Information about the TOEFL Format

TOEFL iBT Test Format

The TOEFL iBT consists of four sections: Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking. In total the test lasts approximately four hours. The Reading and/or Listening sections may contain extra questions that are being tested for potential use on future tests. These questions do not count toward the final score but the lengths and time limits of these two sections can vary because of the possibility of experimental questions being included. Test takers should pay careful attention to instructions to be clear on the number of questions and time limit for each of these sections. 

  • Reading Section

    The Reading Section contains three, four or five reading passages, each of which are approximately 700 words long. Each passage is followed by 12 to 14 questions. In total, the section may contain anywhere between 36 and 56 questions, and might vary between 60 and 80 minutes in length depending on how many, if any, experimental questions are included.

  • Listening Section

    The Listening Section contains four, five or six lectures, each with six questions that follow. It also contains two or three "conversations" followed by five questions each. The length of this section can vary between 60 and 90 minutes based on the number of experimental questions that have been added.

  • Speaking Section

    The Speaking Section contains six questions and takes 20 minutes. For the Speaking Section, test takers wear noise canceling headphones and speak into a microphone. Responses are digitally recorded.

  • Writing Section

    The Writing Section lasts 50 minutes. It includes two writing assignments. The Integrated Writing essay involves reading a passage, listening to a text and writing a summary that compares or contrasts the two passages. The Independent Writing essay involves writing an essay that expresses an opinion.

TOEFL iBT Toolbar

There is a toolbar at the top of the screen of the TOEFL iBT throughout the test. The toolbar always lists the section of the test, the question number that is being answered (Question 15 out of 17, for example) and how much time is left on the test. Test takers may choose to hide the amount of time left. A "next" button takes test takers to the next test question. Certain sections of the test have additional features on the toolbar. The Listening section, for example, has a button that test takers can use to adjust the volume.

The TOEFL PBT

The TOEFL PBT has some differences in content from the more widely used TOEFL iBT. For one, there is no speaking section, as technology would be necessary for capturing speech. The TOEFL PBT has three main sections – Listening Comprehension, Structure and Written Expression, and Reading Comprehension. There is also a required companion writing test called the Test of Written English (TWE).

The TOEFL PBT Listening Comprehension section is 30 to 40 minutes long and measures the ability to understand spoken English. It contains approximately 50 questions. The Structure and Written Expression section measures the ability to recognize structurally accurate standard written English. It is 25 minutes long and contains 40 questions. The Reading Comprehension section is 55 minutes long and it contains 50 questions. It involves reading and answering questions about non-technical passages. The TWE writing test is 30 minutes long and involves writing one essay.