developed countries in the world, along with the top-ranked universities and colleges, accept TOEFL scores to test the eligibility of non-native English speakers. 

Here are all the reasons why a TOEFL score is important for an applicant:  

TOEFL score provides access to excellent study abroad programs: A valid TOEFL score gives you access to the top-ranked universities and colleges worldwide. Developed economies like the USA, the UK, and Canada accept TOEFL scores to grant admission. It is a dream for meritorious students from all over the world to study in globally ranked universities and build a fruitful career. 

TOEFL helps these applicants fulfill their dreams of studying in an English-speaking country where they can communicate and integrate into an English-speaking culture. Along with scores, merits, and degrees, TOEFL scores are eligibility criteria to take admission in the top-ranked universities. It is because the admission panels need to test whether the candidates taking admission will be able to understand, communicate, and be understood during their stay in the country. English is the only mode of communication and instruction in these English-speaking countries and universities. 

It is essential to test and evaluate the English language proficiency and skills among the non-native English speakers with a different native language and mother tongue. The more reputed the institution, the more will be the requirement of a TOEFL score. TOEFL score is not only a prerequisite for university entry for non-native speakers but is also essential for those wishing to register with professional bodies and organizations. TOEFL scores are accepted by more than 11,000 universities and colleges worldwide, and with a high score, you can always take admission to the best educational institutions. 

Explore a robust job market: Opportunities for employment and high salary packages are very common in developed countries like the USA, the UK, Canada, and Germany. Skilled workers and talented employees from all over the world aspire to build a career in  these developed economies where the job market is always on the rise. However, top brands and multinationals are very eager to take in talent from all over the world, but with a TOEFL score that evaluates English language proficiency. To work with these global brands, the applicants need to prove their English language skills in all four sections- writing, reading, speaking, and listening skills. An employer needs to know if the employees can communicate and integrate into an English-speaking environment.

Communication stands to be the most basic prerequisite to work. To work with a global employer, applicants must be able to fluently speak, write and communicate in the English language. TOEFL is accepted worldwide and it opens enormous scope for talents from all over the world. With language proficiency, it becomes easy to work, immigrate and integrate into an English-speaking environment. A TOEFL score is important to get a work visa. In the UK, Canada, and the USA the requirements of TOEFL scores are higher than any other country. 

Get access to immigration: Immigration to developed countries in the world is a dream for many meritorious and highly ambitious individuals. However, the immigration services of the most developed economies of the world will require a valid English language proficiency test before they allow the applicants to immigrate. Applicants need to have a valid TOEFL score to get a visa or permanent residency. The government agencies of the English-speaking countries use the TOEFL score as a prerequisite part for the application process when applicants apply for a PR or immigration. 

The perks of settling down in countries like Canada, Australia the UK, and Germany are huge, as you get ample employment opportunities, a robust job market, a high salary, a good standard of living, and excellent healthcare. A TOEFL score is important to evaluate the English language skills, to understand if the applicants can integrate, communicate and settle down in an English-speaking environment. A TOEFL score is important to prove English language proficiency and skills, to be allowed for immigration processes.

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Parts of TOEFL exam

The TOEFL examination has four test sections- Writing, Reading, Speaking, and Listening. These sections are designed in such a manner that the applicant’s English language proficiency is completely assessed. If you are taking the test this year or next year, you must know the four types of TOEFL test sections very thoroughly. 

Here’s all that you must know about the four test sections: 

TOEFL Reading section

The TOEFL reading section is designed to evaluate how well the applicants can read, understand, and then deliver the write-up in their own words from the kind of material that is used in an academic environment. The passages will be approximately 700 words long with 10 questions per passage. The reading passages are extracted from various college and university-level textbooks and modules that can be used to define a discipline or a particular topic. It is okay if you are not aware of the passage, as the answers to the questions will be included in the passage. There is a glossary feature available to define words not commonly used if you need it. This section assesses the English reading fluency and skills including the student’s ability to understand, skim passages and recognize the writer’s opinion, attitude, reasoning, and argument. It tests the proficiency among students to understand the important ideas, opinions, and details in a reading passage. 

TOEFL Speaking section

The TOEFL speaking section is designed to measure your ability to speak English effectively in academic settings. The speaking test section comprises a total of four tasks that go in resemblance with real-life situations that applicants will encounter both inside and outside the classroom.  

