Frequently Asked Questions
A List of frequently asked questions about all areas of The TOEFL iBT Exam, ranging from General Questions about the exam and related topics, to the format, the different sections, and what you expect on testing day.
All questions are listed alphabetically
Click the section below to find the answer to your question. If you don’t find it, submit a question of your own by leaving a comment below.
– TOEFL FAQ by Subject –
(Questions Organized Alphabetically)
- Q: Can I Go Back To A Previous Question On The Exam To Review Or Change My Answer?
- Q: Can I Take Notes On The Exam?
A: Yes, you can take notes on the entire exam. And it is encouraged to do-so on many parts of the exam, but for others, it may actually be a distraction and a waste of your time and efforts (to find out this information, sign up for one of the TOEFL Excellence Courses).
The people at the testing center are supposed to supply you with paper and pencils for taking notes, but it is a good idea to bring some extra paper and pencils just in case. Just make sure that the paper is not a notebook that is valuable to you as all notes will be taken and destroyed before leaving the testing center.
- Q: Do I Have To Learn American English To Take The TOEFL iBT Exam?
A: No. Even though the exam is from an American institution, it is understood that the people taking the exam will be from all over the world and most will have been taught “British” English, so it is not necessary to use American English when taking the TOEFL iBT Exam. –
A: No. The TOEFL iBT Exam does not have a dedicated “Grammar” section – However, a person taking The TOEFL Exam should have at least an Intermediate level of grammar comprehension for the entire exam, and an Intermediate level of grammar usage in The Speaking and Writing Sections of the exam. Though there is no direct testing of one’s level of grammar, the usage of grammar will be taken into account when scoring the responses in the Speaking and Writing Sections.
Therefore, it is a very good idea to study, revise, and expand one’s understanding and use of grammar in preparation for the exam.
A: No. The TOEFL iBT Exam does not have a dedicated “Vocabulary” section – However, there are questions in The Reading Section and in The Listening Section that test one’s ability to comprehend vocabulary with-in the context of a written or spoken piece. Also, the level of vocabulary a person uses in his or her answers during The Speaking and Writing Sections of the exam, will be taken into account when scoring those answers.
Therefore, the test-taker should have at least an Intermediate level of vocabulary knowledge and skills – and, of course, it is a good idea to expand one’s vocabulary in preparation for the exam – however, this is a “controversial” subject –
- Q: How Can I Find The Testing Center In My Area?
A: Amazingly I still get a great many people writing to me about this every single day of my life! If only those people would look DIRECTLY to the left of the word “Contact” in the menu above. Then they would see the menu item with the words that says… “TOEFL Testing Dates And Locations”. Then they could click that link and would find themselves on a page with all the letters or the alphabet. If those people then, clicked on the letter for their country (not their city!) then they would end up on a page that lists there country. Clicking that link would take them to the dates and locations in their country (just like the menu item says.) At the bottom of EVERY country page in this site is a link that says…
To Find The Testing Center In Your Area, Click Here
(the above is not an actual link… only an example)
And once they are on that page, those people would find all of the various testing centers in their area (as they are listed on the official website… which will not give you this information without first initiating the registration process.)
- Q: How Can I Get Information About The TOEFL iBT In My Own Language?
A: Besides going to the testing center om your area, and speaking to the people there in your own language, there are some resource centers in different areas around the world. Unfortunately they are not in every country, but here is the link to the page which lists these centers on the ETS Website: http://www.ets.org/toefl/ibt/about/resource_centers/
- Q: How Is The TOEFL iBT Exam Scored?
A: Each section and question/task type throughout the exam is scored differently. For specifics, see the same question about each section on the exam (Reading, Listening, Speaking, Writing)
- Q: How Do I Interpret My Final Score?
A: There is a final score for the entire exam, but each section is also scored individually, and then added together. To view and/or download a guide to “understanding” these scores (according to the criteria set forth by the company that created and administers the exam) by Click Here. (This may be helpful for the individual who is interested in what their over-all performance means in relation to their English language development.)
