February 21, 2019

Everything you need to know about the TOEFL iBT® test

TOEFL or Test of English as Foreign Language is the English language test recognized across the globe. In order to max this test, you would need ample preparation time. Whether it is studying in a foreign country or looking out for employment or even applying for your Permanent Residency this is a test that will take you closer to your destination.
First off, in order to succeed in the test, it is important to know the entire content of the test along with its format. It is essential to know the pattern of TOEFL as it can help in guiding your preparation for the test. TOEFL has four sections in all which are formatted in a standardized manner. The topics and questions keep changing however the format never does.

The four sections:-

  • Reading section (60-100 minutes): Understanding and assessing the written text on various subjects be in Science, English or General Awareness
  • Listening section (60-90 minutes): It ensures that the information is given out orally. This has to be assimilated and applied in order to answer the questions which are based on this oral piece. It typically has four to six lectures and questions based on them
  • Speaking section (20 minutes): It has six tasks in all that and you have to complete these by talking to the microphone. This estimates how you talk and express yourself in the English language
  • Writing section (50 minutes): This tests your writing skills in English. It checks for your grammar, vocabulary and general understanding and clarity of the language

Each section has a maximum score of 30. The total score in TOEFL is 120 which in other words is the perfect score. Unlike the IELTS, TOEFL is the test which needs to be completed in a single day. It is four and a half hours long with one short break in the middle, between the Listening and Speaking sections. Some more details about the test are as follows:-

  • Taking notes is permitted while taking the test. Ample amount of rough sheets and pencils are provided. After the test, you would need to leave it behind with the examiner
  • Getting a snack or drink is allowed which you can consume during your 10 minute break time
  • Any other small break is permitted but that will eat into your test time as the clock will not stop for you
  • Smartphones, gadgets or other electronic device are not allowed

TOEFL Reading Section

There are all of 5 passages (academic talks, lectures or texts)each around 600-700 words in length. These can be scientific, psychological, philosophic or topics of general awareness etc. Every text is followed by 12-14 questions and they would typically ask the following:-

  • Defining a word( to test your vocabulary)
  • Discover an idea or argument ( to test your understanding)
  • Finding a false speech or statement ( to test overall comprehension)

You will have from 60 to 100 minutes to complete this section depending on the number of passages and accompanying questions. In order to score well in this section, enough practice in the form of long reading passages and paragraphs should be done. You need to develop your analytical sense along with being a well time managed person as it is a long section.

TOEFL Listening Section

Here there would be two different sets of audio pieces:

  • Recordings of lectures
  • Recording of conversations

There are four to five lectures that deal with academic topics. Audio topics are from three to five minutes long and they are followed by five to six questions. The questions posed are about the content of the recording. It quizzes you about things in reference to the context of the text that you hear, incidents that happened before and after. There are also why and how the type of questions. These recordings are played only once. Hence it is very important to take down notes and make sensible guesses while you are listening to the pieces. TOEFL tries to include all kinds of English accents- American, British, Australian and New Zealander etc. A good way to prepare is to pull out some English language movies, videos and TV shows and listen to recorded lectures on YouTube to get exposure to all kinds of English accents before the exam

Break Time
There are a 10 minutes break after these two sections and everyone must stop there. It is a good time to recharge and refresh. Take a snack break, go to the restroom or just stretch yourself before you get back to the next two sections. 10 minutes will just go by in no time to make the most of it.

TOEFL Speaking Section

This judges the ability of your speech and the fluency of your English language. There are no interviewers but you will need to speak into the microphone. Your voice is recorded and it would be evaluated later after your test is through. There is little time to answer the questions and even lesser time to prepare for it however it is not impossible once you know what to expect from the section.

There are six Speaking tasks in all. Two of them will be opinion based questions. This is also known as the Independent Speaking Section. There is no longer recording, all you can hear is a question

The other four sections will be based on what you read and hear. This is the Integrated Speaking Section. This can be a short passage or a recording. About 30 seconds are given to respond and up to one minute to record by speaking into the microphone. Keep in mind the timing, do not speak hurriedly and speak clearly.

TOEFL Writing Section

This is the culmination of the last section of TOEFL. It judges your writing ability, grammar knowledge and vocabulary. It consists of two tasks

  • Integrated Writing Task: You will need to write an essay based on reading and listening material. You will be given 20 minutes of time for this task
  • Independent Writing Task: You need to write an opinion on a casual topic. You will get a question to answer, but you will not need to listen to a long audio recording or read a long passage

It is a good idea to make your own notes and create a framework of your answer which would be useful during both parts of your Writing section. You don’t need to demonstrate your actual opinion on any subject as long as your argument is well structured and supported and your explanation is clear. The essay has to be grammatically correct with short and clear sentences.

The only way to prepare well for TOEFL Writing is, of course, writing as many practice essays as possible.

TOEFL is competitive but not difficult to crack. You need to give yourself a few months to prepare well before you take the test. Take ample mock tests and practice exams before the real thing.

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