The speaking section is of 17 minutes in total. It is a face-to-face information interview taken by the TOEFL examiner. The first question will be independent because it will be about you, your ideas, past life experiences, and opinions. Secondly, task 2-4 will be integrated speaking tasks where you need to combine all your English language skills just as you would do in a real classroom setting. It tests your skills in English speaking like fluency, pronunciation, accent, and grammar. 

TOEFL Writing section

The TOEFL writing section is designed in such a manner that the applicant’s ability to write in an academic setup is evaluated. The applicants are expected to deliver a complete writeup where ideas, opinion, grammar, fluency, and vocabulary everything will be in an accurate and organized manner. The independent writing task is completely based on the applicant. They need to present a summary of past experiences and opinions about a writing topic. In the second task, the integrated writing skills are evaluated where the applicants need to write a summary after listening to a short passage or short lecture. The Writing section makes up 25% of your total TOEFL score. In the writing section, you will be graded on the ability to plan, manage and organize your ideas, and on the quality of your grammar and language usage.

TOEFL Listening section

The TOEFL listening section of the TOEFL examination is designed to assess and measure your ability to understand conversations and lectures in English. This section evaluates whether the applicants can listen and understand the lectures that will be delivered in the classroom during the course. Basic English comprehension and pragmatic understanding are two vital things in this section. The questions will be lectures and conversation audio clips, based on which there will be questions to be answered by the applicants.

Related Reads:

TOEFL Eligibility CriteriaTOEFL SyllabusTOEFL Exam Dates
TOEFL Exam PatternTOEFL Exam FeeHow to Register for TOEFL

 

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Eligibility for TOEFL examination

There are no official eligibility criteria as set by the conducting body ETS ( Education Testing System) for the TOEFL exam. The examination is intended for non-native English speakers to take up work or study abroad programs in an English-speaking country. There is no such official eligibility or prerequisite set by the conducting body for the test takers. Both the TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT are an open examination to prove English language proficiency and skills before taking admission. 

The TOEFL examination can be taken by any student or skilled worker from a non-native English-speaking environment. There is no official restriction regarding the minimum or maximum age limit for students to appear for the test. The TOEFL test is designed as per the university level and it is recommended that the test is taken by students who have completed a minimum Class 10 or high school (Class 12) from a recognized board. In terms of academic qualification, there are no minimum and maximum academic qualification requirements for the test takers. There are no eligibility criteria regarding the academic scores or degree. 

TOEFL has no upper limit of age criteria. There are no such criteria for work experience, as anyone starting from freshers to industry experts can take the test and it does not make any difference. What counts is the identification document at the time of examination. Applicants taking the TOEFL examination must have valid photo ID proof. It can be a passport, a Government ID, or military identification proof. Whatever document you use to register yourself should be carried along with you on the day of the examination. Make sure the documents for TOEFL exam registration are valid till the date of the test. 

How to register for the TOEFL examination? 

TOEFL examination registration can be done through the official website, phone, or email ID. If you want to book your test slot by phone, you need to look for the contact number of the nearest TOEFL examination center. Over the call, you need to share every personal detail as stated in your identification proof. Make sure you offer them accurate details as it is there in the ID proof. You need to confirm the test date and time slot over the phone. Once you are done with the booking, you need to pay the registration fee. It has to be done through online mode, and you will soon receive a confirmation. 

Here is a complete step-by-step guide to register for the examination online through the ETS website: 

  • Visit the official website of ETS.
  • Create a new account or log in to an already existing account.
  • Fill in the details correctly.
  • Click on ‘Register/Find Test Centers, Dates’
  • Choose the TOEFL test dates and timing.
  • Make the payment, and the booking is confirmed.
  • You will receive a confirmation booking and acknowledgment of payment in your registered email id and contact number.

TOEFL exam fee

The TOEFL examination fee in India is USD 205 (INR 16,900). 

 

What are the important dates in the TOEFL examination? 

TOEFL exam dates are available on ETS official website. Applicants must rely on the official website to get the right test dates. The test dates and time slots are available on the official website of ETS. It provides test dates of only two months at a time, and not for the entire year.  The dates for the TOEFL exam vary from one state to another.

TOEFL Examination pattern

In the reading test, there will be 3-5 passages and around 12-14 questions on each passage. The section is scored based on the number of correct reading comprehension responses.

