A Guide to Writing the TOEFL Exam (2020)

Learn all about TOEFL, like registration, types, eligibility, pattern, cost, rules, and scoring for a visa to study or live in an English speaking country.

What is TOEFL?

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is considered as a standardized exam which is conducted to assess the English language ability of non-native speakers who wish to enroll in English-speaking universities. The exam is accepted by most of the English-speaking academic and professional institutions.

What are the different types of TOEFL?

The different types of TOEFL are as follows:

TOEFL IBT: This is considered as the main form of the TOEFL, which is the internet-based test. It is seen that 97% of TOEFL examinees go for the IBT TOEFL. The IBT comprises of four sections: reading, listening, speaking, and writing. All four sections are supposed to be completed at a computer, with the help of a microphone. A test taker is not supposed to talk to anybody during the IBT TOEFL nor complete any paper exercises.

There is no grammar section, and no vocabulary section when compared to other English tests. The IBT is given anywhere where Educational Testing Services (ETS) has a test cent5er along with internet access. If your country or your area has internet access, then you need to take the IBT.

TOEFL ITP: Usually ITP is not the test you take for admission to graduate school or college. If you are writing the GRE, GMAT, SAT, or any other test for university admissions, and they require your TOEFL scores, the school does not want a TOEFL ITP score.

The ITP test is usually given in classes by teachers who wish to assess the skills of their students. It is not conducted at a special test center, and the student usually does not choose to take it. Usually, the teacher decides, and the scores are for the teacher to make use of. So you can not give this test unless you have a professor who wishes you to take the TOEFL ITP.

TOEFL PBT: The paper-based test is generally for students who live in areas without any internet-based test center. As of now, it exists, but very soon ETS will completely replace it with the IBT exam. If your area falls under the PBT zone, then it probably does not have the IBT.

PBT is a very different test from the IBT. Paper Based Test does not have the same four sections as IBT. There is a reading, grammar/writing, listening, and a separate essay section in this test. The reading and listening sections are very similar to the IBT, but not completely the same. For example, the listening recordings are usually shorter on the Paper Based Test. The PBT grammar section in PBT is completely unlike anything on the IBT. The scoring is also very different. Whereas the IBT is scored from 0 to 120, the PBT is scored from 310 to 677.

TOEFL CBT: “CBT” generally means “computer-based test.” This test is not required today because mostly it has been replaced by the IBT (internet-based test).

What is the purpose of TOEFL?

The purpose of the TOEFL iBT exam is to assess the English proficiency of students whose native language is not English. TOEFL iBT scores are primarily used to measure the ability of international students of using the English language in an academic environment. Also, it is the most accepted form of test.

Which are the countries that accept TOEFL?

The list of countries that accept TOEFL are as follows:

The TOEFL test is the most widely recognized English-language test in the world, accepted by more than 9,000 colleges, universities in more than 130 countries. Some of the most popular countries are-

  • United States
  • UK
  • Canada
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • France
  • Germany

Registering for TOEFL

How can I enroll for TOEFL?

For TOEFL registration by mail, candidates need to follow the points provided below:

  • You need to download and fill the TOEFL Registration Form (which is available in PDF).
  • You should use black/blue pen ink to fill the TOEFL registration form.
  • Select one of the payment methods that are already there in the form.
  • Send the form along with your payment to the address mentioned on the form or to your Regional Registration Center.
  • Forms must be received four weeks before your exam date.
  • If you do not receive a confirmation, you need to call the location where you mailed your paperwork three business days before your exam registration deadline.
  • If you register by mail, you will need to enter certain codes manually that usually input automatically online.

Eligibility for TOEFL

What is TOEFL exam eligibility? Is there an age limit?

Everyone is eligible for taking the TOEFL exam. There are no restrictions based on age or qualifications. The test scores are usually valid for two years, so most of the universities accept scores up to two years old.

Cost of TOEFL

How much is the TOEFL test?

The cost to take the TOEFL exam is US$180. Other charges may apply in certain circumstances in addition to the cost of taking the TOEFL: For late registration, an additional fee of US$40 will be applied. For rescheduling the test, a charge of US$60 will apply.

Can we cancel the TOEFL test?

You can only reschedule or cancel the TOEFL test by one of the methods below: You can log in online to your TOEFL iBT ® account, click on “View Order(s)” on your home page, and then click on “Modify” or “Cancel” on the Order Summary page. When you aiming to cancel the test by phone, you need to provide your registration number and full name which you used when you registered for the test.

Can I get a refund on the TOEFL test?

Yes, if you cancel your registration 4 days before your test date, you will receive a refund of half your original test fee. Refunds are usually in U.S. dollars. If you already have a test appointment date fixed, you need to follow the regular TOEFL refund process found in the TOEFL iBT Registration Bulletin board and also on the TOEFL website.

TOEFL Test Dates and Validity Period

How many times is TOEFL conducted in a year?

The TOEFL examination has more than 50 test dates per year at specifically authorized test centers across the world. You can appear the exam as many times as you wish for, but you cannot take it more than a single time in a 12-day period.

How long is your TOEFL score valid for?