However, it must also be taken into consideration, that the activity of taking an exam itself, along with every other factor that goes into the exam experience has an affect on the final score – so, ultimately, this criteria will not be an accurate reflection of one’s actual language abilities. Furthermore, most Universities and programs are not concerned about the scoring of each section, but with the total score. So whether this is actually useful or not, completely depends each individual and his or her situation.
- Q: How Much Does The TOEFL iBT Exam Cost?
A: The TOEFL iBT exam has different prices for the different countries that it is held in. As of January 2016, the prices range from approx. $170 – almost $300 in some areas. You can find out how much it costs for your country, by using the location tool on the official website (http://www.ets.org/bin/getprogram.cgi?test=toefl) or if you are on the TOEFL Testing Dates and Locations page for your country, simply leave me a comment and I will let you know. The reason that the prices are not posted on each page is because they are subject to change, and some countries have more than one price.
- Q: How Will I Know How Much Time I Have Left On Each Section Of The Exam?
A: You will always know how much time you have left on each section of the exam because there is a timer in the toolbar at the top of the page.
- Q: Is There A Way To Stop The Timer On The Exam?
A: It is not possible to stop the timer at any point during the exam. Once the exam has started, the timer will run continuously throughout the entire exam, including the 10-minute break in-between the Listening and Speaking Sections.
- Q: What Time Of The Day Does The Exam Usually Start?
A: The exam usually starts between 8:00am – 10:00am (depending on each testing center.) This is because the exam will take many hours and the centers want to provide people with a break. (Unfortunately that break is only 10 minutes so it is not enough to have lunch, or even enough time to use the bathroom when everybody wants to go at the same time.)
- Q: What (exactly) Does The TOEFL Exam Test For?
Directly – The TOEFL iBT Exam tests one’s abilities in Reading Comprehension, Listening Comprehension, Speaking Skills, & Writing Skills – and with some task types, the ability to integrate more than one of those tasks in order to answer a question.
Indirectly – There are NO grammar or vocabulary sections on the exam. However, there ARE question types and task types within the exam, wherein, one’s level of vocabulary and grammar WILL affect one’s overall score.
- Q: When Is The Best Time To Take The Exam?
A: Technically there is not “Best” or “Worst” time to take the exam. The TOEFL iBT Exam is held every weekend on over 150 countries around the world with many cities hosting the exam in each country.
The determining factor of “When” is the best time is different for each individual. Many people taking the exam have to have the results submitted to the institution that they are applying to by a certain time. It therefore, it is advisable to not wait until the last possible testing date, to take the exam.
The reason for this is, if you (the person taking the exam) do not achieve the score you are hoping for, or need – there is a possibility to re-take the exam again at a discounted rate, and the scores for the re-take of the exam will then be used as the scores submitted to the institution of your choice. –
- Q: Where Can I Get Help Preparing For The TOEFL?
A: There are many text-books on the TOEFL Exam available for sale. Some are good, some are not. Also — Language schools around the world often give TOEFL preparation courses. Some teachers are good, some are not. It depends on that teacher’s experience and what text-book he or she uses. Read this blog post to get an idea of how to tell if your course is good. Unfortunately — one has to actually pay for the text-book or course, before they find out if it’s good or not. The best advice that I can give is to take one of the “TOEFL Excellence” TOEFL Preparation courses created by GiveMeSomeEnglish!!!
- Q: Where Can I Take The TOEFL Exam?
A: The TOEFL iBT exam is held in over 150 countries, world-wide – including 9 Canadian Providences, and all 50 States of The United States. Most countries have many different testing centers throughout the country. To find the center nearest you, go here.
- Q: Why Do I Have To Share The TOEFL Testing Centers Page, Just To Access It?
A: This is a very good and perfectly valid question. And the reason is, because my fingers got very tired from trying to explain the same procedure I took to get the information, only to have them write back saying, “can’t you just do it for me?” – And even though this was “less than courteous” behavior (since I am, so far, the one on the planet who is giving people all of this information for free in a way that actually makes sense) I still did not want to deny them this information just because it was a pain in the ass to get it. So I took, literally, an entire year of my life and created the Testing Centers pages for every single country that the TOEFL Exam takes place in.
