The TOEFL iBT tests all 4 language skills that are important for effective communication: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. The test helps students demonstrate that they are able to use English in an academic setting. There are 4 sections that make up the complete test. The Speaking section evaluates a person's ability to use spoken English, and the integrated Writing and Speaking tasks measure the ability to combine information from more than 1 source and communicate about it. The integrated tasks will ask test takers to 1) read, listen, and then speak in response to a question; 2) listen and then speak in response to a question; or 3) read, listen, and then write in response to a question.
In the READING SECTION, you will read 3 to 4 passages (approximately 700 words in length) and answer 10 reading comprehension questions per passage. Most questions are worth 1 point, but the last question in each set is worth more than 1 point. The directions indicate how many points you may receive. The TOEFL iBT test includes 3 basic categories of academic texts. The categories are based on the author's objectives: exposition (material that provides an explanation of a topic), argumentation (material that presents a point of view about a topic and provides evidence to support it), or historical biographical/event narrative (an account of a past event or of a person's life, narrated or written by someone else). You do not need any special background knowledge to correctly answer the questions in the Reading section; all the information needed to answer the questions is contained in the passages. Reading to learn questions test your ability to recognize how the passage is organized and understand the relationships among facts and ideas in different parts of the passage. You should sort information and place the text options provided into a category chart or summary. The summary questions are worth up to 2 points each. The chart questions are worth up to 3 points if there are 5 options presented, and are worth up to 4 points if there are 7 options presented. Partial credit is given for this question format. Paraphrase questions are in multiple-choice format. They test your ability to select the answer choice that most accurately paraphrases a sentence from the passage. Some passages include a word or phrase that is underlined in blue. You can click on the word or phrase to see a definition or an explanation. You can skip questions and go back to them later as long as long as there is time remaining. You can click on Review at any time and the review screen will show you which questions you have answered and which you have not. From this review screen, you may go directly to any question you have already seen in the reading section.
The LISTENING SECTION measures the ability to understand spoken English from North America and other English-speaking countries. In academic environments, students need to listen to lectures and conversations. The possible purposes for academic listening include 1) listening for basic comprehension, which involves the ability to comprehend the main idea, major points, and important details related to the main idea; 2) listening for pragmatic understanding, which requires the listener to recognize a speaker's attitude or degree of certainty and to recognize a speaker's function or purpose; and 3) connecting and synthesizing information, which involves the ability to recognize the organization of information presented, understand the relationships between ideas presented (for example, compare-and-contrast, cause-and-effect, or steps in a process), make inferences and draw conclusions based on what is implied in the listening material, make connections among pieces of information in a conversation or lecture, recognize topic changes, examples, digressions, aside statements, in lectures and conversations, recognize introductions and conclusions in lectures. Listening materials in the TOEFL iBT test include 3-4 academic lectures (about 5 minutes long each, about 500-800 words in each, with 6 questions per lecture) and 2-3 long conversations (about 3 minutes long each, about 12-25 exchanges in each, with 5 questions per conversation) in which the speech sounds very natural. You can take notes on any listening material throughout the entire test. After testing, notes are collected and shredded before the test taker leaves the test center. A lecture in the TOEFL iBT test may be either a monologue by a professor or an interactive lecture with 1 or 2 students asking questions or making comments. 1 lecture per test is spoken with a British, Australian, or New Zealand accent. The conversations on the TOEFL iBT test may take place during an office hour with a professor or teaching assistant, or it may be with a registrar, housing director, librarian, bookstore employee, departmental secretary, etc. Pictures on the computer screen help test takers imagine the setting and the roles of the speakers. After the listening material is played, test takers both see and hear each question before they see the answer choices. This encourages them to listen for main ideas. There are 4 question formats in the Listening section: 1) traditional multiple-choice questions with 4 answer choices and a single correct answer, 2) multiple-choice questions with more than 1 answer (e.g., 2 answers out of 4 or more choices), 3) questions that require test takers to order events or steps in a process, 4) questions that require test takers to match objects or text to categories in a chart.
