Test Day Overview for Students Taking the TOEFL

Test Day Chronology

ETS strongly encourages students to arrive at the test center at least 30 minutes before the test begins to accommodate the check-in procedure. Late arrivals, including students who do not allow sufficient time for check-in, will not being allowed to take the test. The check-in procedure involves electronic scanning of all test-takers to ensure test security, submission of required identification, the signing of a confidentiality agreement, and the assigning of testing stations. The test itself lasts for 200-230 minutes, including a 10-minute break. The variable testing length is due to the listening and reading sections, which may give additional time for experimental questions that do not count toward scores (these questions will not be identified as such on the test). The test sections are always presented in the following order: reading, listening, speaking, and writing (the break is after the first two sections). Once they complete the exam, test-takers must sign out, when they will be given an opportunity to cancel their scores if they wish. Students can expect to leave the test center approximately 4 to 4.5 hours after they arrived.

Arriving Prepared on Test Day

Advance preparation for test day can alleviate a great deal of stress and help ensure better performance on the TOEFL. First, be sure to pack all of the required items the night before the test, including all required identification documents, drinks, and snacks (the latter two are allowed only during breaks). Second, it is advisable to become familiar with the route to the test center and the parking situation before the day of the test (make sure to review these conditions at the same time of day as the exam, so that there are no surprises such as rush hour traffic). Third, test-takers should make sure they are getting adequate rest and nutrition on the day of and in the days leading up to their TOEFL administration. Fatigue and hunger can have a significantly damaging effect on scores. Finally, students should use the restroom before beginning the test. Proctors will allow test-takers to visit the restroom during the exam, but the test clock will continue to run, wasting valuable testing time.

Items Allowed at the Test Center

Students may bring a bag or backpack with personal items to the test center, but all personal items are subject to inspection and must be stored in on-site lockers. These items cannot be accessed while taking the test (drinks and snacks during the designated break period are the only exceptions). In the test room, students may not possess any personal items except their identification documents. Electronic devices of any kind are expressly prohibited, including cell phones and laptops. Test-takers are subject to searches of their persons and their belongings. Some items of clothing, such as neckties or scarves, may be inspected by test center officials, and students may not wear jewelry while taking the TOEFL (except for wedding rings). Note taking is allowed, but only on paper provided at the test center (for obvious reasons).

Test Center Rules and Regulations

Identity verification, along with presentation of identification documents, may also include signature comparison, biometric voice identification, and thumb printing, and test sessions may be video recorded. The required confidentiality agreement that all test-takers must sign stipulates that students may not communicate anything about the test's content, including questions, answers, and structure, to anyone. All personal items, aside from identification documents, may not be in the test-taker's possession while taking the exam. Students are also prohibited from communicating with other test-takers in any way, behaving in a disruptive fashion, or attempting to tamper with the test center computer. Test-takers may not leave their seats without the permission of test proctors. Students who violate any of these policies may are subject to dismissal from the test center, cancellation of scores, and forfeiture of testing fees. Universities named as score recipients may be notified of testing malfeasance, especially in cases of academic dishonesty.

Score Reporting after the Test

Unlike the procedure for some standardized tests, ETS does not provide unofficial scores immediately after the exam concludes. TOEFL score reports are available online about 10 days after the test date. Test-takers who provided an email address with registration will receive an email notification of score availability, and scores may be viewed via the student's account on the ETS website. Score reporting by standard mail is also available. ETS sends official score reports to the organizations indicated by the test-taker during registration approximately 13 days after the test, and these scores take 7-10 days to reach U.S. destinations and 4 to 6 weeks for all other countries. Test-takers should therefore assume that it will take at least three weeks for their prospective degree programs to receive their scores, or 6-8 weeks if those schools are outside of the United States.