TOEFL Test Preparation
The TOEFL test is the most widely respected English- language test in the world, recognised by more than 11,000 colleges, universities and agencies in more than 150 countries, including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Each of the four sections of the test—Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing—is scored on a scale from 0-30. The total score is the sum of the four section scores, with a range of 0-120.
The first section of the TOEFL test is the Reading section.
This section uses reading passages from university-level textbooks that introduce a topic. The passages may have been changed slightly to make them appropriate for testing purposes, but they are real academic materials.
Topics of the reading passages can vary, but you do not need to have any prior knowledge of the topics. Everything you need to know to answer the questions is in the passages, because the questions are testing your English skills, not your knowledge of the topic.
There are 3 or 4 reading passages of about 700 words each. For each passage, there are 10 multiple-choice questions. You will be able to see the reading passage as you answer each question.
Most questions have four choices and a single correct answer. Some questions ask you to select two or more correct answers from a larger group of choices.
You will have 54 to 72 minutes to complete the Reading section. During that time, you can return to previous questions to review or change your answers.
There are several key skills that you’ll need to be successful in the Reading section. You should be able to:
Synthesize information presented in the text
This means that you can read chunks of text and identify main ideas being expressed. You should be able to draw connections between individual sentences and paraphrase the information that is presented.
Identify the author’s rhetorical purpose
When you read a piece of information, you should be able to understand why the author has included it. Is it an example of a phenomenon, a supporting detail for an argument, or perhaps the introduction of a new idea? Understanding the structure of each paragraph and the whole passage is critical to understanding its contents.
Scan the text to find specific pieces of information
In order to put together the big picture about what’s going on in a passage, you will also need to comprehend the little pieces that fit together to make that big picture. It is important to be able to quickly locate a sentence or portion of a paragraph that discusses a particular point. Once you’ve found that sentence, you can re-read it in order to understand exactly what is being expressed.
Understand academic vocabulary used in the passage
A newspaper or magazine article might use more everyday language— the sort of thing you hear in conversations and read in emails. But an academic text, regardless of the subject, contains certain vocabulary that is standard in academic discourse. There might be words related to presenting theories: “propose”, “hypothesis”, “scenario”. Or there could be words that connect two sentences: “however”, “in addition”, “thus”. A good reader should be familiar with this type of vocabulary.
The second section of the TOEFL test is the Listening section.
This section contains two types of listening materials: conversations and lectures. Both are based on the actual speech that is used at universities in which English is the language of instruction. Along with accents from North America, you may hear accents from the U.K. and Australia.
This section contains either 2 conversations and 3 lectures or 3 conversations and 4 lectures. You will hear them only one time each. The conversations are typical of those that occur on university campuses in which English is the primary language spoken. For example, there may be a conversation between a student and a professor about course requirements or the content of a lecture. There may also be a conversation between a student and a university staff member about nonacademic matters, such as registering for a class or paying for housing.
Each conversation is about 3 minutes long and has 5 multiple-choice questions. You will not be able to see the questions while you listen to the conversations.
The lectures represent the kind of language used when professors teach in a classroom. The content of the lectures reflects the content that is presented in introductory-level university courses.
Lectures cover a broad range of subjects and topics. Here are a few examples:
• Arts: architecture, music history, literature, ceramics, art history
• Life Science: botany, animal behavior, nutrition, aquatic
• Physical Science: weather, astronomy, pollution, technology,
• Social Science: anthropology, business, child development,
You will not be expected to have prior knowledge of the subject matter. The information you need to answer the questions will be contained in the lecture.
Each lecture is about 5 minutes long and has 6 multiple-choice questions. Just as with the conversations, you will not be able to see the questions while you listen to the lectures.
You will have 41 to 57 minutes to complete the Listening section. During that time, you cannot return to previous questions to review or change your answers. The questions must be answered in the order they are presented.
The third section of the TOEFL iBT® test is the Speaking section.
In this section, you will be asked to speak on a variety of topics that draw on personal experience, campus-based situations, and academic materials.
The Speaking section takes about 17 minutes to complete, and there are 4 questions.
Questions 1 is the Independent Speaking question, which is on a topic that is familiar to you.
Questions 2 through 4 are the Integrated Speaking questions. For these questions, you have to use more than one skill. Some questions require you to read, listen, and then speak, while others require you to listen and then speak. When you listen, you will hear accents from North America, and you may also hear accents from the U.K., New Zealand or Australia.
For all Speaking questions, you use a headset with a microphone to record your responses. Your responses are sent to ETS to be scored by certified raters. The Speaking section score will be on a scale from 0-30.
Timing and Approach
The TOEFL test will take you through each of the 4 Speaking questions, giving you a certain amount of time to prepare and speak for each one. Depending on the question type, you will have between 15 and 30 seconds to prepare your Speaking response. It’s important that you use this time to decide what you want to say, but do not try to write down your full response; you won’t have time to write everything down, and raters expect to hear you speaking naturally, not reading from a script. Then, you will have 45 or 60 seconds to actually speak your response. These times will be displayed with a countdown clock on your computer screen so that you will know how much time you have left to prepare and to speak. The following table shows how much time you have to prepare and speak your response for each question type.
Question type 1 Preparation Time 15 Response Time 45
Question type 2 Preparation Time 30 Response Time 60
Question type 3 Preparation Time 30 Response Time 60
Question type 4 Preparation Time 20 Response Time 60
Remember, your response should only provide content that the question asks of you. For questions 1, try to keep things simple and focused on the main message you want to share. Then, support your main message with examples or details. For questions 2 through 4, don’t try to repeat everything you heard in a conversation or lecture. You should expect the Speaking section to last for about a total of 17 minutes.
The fourth and last section of the TOEFL iBT® test is the Writing section.
The Writing section has two essay questions and takes 50 minutes to complete.
Question 1 is the Integrated Writing question. For this question, you will read a passage and listen to a short lecture before writing your response. You will have 20 minutes to write your response.
Question 2 is the Independent Writing question. For this question, you will give your opinion on an issue. You will have 30 minutes to write your response.
The Writing section is scored on a scale from 0-30.