In the SPEAKING SECTION, you will be able to demonstrate your ability to speak about a variety of topics. You will answer 4 questions by speaking into the microphone. The duration of the section is around 17 minutes. In question 1 (an independent speaking task; preparation time: 15 seconds; response time: 45 seconds), you will speak about a familiar topic. Your response will be scored on your ability to speak clearly and coherently about the topic. In questions 2 and 3 (integrated speaking tasks; preparation time: 30 seconds, response time: 60 seconds), you will first read a short text. The text will go away and you will then listen to a talk on the same topic. You will then be asked a question about what you have read and heard. You will need to combine appropriate information from the test and the talk to provide a complete answer to the question. Your response will be scored on your ability to speak clearly and coherently and on your ability to accurately convey information about what you read and heard. In question 4 (an integrated speaking task; preparation time: 20 seconds; response time: 60 seconds), you will listen to part of a lecture. You will then be asked a question about what you heard. Your response will be scored on your ability to speak clearly and coherently and on your ability to accurately convey information about what you heard. You may take notes while you read and while you listen to the conversations and lectures. You may use your notes to help prepare your responses. You should listen carefully to the directions for each question. The directions will not be written on the screen. For each question you will be given a short time to prepare your response. A clock will show how much preparation time is remaining. When the preparation time is up, you will be told to begin your response. A clock will show how much response time is remaining. A message will appear on the screen when the response time has ended. For all speaking tasks, test takers use headsets with a microphone. Test takers speak into the microphone to record their responses. All responses will be digitally recorded and transmitted to ETS's Online Scoring Network where human scorers will rate them. The scorers are carefully monitored for accuracy, so that test takers and score recipients can be assured of the reliability of the Speaking scores. The responses from each test taker are scored by at least 3 different human raters. In addition, some of the tasks are scored by 2 raters in order to check the reliability of the ratings. The response for each task is rated on a scale of 0 to 4 according to the standards (rubrics). The average of all six ratings is converted to a scaled score of 0 to 30. Raters evaluate the test taker's ability in topic development, delivery, and language use. For topic development, raters consider whether the test taker has addressed the task and conveyed relevant information. They also consider whether the test taker has effectively synthesized and summarized the information in the integrated tasks. Raters evaluate if the delivery of the response is clear and smooth, and whether the delivery is consistent throughout the response for overall intelligibility. Lastly, raters evaluate the range and accuracy of the test taker's vocabulary and grammar.
The WRITING SECTION measures test takers' ability to write in an academic environment. In English-speaking academic situations, students need to present their ideas through clear, well-organized writing. The total time for the Writing section is 50 minutes. At the beginning of the section, make sure your headset is on. Test takers write their responses to 2 writing tasks. For the first, integrated, writing task, you will read a short passage of about 230-300 words (3 minutes' reading time) on an academic topic and listen to a speaker discussing the same topic from a different perspective. The listening passage is about 230-300 words long (or about 2 minutes' listening time). The listening passage provides additional information that relates to points made in the reading passage; test takers may take notes on the listening passage. Then you will be asked to write a summary in connected English prose of important points made in the listening passage and explain how these relate to the points made in the reading passage. Suggested response length is 150-225 words; however, there is no penalty for writing more, as long as it is in response to the task presented. For the second, independent, writing task, you will be asked to write an essay about a topic of general interest based on your own knowledge and experience. This is the same type of task on the computer-based TOEFL and the Test of Written English (TWE). An effective essay will usually contain a minimum of 300 words; however, test takers may write more if they wish. Test takers need to develop support for their opinions or choices, rather than simply listing personal preferences or choices. Typical essay questions begin with statements such as: "Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Use reasons and specific details to support your answer." or "Some people believe X. Other people believe Y. Which of these 2 positions do you prefer/agree with? Give reasons and specific details."
The responses to all Writing tasks are sent to ETS's Online Scoring Network. Each task is rated by 2 human raters on a score scale of 0 to 5 according to the standards (rubrics). If the 2 ratings differ by more than 1 point, a third rater evaluates the response and resolves the score. The average of the scores on the 2 writing tasks is converted to a scaled score of 0 to 30. The response to the integrated writing task is scored on the quality of writing (organization, appropriate and precise use of grammar and vocabulary) and the completeness and accuracy of the content. The independent writing essay is scored on the overall quality of the writing: development, organization, and appropriate and precise use of grammar and vocabulary.
BREAK / OTHER INFORMATION
A mandatory 10-minute BREAK is scheduled between the Listening and the Speaking sections. If you exceed the time allotted, you may be dismissed or your score may be canceled. To leave your seat at any time other than the break, raise your hand. Timing of the test section will not stop. If you must leave the testing room, you are required to show the administrator your identification document(s) before you leave the room and when you return. You cannot have access to your cellphone during the test or during breaks.
There will be directions for each section which explain how to answer the questions in that section. The directions can be dismissed by clicking on the Dismiss Directions icon.
You should work quickly but carefully on the Listening and Reading questions. Some questions are more difficult than others, but try to answer each of them to the best of your ability. If you are not sure of the answer to a question, make the best guess that you can. The questions that you answer by speaking and writing are each separately timed. Try to answer each of these questions as completely as possible in the time allowed.