Question type: 3–4 passages, 10 questions each

Total no. of questions: About 40

Total time: 54-72 minutes

GMAT Syllabus: Academic and General interest extracts. 

Writing section – syllabus and pattern

The essay should effectively address a topic. The essay should be well organized and developed with all the relevant information and details. To achieve a high writing score, demonstrate the write-up tasks with perfect word choice without grammatical errors.

a) One integrated task – Read/Listen/Write (20 minutes) (reading time: 3 min; listening

time: 2 min; writing: 15 min)

b) One independent task (30 minutes)

Total no. of questions: 2

Total time: 50 minutes

Listening section – syllabus and pattern

The listening section will have short lectures and conversations.

a) 3–4 lectures (3-5 minutes long, about 500-800 words), 6 questions each; About 30

questions in total

b) 2–3 conversations (about 3 minutes long, about 12-25 exchanges), 5 questions each; About 12 questions in total

Total no. of questions: a maximum of 39

Total time: 41–57 minutes

Speaking section – syllabus and pattern

The speaking test section is composed of a total of four tasks that goes in resemblance with real-life situations that applicants will encounter both inside and outside the classroom.

a) One independent task (prep time: 15 sec; response time: 45 sec)

b) Three integrated tasks – Read/Listen/Speak (prep time: 30 sec; response time: 60 sec)

Total no. of questions: 4

Total time: 17 minutes

How are TOEFL Scores Calculated?

The TOEFL iBT test is scored on a scale of 0 to 120 points. Each section of TOEFL has a score range of 0-30.

Skill

Level

TOEFL score

ReadingAdvanced High-intermediate Low-intermediate Below Low-intermediate(24–30)(18–23)(4–17)(0–3)
ListeningAdvanced High-intermediate low-intermediate Below Low-Intermediate(22–30)(17–21)(9–16)(0–8)
SpeakingAdvancedHigh-intermediate Low-intermediate basic Below Basic(25–30)(20–24)(16–19)(10–15)(0–9)
WritingAdvanced High-intermediate Low-IntermediateBasic Below Basic(24–30)(17–23)(13–16)(7–12)(0–6)

 

How to get the results of the TOEFL examination? 

TOEFL examination results are declared on the official website of ETS. Log in with your ETS account and view your result. It takes approximately 6 days after the test date to declare the result. 

TOEFL examination tips

  • Learn and understand the TOEFL exam pattern. The four sections of the examination hold the maximum importance. You need to have complete knowledge about the pattern, type of questions in each section, and lastly, the types of tasks.
  • Manage your time by planning the task. When you practice at home, set a timer for yourself and practice. TOEFL test sections are challenging because of less time and more questions to attempt.
  • Focus on building a fantastic vocabulary. You need to have a good hold over good words that are not used commonly in daily lives. When you draft the write-up with a good vocabulary, it gives you an excellent score.
  • Make sure your tasks are completely accurate and there are no minor or major grammatical mistakes. It is an English language proficiency test, so make sure you submit zero grammatical errors in write-ups.
  • The independent task requires you to write about yourself, your opinion, and your experience. Make sure you use the best ideas, facts, and fruitful experiences that make a winning essay.
  • Practice general and academic topics. You will get topics from extracts of academic modules and general interest topics. Make sure you practice a lot of such writing topics before appearing for the test.
  • Scan and skim reading passages. There will be long passages, so do not waste time by reading the entire passage. Skim the passage for relevant information and facts.
  • Maintain the right fluency and pronunciation when you take the speaking test. You need to deliver the right information, opinion, and facts without making any grammatical mistakes while speaking.

TOEFL iBT home edition

The TOEFL iBT® Home Edition is a suitable and safe testing option for students across the globe. The TOEFL Home Edition is a TOEFL iBT test only, and therefore the scores can be accepted and used in a similar manner as the test center version. 