TOEFL scores are usually valid for 2 years after the examination date. There is no restrictions to the number of times you can appear for the test, but you cannot appear for the exam more than once in a 12-day period. If you already have a test date fixed, you cannot register for another test within 12 days of your existing appointment.

Can I extend my TOEFL test date?

You can extend your TOEFL test date. The fee to reschedule is US$60. You need to pay the fee before you can register for a new date. You can only reschedule or cancel the test appointment date.

Yes, the test is given in a single day. The test takes about 4 hours, but this comprises of the check-in period too. You should plan to be at the exam center for at least 4½ hours.

Can I take TOEFL online?

Though the TOEFL iBT exam is Internet-based, this does not necessarily mean that you can take it online from your personal laptop at home. You have to go to a designated test center and take the internet-based test from their computers on a pre-scheduled date.

When should TOEFL be taken?

Your target date for taking the TOEFL exam is suggested to be at least a month before your first application deadline. This will give you enough time to work on your applications. If you need to retake the exam, you can do this after 12 days of the first attempt.

TOEFL Test Pattern and Scoring

What is a good score on TOEFL?

TOEFL iBT Test

The TOEFL iBT test is generally scored on a scale of 0 to 120 points
Each of the four sections- Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing, get a scaled score ranging from 0 to 30. The scaled scores from the mentioned four sections are then added together to figure out the total score.
Usually, the reading and listening sections are tested first, which is followed by a ten-minute break. Next. the speaking and writing sections are completed after the break. A maximum time limit of 250 minutes is allowed to complete the whole exam procedure.
Each question in the speaking section is initially given a score of 0 to 4, and each question in the writing section is initially given a score of 0 to 5. These scores are then converted to scaled scores of 0 to 30.

TOEFL PBT Test

The final TOEFL PBT score usually ranges between 310 and 677. It is generally based on three subscores based on three subsections: Listening (31–68), Structure (31–68), and Reading (31–67). Compared to the CBT, the score of the Writing component is not part of the final score; instead, it is regarded separately on a scale of 0–6.

The score test takers usually receive on the Listening, Structure and Reading parts of the TOEFL test is not taken as the percentage of correct answers. The score is then converted to take into account the fact that some tests are usually more difficult than others. The converted scores usually correct these differences. Therefore, it is said that the converted score is a more accurate reflection of the ability than the raw score is.

Good Score

90-100: TOEFL scores in this range are regarded as a good score. At this level, your TOEFL score is good enough for most universities. The minimum TOEFL score you will need for IELTS is 90.

Most of the colleges use TOEFL score as a single factor in their admission process. The minimum TOEFL iBT scores usually range from 61 (Bowling Green State University) to 110 (University of Oxford).
ETS has released tables to convert between iBT, CBT and PBT test scores.

What are the different sections of TOEFL?

Section      Time Limit       Questions
Reading     60–80 minutes  36–56 questions
Listening    60–90 minutes  34–51 questions
Break         10 minute             —
Speaking      20 minutes       6 tasks

Can you take notes during TOEFL?

You can take notes on every section of the TOEFL. According to ETS, you can take notes throughout the entire test, with the help of the paper provided by the test administrator. Your test center will give you a blank paper to use during the test.

TOEFL Test Day

What are the rules of the TOEFL exam?

Before the exam

  • Make sure that you reach the TOEFL test center at least 30 mins before the exam time. If you’re late in arriving at the venue, you may not be allowed to appear for the test and may also lose the test fee you’d paid.
  • You will be required to go through electronic scanning (for security reasons), photographed, then given a seat and finally sign a confidentiality agreement
  • You are only allowed to take only your ID documents inside the examination center. No phones/ watches/ electronic devices are permitted inside the hall.

While you write the exam:

  • For any sort of assistance during the test, you need to simply raise your hand.
  • Apart from a 10-minute break which is halfway through the exam, you won’t be allowed to leave the exam room. If you still need to take a break, you need to sign out and sign in from the testing room. The test clock won’t be paused for this time period.
  • You’ll be provided a rough paper for the test which has to be returned after the test. Don’t tear or tamper any part of this paper.

After the exam:

  • The test scores will be available online for viewing for almost 10 days after your exam
  • The PDF version of your test scores will be available for download 13 days after the exam
  • Your TOEFL test scores will be mailed to the universities where you applied around 13 days after the exam.

What are the documents required to give the TOEFL exam?

The following ID documents are acceptable for admission to a test center within your country of citizenship:

  • A print out of the confirmation email from ETS which has the registration number
  • A photo identification card. – You should make sure that it has a photo of you, and that the ID card is not expired. IDs like a driver license, credit card, birth certificate, employee ID are not acceptable. The id proof should have your name, signature, and photograph.
  • Valid Passport with name and photograph
  • National ID with name, photograph, and signature

Each ID document must follow the basic guidelines mentioned below:

  • Must be an original document, photocopied documents are not at all acceptable. The documents must be valid; expired documents are not acceptable
  • The documents must include the applicant’s full name which should match the name that is used to register
  • The documents should include a recent photograph which clearly matches the test taker
  • he documents must include the applicant’s signature

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