And since I also thought that it would be un-ethical of me to ask people to pay for it, I decided that they can pay me by sharing the page. And considering the incredible amounts of useless garbage that people share on a daily basis, I do not think that this is in any way a difficult or un-reasonable thing to ask… so… You’re Welcome! (and thanks for sharing) 😉
- Q: Why Do I Need To Take The TOEFL iBT Exam?
A: The only reason why anyone would “Need” to take The TOEFL Exam is if that person wants to go to some University or Program which requires it. Although almost all the material about the exam that is produced by the organization that created and administers the exam tries to convince people that it would be a good idea to take the exam — this mentality is backwards. This is because a person would be crazy to spend the money preparing for, and taking the exam if they were not required to do so.
- Q: Can I work at my own pace to finish the exam?
A: No. The exam is timed from the beginning to the end, with a 10 minute break in the middle, but the exam start automatically after the 10 minutes is up.
- Q: How long does it take to finish the exam?
A: The exam takes between 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours to complete and there is a 10 minute break in the middle.
- Q: How is the Exam organised?
A: The TOEFL iBT Exam is made up of four parts: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing (in that order)
- Q: If the exam is timed automatically, why is there a difference in the overall time?
A: The difference in the time is not for every time taking the exam. On a random basis, there may be an additional reading and/or listening section. There is no warning about this and the test-taker unfortunately has no control over this. If you get the extended version of the exam, just take a deep breath and work through it… this is something over which you have no control.
- Q: How Long Does The Reading Section Last?
A: The Reading Section lasts between 60 – 100 minutes. The normal version (3 passages) last one hour (60 minutes) and the extended version, (4-5 passages) lasts longer. You will always be able to know how many passages you have or if you have the normal or extended version of the exam but looking at the amount of time on the timer at the beginning of this section. There will always be 20 minutes per passage, so dividing the total by 20 will tell you how many passages you will have. You will only be graded on three… but the bastards will not tell you which three, so you will have to kick ass on all of them. 😉
- Q: How Many Reading Passages Are There In The Reading Section?
A: There are 3-5 Passages in The Reading Section of The TOEFL iBT Exam. Each passage is approximately 200-300 words.
- Q: How Many Questions are there in The Reading Section?
A: There are 12-14 questions per Reading Passage. So… If a person is taking the normal version of the exam, then there will be 36 – 42 questions total. However, if a person has found that he or she has unwittingly become the un-willing test-patient of the Extended version of the TOEFL exam, then (since there are usually 5 Reading passages) there could be as many as 70 questions. But there will still, always, be between 12-14 per passage.
- Q: What Are The Topics Of The Reading Passages?
A: The topics that one will read about are from: The Arts, The Sciences, and History. The level of difficulty for each topic is equivalent to what a person may find on any of these subjects on a Wikipedia page. You do not need to know anything about any of the topics discussed before the exam as all of the information to answer any of these questions will be presented within the reading text itself.
- Q: Why Is It There A Non-Specific Number Of Passages? (between 3-5)
- Q: Will I Be Able To See The Reading Passage When Answering The Questions?
A: Yes, the test-taker will be able to see the reading passage while answering the questions in The Reading Section of The TOEFL iBT Exam.
- Q: How Many Listening tasks are there?
A: There are 2-3 conversations & 4-6 Lectures. Like the Reading Section, the reason for there being a non-definite number of passages and questions is because there is a possibility to have an extended version of the exam. You will know that you have been “randomly selected” for the extended version if the timer for the Listening section lists more than 60 minutes.
A(part 2): The standard version has 2 conversations & four lectures with 5 or 6 questions each for a total of 30-35 questions / the extended version has 3 conversations and may have 5 or 6 lectures (but I have only heard of there being 6) with 5 or 6 questions each for a total of 45-54 questions.
- Q: How many questions are there?
A: There will be 5 or 6 questions for each listening task for a total of between 35 – 54 questions total, depending upon whether or not one is “selected” to take the extended version of the exam.
- Q: How long is The Listening Section?
A: The Listening Section is between 60 – 90 minutes long. If the timer lists 60 minutes, it is the standard version of the exam. If the timer lists more than that, it is the extended version.