Comparison between TOEFL PBT and TOEFL iBT

TOEFL PBT stands for Paper-based test and iBT stands for internet-based test. In order to draw the comparison between  TOEFL PBT and TOEFL iBT on a number of factors, we have devised the following table:

Category

TOEFL iBT

TOEFL iBT PBT 

Expansion

Internet-based test

Paper-based test

Time duration

3.3 hours

3.4 hours

Frequency of exam

Can be taken on specific dates. Check ETS website for the same

One or two times a month

Venue

Online

Offline

Fee in India

USD 190

USD 180

Pattern

Reading, writing, speaking, listening

Reading, writing and listening is taken in one session and

the Speaking section is taken at home separately within three days and is monitored online by a human proctor

 

TOEFL Scores 

The TOEFL scores are widely accepted by over 10,000 institutions across the globe. If you are planning to pursue your higher education in the USA, you should consider TOEFL over IELTS. Some universities in the US also accept IELTS scores but the majority of them ask for TOEFL scores.

Apart from the universities worldwide, the TOEFL scores are also accepted by the organizations for different purposes.

According to ETS, the TOEFL scores are used by the immigration authorities to issue work visas or stay visas. Medical and licensing agencies use TOEFL scores for certification purposes. Candidates use the TOEFL scores to measure their progress in the English language.

Latest Updates on TOEFL Exam / Key Highlights

The key points concerning TOEFL exam details are as follows:

  • The exam is divided into four sections which are sequenced in the order as follows: Reading> Listening> Speaking> Writing
  • The exam is conducted in two modes- Paper-based and Internet-based
  • The overall score range from 0 to 120
  • The TOEFL score validity is two years
  • The TOEFL speaking section is of 17 minutes and comprises four sections
  • The TOEFL writing section is of 50 minutes duration and comprises four sections
  • The TOEFL listening section is of 41-57 minutes and comprises 28 to 59 questions
  • The TOEFL reading section is of 54 minutes and comprises 30 to 40 questions

Conclusion

TOEFL is a compulsory general eligibility criterion set by various universities where the applicants are granted admission only when they fulfill the test requirements. There are no eligibility criteria for the test and every non-native English speaker can attempt it to study or work in an English-speaking country.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the TOEFL exam?

The full form of TOEFL is the Test of English as a Foreign Language. It is offered as TOEFL iBT (Internet-Based Test) and TOEFL iBT Paper Edition. The exam can also be taken at home with the help of TOEFL iBT Home Edition.

What is the TOEFL exam used for?

It is taken by candidates who wish to pursue education in an English-spoken country. It assesses the English language proficiency of prospective students.

How long is TOEFL exam?

The TOEFL iBT exam lasts about 3.4 hours, including a 10-minute break. 

How to apply for the TOEFL exam?

In order to sit for the TOEFL exam, you need to register for the exam first, which is done by creating your TOEFL login page, entering your credentials, and choosing your date, test center, and a slot for the exam. After you make the selection, the address of the test center would be informed to you using which you can pay the registration fee by providing a copy of your passport. You can send your acquired TOEFL scores to four different universities. You are charged USD 20 per recipient for extra scorecards.

How many marks is the TOEFL exam?

The TOEFL exam consists of four sections which carry 30 marks each. In total, the TOEFL exam is of 120 marks.

The TOEFL exam is valid for which countries?

The TOEFL exam is valid in most English-speaking countries like the UK, Australia, the US, France, Germany, New Zealand, and others.

How many times TOEFL exam is conducted in a year?

The TOEFL exam is conducted  over 60 times a year and a person can again give the exam with a 12-day gap.

Is TOEFL a scholarship exam?

No, TOEFL is not a scholarship exam. It basically tests your proficiency in the English language and forms an important part when you are seeking admission to universities in English-speaking countries. However, good TOEFL scores can land you a scholarship.

How to crack the TOEFL exam?

You can easily score well in the TOEFL exam if you follow some basic tips: 

  1. Reading books can build your grammar and lexical knowledge. It will also improve your language skills
  2. Make sure you acquaint yourself with the latest pattern and practice accordingly
  3. Be persistent in your practice and go through your mistakes, learn from them.

Can we reschedule the TOEFL exam?

The exam can be canceled or rescheduled from the aspirants’ ETS account itself. It may, however, cost them USD 60. 

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Mrinal Mandal

Study Abroad Expert

Mrinal Mandal is a study abroad expert with a passion for guiding students towards their international education goals. He holds a degree in mechanical engineering, earned in 2018. Since 2021, Mrinal has been working with upGrad Abroad, where he assists aspiring students in realizing their dreams of studying abroad. With his expertise and dedication, he empowers individuals to navigate the complexities of international education, making their aspirations a reality.

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