Standardized Tests - TOEFL

  • Test Content and Structure



The Test Of English as a Foreign Language or TOEFL evaluates the English using ability in academic setting, of people whose native language is not English. It has become a mandatory admission requirement for non-native English speakers at many English-speaking colleges and universities of USA and Canada. Some universities in UK and New Zealand also accept TOEFL scores.

A TOEFL score is valid for two years. In late 2005 Internet-based Test (IBT) has progressively replaced both the computer-based tests (CBT) and paper-based tests (PBT). CBT was discontinued in September 2006 and these scores are no longer valid.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.


The Reading section consists of 3-4 passages on academic topics of the kind of material from an undergraduate university textbook, each approximately 700 words in length. Passages require understanding of rhetorical functions such as cause-effect, compare-contrast and argumentation. The student is required to answer questions based on main ideas, details, inferences, essential information, sentence insertion, vocabulary, rhetorical purpose and overall ideas.


The Listening section consists of six passages (two conversations and four academic lectures) 3-5 minutes in length. A conversation involves two speakers while a lecture is a self-contained portion of an academic lecture. Prior specialized background knowledge in the subject area is not required. The listening test measures the ability of the student to understand main ideas, important details, implications, and relationships between ideas, organization of information, purpose and attitude of speaker.


The Speaking section consists of following tasks:

1.Independent tasks- Two independent tasks evaluate test-takers ability to speak spontaneously and convey ideas clearly and coherently on familiar topics.

2.Four integrated tasks- Integrated tasks are intended to evaluate the ability of a student to appropriately synthesize and effectively convey information from the reading and listening material.

Two of the integrated tasks involve reading a short passage and listening to an academic lecture/a conversation about campus life while the remaining two integrated tasks involve listening to an academic lecture or a conversation about campus life.

Based on reading/listening the student is supposed to respond to questions. The responses are digitally recorded, sent to ETS's Online Scoring Network (OSN) and evaluated by three to six raters.


The Writing section consists of two tasks:

1.Integrated task involves test-takers read a passage and then listen to a discussion on the same topic and then summarize the relation between the important points in the listening passage and the reading passage.

2.Independent task involves writing an essay that states, explains, and supports opinion on an issue.

Task Description Approx. time Score Scale
Reading 3–4 passages, each containing 12–14 questions 60–80 minutes 0-30
Listening 6–9 passages, each containing 5–6 questions 60–90 minutes 0-30
Break 10 minutes
Speaking 6 tasks and 6 questions 20 minutes 0-4 points converted into 0-30 scale
Writing 2 tasks and 2 questions 50 minutes 0-5 points converted to 0-30 score scale

Experimental Section

Experimental Section

The experimental section does not count towards the test-taker's score. This section can be either a verbal, quantitative, or analytical writing task and contains new questions ETS is considering for future use. The experimental section is unidentified and appears identical to the scored sections. Because test takers have no definite way of knowing which section is experimental, it is typically advised that test takers try their best on every section. Sometimes an identified research section at the end of the test is given instead of the experimental section.

Structure of the Computer-based Test
What Are the Subject Tests?

The GRE® Subject Tests are achievement tests that measure the knowledge of a prospective graduate school applicant in a particular field of study. Each Subject Test is intended for students who have an undergraduate major or extensive background in one of these eight disciplines:

Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology/ Biology/ Chemistry/ Computer Science/ Literature in English/ Mathematics/ Physics/ Psychology.

Admissions or fellowship panels use GRE scores to supplement undergraduate records, letters of recommendation and other qualifications for graduate study.

Measure Number of Questions Allotted Time Max. Marks
Analytical Writing
(One section with two separately timed tasks)
One "Analyze an Issue" task and one "Analyze an Argument" task 30 minutes per task Scored on a scale of 0-6
Verbal Reasoning
(Two sections)
20 questions per section 6 text completion, 4 sentence equivalence, 10 critical reading 30 minutes per section 170
Quantitative Reasoning
(Two sections)
20 questions per section 8 quantitative comparisons, 9 problem solving items and 3 data interpretation questions 35 minutes per section 170



The new Score Select option introduced lets you decide which GRE® scores to send to the institutions you designate.