- Q: What Are The Conversations About?
A: The topics of the conversations that one will hear in The Listening Section of the TOEFL iBT Exam, are about the types of things that one may experience in a University-type setting. They can be about things like: courses, campus events, university administration, anything relating to being a student.
- Q: For Speaking Section – Task 1, does the recording have different information than the question on the screen?
A: No. The audio that you hear will be exactly the same as the question you read on your screen.
- Q: How Are The Speaking Section Tasks Scored?
A: The Independent and Integrated Tasks in The Speaking Section are scored very similarly, but there are slight differences in the criteria for both. To view and/or download this criteria (The Speaking Section Scoring Rubrics) which is provided by the company that created and administers the exam, Click Here.
- Q: How Long Is The Speaking Section?
A: The Speaking Section of the TOEFL iBT Exam lasts for 20 minutes.
- Q: How Many Questions Are There In The Speaking Section?
A: There are no “Questions” in the same sense of the other sections of the exam. People often refer to each task as a “Speaking Question” – and some of the tasks may have a question to answer, but there is only one “task” for each of the Speaking Section Tasks. So even though you may hear of “Speaking Question 1” it is not really a question at all, because it doesn’t “ask” you anything. Instead it tells you to explain something… that is not a question… that is a “task”. And here at GiveMeSomeEnglish!!! We like to actually use words correctly 😉
A(part 2): There are six tasks in The Speaking Section. Some of those tasks ask you to answer a question, but there is much more to it than simply answering a question. (This is why the information about the exam, given by the organization which created and administers the exam is not enough to know how to answer each question type.)
- Q: How Many Speaking Tasks Are There?
A: There are 2 Independent Tasks & 4 Integrated Tasks
- Q: What Are “Independent Tasks”?
A: The tasks which are referred to as “Independent”, are only called such because there will be a question which asks for the test-taker to give information which is not given in a written text or in a audio recording. The term “Independent” is a bit mis-leading though, as the test-taker will still have to read the question, and listen to the audio. However, the audio will simply be repeating the text that they have read.
Ultimately, the reason for calling them “Independent” is that the test-taker will have to come up with the information to speak about on his or her own, rather than simply reporting on information that is given, such as in the “Integrated Tasks”. And even though Task 2 of The TOEFL Speaking Section, does actually give specific information to speak about, it is called “Independent” because the test-taker is asked for his or her opinion.
- Q: What Are “Integrated Tasks”?
A: The Integrated Tasks in the TOEFL Speaking Section, require a person to use different English language skills. For example, the test-taker will read a text, then listen to a recording, and then he or she will will have to integrate the information from both sources in order to complete the task.
- Q: How Are The Writing Section Tasks Scored?
A: The Independent and Integrated Tasks in The Writing Section are scored very similarly, but there are slight differences in the criteria for both. To view and/or download this criteria (The Writing Section Scoring Rubrics) which is provided by the company that created and administers the exam, Click Here.
- Q: How Long is The Writing Section?
A: The Writing Section of The TOEFL iBT Exam lasts for 60 minutes.
- Q: How Many Questions Are There On The Writing Section?
A: As with the Speaking Section, there are no “questions” on The Writing Section. Instead, there are two “tasks”.
The first task is an Integrated Task, where-in you will read a short text, then listen to an audio track about the same subject, and then will have to speak about what you have read and listened to.
The second task is the Independent Task, where-in you will have to speak about some personal topic or give an opinion about some subject. This task is basically the written form of Speaking Section – Task 1 or 2, and is answered in the same way… only in written form, with much more time to construct your response.
- Q: What Is The “Independent Task”?
A: Just as in The Speaking Section, the task which is referred to as “Independent”, is only called such because there will be a question which asks for the test-taker to state and support an opinion. So even though the subject matter that is to be written about, it is considered “Independent” because it requires an “opinion”. The format of the task, and how to best answer it is exactly the same a Speaking Section – Task 2. The only difference is that you will write your answer, and you will have far more time to formulate your ideas into more complete sentences and paragraphs.
