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The TOEFL Explained


origin: The TOEFL Explained (

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is an examination used to evaluate the English ability of non-native English speakers. The TOEFL test is prepared by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and is available in over 165 countries worldwide. Nearly 1 million people take the test each year. The average skill level ranges between intermediate and advanced. The test is given in two different formats: the Internet-based test (iBT) and the paper-based test (PBT). The iBT is given between 30-40 times a year and costs between US$150 and US$225 depending on the country where the test is taken. The PBT costs US$160 and is given 6 times a year where the iBT is not available. 
The iBT TOEFL test includes the following four sections: 
Reading Section: 60-100 minutes
3 reading passages of 650-700 words each
The time limit for each passage is approximately 20-30 minutes
After each section, the candidate will answer three types of questions:
Multiple choice
Add a sentence to a passage
Drag answers to answer a question
Listening Section: 60-90 minutes
2 conversations of 2-3 minutes and 4 lectures of 4-6 minutes
Questions based upon the listening include:
Multiple choice
Select choices to complete the tasks
Questions typically ask for:
Main Idea
Supporting details
Purpose or attitude
Writing Section: 50 minutes
2 writing tasks that test:
Good organization
Integrated Writing Task: 20 minutes to write answer
Read passage of 250-300 words
Listen to a short lecture on topic
Write answer to question
approximately 150-225 words
15-20 minutes
Independent Writing Task: 30 minutes to write essay
Based on previous knowledge and experience
Ability to make connections
Speaking: 20 minutes
Overall ability to speak
Two types of speaking tasks
Independent: tasks:  tasks with which the candidate is familiar
15 seconds to prepare
45 seconds to respond
Integrated tasks: tasks which require listening and speaking or listening, reading, and speaking
30 seconds to prepare
60 seconds to respond
To prepare for the TOEFL test a candidate should review all coursework concentrating on areas of difficulty. Next, go to the ETS website ( and download the free materials to familiarize yourself with the test. (Only sample questions are given so this will not be sufficient for a thorough preparation, but it will give you an idea of the way the test is structured and the types of questions used during the test.) Becoming thoroughly familiar with the test is one of the best methods to prepare for it. 
Candidates for the TOEFL can use the information from the website to prepare for the test; however, remember, the test only evaluates your previous understanding of the English language. It is considered a placement test for intermediate to advanced students of English. The best way to do well on the iBT test is to study hard in class and take advantage of every opportunity to listen to and speak English. 
Best of luck to those taking the test!

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