Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

Format & Content Test Scores Registration


The Test of English as a Foreign Language (or TOEFL, pronounced "toe-full") evaluates the ability of an individual to use and understand English in an academic setting. It sometimes is an admission requirement for non-native English speakers at many English-speaking colleges and universities.

Additionally, institutions such as government agencies, licensing bodies, businesses, or scholarship programs may require this test. A TOEFL score is valid for two years and then will no longer be officially reported since a candidate's language proficiency could have significantly changed since the date of the test. Colleges and universities usually consider only the most recent TOEFL score.

The TOEFL test is a registered trademark of Educational Testing Service (ETS) and is administered worldwide. The test was first administered in 1964 and has since been taken by more than 23 million students. The test was originally developed at the Center for Applied Linguistics led by the linguist, Dr. Charles A. Ferguson.


Format & Content

Internet-Based Test

Since its introduction in late 2005, the Internet-Based test (iBT) has progressively replaced both the computer-based (CBT) and paper-based (PBT) tests, although paper-based testing is still used in select areas. The iBT has been introduced in phases, with the United States, Canada, France, Germany, and Italy in 2005 and the rest of the world in 2006, with test centers added regularly. The CBT was discontinued in September 2006 and these scores are no longer valid.

The four-hour test consists of four sections, each measuring one of the basic language skills (while some tasks require integrating multiple skills) and all tasks focus on language used in an academic, higher-education environment. Note-taking is allowed during the iBT. The test cannot be taken more than once a week.

It should be noted that one of the sections of the test will include extra, uncounted material. Educational Testing Service includes extra material in order to pilot test questions for future test forms. When test-takers are given a longer section, they should give equal effort to all of the questions because they do not know which question will count and which will be considered extra. For example, if there are four reading passages instead of three, then three of those passages will count and one of the passages will not be counted. Any of the four passages could be the uncounted one.

Paper-Based Test

In areas where the internet-based test is not available, a paper-based test (PBT) is given. Test takers must register in advance either online or by using the registration form provided in the Supplemental Paper TOEFL Bulletin. They should register in advance of the given deadlines to ensure a place because the test centers have limited seating and may fill up early. Tests are administered on fixed dates 6 times each year.

The test is 3 hours long and all test sections can be taken on the same day. Students can take the test as many times as they wish. However, colleges and universities usually consider only the most recent score.

1. Listening (30–40 minutes)
The Listening section consists of 3 parts. The first one contains 30 questions about short conversations. The second part has 8 questions about longer conversations. The last part asks 12 questions about lectures or talks.

2. Structure and Written Expression (25 minutes)
The Structure and Written Expression section has 15 exercises of completing sentences correctly and 25 exercises of identifying errors.

3. Reading Comprehension (55 minutes)
The Reading Comprehension section has 50 questions about reading passages.

4. Writing (30 minutes)
The Writing section is one essay with 250–300 words in average.


Test Scores

Internet-Based Test

• The iBT version of the TOEFL test is scored on a scale of 0 to 120 points.

• Each of the four sections (Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing) receives a scaled score from 0 to 30. The scaled scores from the four sections are added together to determine the total score.

Speaking is initially given a score of 0 to 4, and writing is initially given a score of 0 to 5. These scores are converted to scaled scores of 0 to 30.

Paper-Based Test

• The final PBT score ranges between 310 and 677 and is based on three subscores:
Listening (31–68), Structure (31–68), and Reading (31–67)

Unlike the CBT, the score of the Writing section (referred to as the Test of Written English, TWE) is not part of the final score; instead, it is reported separately on a scale of 0–6.

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

Most colleges use TOEFL scores as only one factor in their admission process. A sampling of required TOEFL admissions scores shows that a total score of 74.2 for undergraduate admissions and 82.6 for graduate admissions may be required. It is recommended that students check with their prospective institutions directly to understand TOEFL admissions requirements.



• The first step in the registration process is to obtain a copy of the TOEFL Information Bulletin. This bulletin can be obtained by downloading it or ordering it from the TOEFL website.


• From the bulletin, it is possible to determine when and where the iBT version of the TOEFL test will be given.

• Procedures for completing the registration form and submitting it are listed in the TOEFL Information Bulletin. These procedures must be followed exactly.


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