- Q: What Is The “Integrated Task”?
A: Just as with The Speaking Section, The Integrated Task in the TOEFL Writing Section, requires a person to use different English language skills. The test-taker will read a text, then listen to a recording. Then he or she will will have to integrate the information from both sources in order to complete the task. This task, (and how to fulfill it) is formulated exactly the same as Speaking Task 4, only the response will be longer, and will, obviously, be in the written form.
- Q: Should I bring my own paper to the exam?
A: This is certainly a good idea, but do not bring a notebook that is valuable to you, or that has anything else written into it, because: 1. You do not want to be accused of cheating. 2. To prevent the selling or distributing of information to others about the test, you will not be able to leave with your notes, and may be asked to relinquish the entire notebook, rather than the pages that you wrote on.
- Q: What Does iBT Stand For?
A: The letters i–B–T stand for the internet Based Test – (why the letter “i” is not capitalized is unclear, I can only speculate that the people who created the exam did it for aesthetic purposes)
- Q: What Does TOEFL Stand For?
A: The letters T–O–E–F–L stand for the Test Of English as a Foreign Language
- Q: What Is The TOEFL iBT Designed for? — (This is only moderately useless, as the answer to the question is important, to the test-taker, but the question is the wrong question for the test-taker… See, “What Makes The TOEFL iBT Exam Different?”)
A: The TOEFL iBT Exam is designed to test a person’s ability to function in a university-type environment. This is done by testing, not primarily what a person already knows, but a person’s ability to learn new information (through reading and listening), and to be able to demonstrate one’s understanding of this information. It also tests the person’s ability to clearly convey this information through speaking and writing.
- Q: What Is The TOEFL iBT Exam?
A: The TOEFL iBT Exam is an entrance exam for many English-Speaking Universities. This question is completely irrelevant and useless because there is almost zero chance that a person would be reading about The TOEFL iBT Exam if they didn’t already know that it is an exam that they do or may have to take.
- Q: Who accepts TOEFL Scores? — (This is another useless question for the test-taker and only serves as words to fill the front-pages of [other] websites and the introductions to TOEFL text-books, but does not help the test-taker in any way. This is because the test-taker first decides that they want to attend some University or enter some “program” and then find out that the TOEFL is a requirement for them… So the only organizations that matter to the test-taker is the one that they are taking the exam for.)
A: Way too many to list. But if they are an English Speaking University then assume that they accept the TOEFL… if they do not, they accept the IELTS, and many accept both (much to the chagrin of the organizations which created the two rival exams… muah hah ha haaahhh!!!!)
- Q: Who created The TOEFL iBT Exam? — (this is, by far, the most useless question ever asked. This will help you in no way possible and it does not matter at all! It was created by a bunch of people who are making millions and millions of dollars every weekend, all-year-round, and are doing-so with the money of the people who statistically have the least to give… so as far as I’m concerned this information is useless. It only serves to boost their egos… something which does not need any extra help.)
A: The TOEFL iBT Exam was created by a group of people who, though technically being registered as a non-profit, still make a freakin’ huge amount of money… This is not a bad thing, but posing as a charity, (which is what non-profits are widely thought of) is deceiving, as the money is not “donated” for the good of the people who need to take the exam, but goes into paying the salaries of the people in the organization.
It needs to be understood that I have no problem with making money or people doing business… only people doing so dis-honestly.
(**GiveMeSomeEnglish!!! and all of it’s branches are in no way directly associated or endorsed by ETS… I just really want to help you kick ass on their exam!!!)
- Q: Who needs to take The TOEFL iBT Exam? — (This question is useless as those who need to take the exam already know that they need to… they are not first seaching for the “TOEFL” and then deciding if they need it or not… they are first finding out that they need something called the “TOEFL” and then searching to find out what the hell that is…) But here is the common answer given by those who do not think about things based on what their customers & clients actually need…
A: The TOEFL iBT Exam is needed for many people who are entering, or wish to enter undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate programs around the word (especially by American and British Institutions). The exam is required by the institution providing the program, as a way of measuring the potential student’s ability to communicate in English in an academic setting.
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