TOEFL Students on Campus 3

Are you planning to apply for a university abroad, or maybe a job or a scholarship? Do you need a TOEFL certificate for that, but you have no idea what TOEFL is like? Do you need a TOEFL certificate for that, but you have no idea what TOEFL is like?

TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language. It is a standardized academic English test and is usually used as a evidence of English ability. It is designed and administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS), an assessment organization based in New Jersey, US.

Initially, TOEFL was only taken by students applying to universities in the US and other English-speaking universities outside the US. However, recently, TOEFL has also been used to apply for jobs or scholarships, even in non-English-speaking countries. Hence, this test is getting more popular, and the demand for this test has risen significantly.

What do we do in TOEFL?

There are two main formats for TOEFL.

  • The more widely accepted and more popular between the two is TOEFL iBT (Internet-based Test).
  • The other one, which is older and only available and accepted in certain countries is TOEFL PBT (Paper-based Test).

We will write a separate article explaining the differences between TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT in greater detail.

Basically, TOEFL tests include listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills. All four skills are tested in TOEFL iBT, but speaking is replaced with structure in TOEFL PBT.

There is also a separate version of TOEFL PBT called TOEFL ITP, which stands for Institutional Testing Program. This test does not include writing. TOEFL ITP is administered by an individual institution for internal use only. It is not as widely accepted as TOEFL iBT or TOEFL PBT. However, this test is quite popular in Indonesia.

TOEFL iBT (and TOEFL iBT Home Edition)

  • The TOEFL iBT lasts for 4,5 hours.
  • It tests reading comprehension, listening comprehension, speaking, and writing, all in an academic context.
  • It was first introduced in late 2005, to replace the Computer-based Test (CBT). People who wish to take the test need to make an account on the official website and then search for the closest venue for the test.
  • All skills (listening, reading, writing, and speaking) focus on language that is used in higher-education settings. During the actual test, test takers are allowed to take notes.
  • TOEFL iBT also has a Home Edition, which allows test takers to sit the exam at home. Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the demand for TOEFL iBT Home Editionhas skyrocketed as it is the only way people can take the test if they wish not to go to the test venue. A human invigilator watches the test takers through a webcam and via screen-sharing.
  • TOEFL iBT scores range from 0 to 120, where each skill is worth 30. The score requirement for each university, job position, or scholarship is different. Some may also require particular scores on individual skills.
  • The certificate is valid for two years since the date it is released.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of the skills tested on TOEFL iBT:

Reading section

  • Purpose: To assess your ability to understand academic reading material written in English.
  • Content: Includes passages from university-level textbooks that introduce a discipline or topic. The passages cover a variety of subjects. No prior knowledge of the topics is required.
  • Tasks: You’ll read 3 or 4 passages and answer 10 questions on each passage. The questions test your comprehension of the text, including the main ideas, important details, inferences, and the ability to understand the structure of the text.
  • Time: 54–72 minutes.
  • Skills tested: Understanding and summarizing text, identifying key information, making inferences, and recognizing the writer’s perspective and purpose.

Listening section

  • Purpose: To measure your ability to understand spoken English as it is used in colleges and universities.
  • Content: Includes lectures and conversations. Lectures are typical of what you might hear in an academic setting, while conversations involve student life or administrative matters.
  • Tasks: After listening to each lecture or conversation, you’ll answer questions about them. The questions test your ability to understand the main ideas, details, speaker’s attitude, and the purpose of the speech.
  • Time: 41–57 minutes.
  • Skills tested: Understanding the gist, details, implications, speaker’s purpose, and organization of spoken texts.

Speaking section

  • Purpose: To assess your speaking skills in an academic setting.
  • Content: Tasks are based on both listening and reading materials. You’ll express an opinion on a familiar topic and speak based on reading and listening tasks.
  • Tasks: 4 tasks – 1 independent task (personal experience or opinion) and 3 integrated tasks (read/listen/speak).
  • Time: Approximately 17 minutes.
  • Skills tested: Ability to speak clearly and coherently, grammar, vocabulary, accuracy, and fluency.

Writing section

  • Purpose: To measure your ability to write in English in an academic setting.
  • Content: Tasks involve writing based on reading and listening tasks, as well as supporting an opinion in writing.
  • Tasks: 2 tasks – 1 integrated task (read/listen/write) and 1 independent task (support an opinion).
  • Time: 50 minutes (20 minutes for the integrated task, 30 minutes for the independent task).
  • Skills tested: Quality and organization of writing, ability to express and support ideas, grammar, and vocabulary.


  • Unlike TOEFL iBT that lasts for 4.5 hours, TOEFL PBT lasts for 2.5 hours.
  • The sequence of the tests is listening, structure, reading,and writing. However, in TOEFL ITP, writing is not tested.
  • Test takers have to go to the venue to take the TOEFL PBT and/or ITP test.
  • Scores in TOEFL PBT range from 310 to 677and not include the writing score. Writing score is reported separately and ranges from 0 to 6.
  • Some universities, jobs, or scholarships are willing to convert TOEFL PBT scores to TOEFL iBT scores via a conversion table published by ETS.
  • Like TOEFL iBT, the TOEFL PBT certificate is valid for two years.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of the skills tested on TOEFL PBT:

Listening comprehension

  • Purpose: To measure the ability to understand spoken English.
  • Content: Includes short and long conversations and talks.
  • Tasks: Test-takers answer questions about the conversations and talks, focusing on the main ideas and details.
  • Time: About 30-40 minutes.
  • Skills tested: Understanding of spoken English, including main ideas, key details, and implied meanings.

Structure and written expression

  • Purpose: To assess knowledge of English grammar and ability to recognize well-formed sentences.
  • Content: Includes sentences that test-takers must complete or identify errors in.
  • Tasks: Two types of questions: sentence completion and error identification.
  • Time: About 25 minutes.
  • Skills tested: Grammar, sentence structure, and the ability to recognize correct and incorrect English sentences.

Reading comprehension

  • Content: The passages in the Reading Comprehension section of the TOEFL PBT are varied and not limited to academic topics. They can include a range of subjects and are designed to test the ability to understand non-technical reading material. This could include articles, essays, and narratives on a variety of topics, often similar to what might be found in newspapers or general interest magazines.
  • Purpose: The main aim is to assess the test-taker’s ability to understand and analyze written English in a general context, not just in an academic setting.
  • Tasks: Test-takers answer questions about the passages, focusing on main ideas, details, inferences, and overall comprehension.
  • Skills tested: The section tests reading comprehension skills, including understanding of vocabulary, the main idea, supporting details, and the ability to draw inferences from the text.

Writing (Not tested for TOEFL ITP)

  • Purpose: To measure the ability to write in English.
  • Content: A single essay topic that requires test-takers to write an essay that expresses and supports an opinion.
  • Tasks: Write an essay on a given topic.
  • Time: 30 minutes.
  • Skills tested: Writing skills, including organization, grammar, vocabulary, and development of ideas.

One last thing….

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We can provide you with the right preparation so that you are ready and fluent to complete your TOEFL test. We want you to achieve your TOEFL target so you can move on to the next chapter in your life.


Anthony McCormick,

IELC Managing Director