The Test of English as a Foreign Language is a standardized test that is used by thousands of colleges and universities around the world to measure English language proficiency. Most institutions now necessitate that you take the Internet-based test, and not the former computer-based or paper-based version. The iBT measures your English by testing your ability to complete academic tasks similar to what you will encounter in a university setting in the United States. A perfect score on the TOEFL iBT is 120. You can earn a maximum of 30 points for each of the four test sections: reading, listening, speaking and writing.
The TOEFL Reading Section
The reading section is the first one you will encounter in the TOEFL. It consists of 36 to 56 questions. You are required to read three passages and answer comprehension questions about each one. The passages are meant to imitate an essay or chapter you might read in a college textbook. The first questions will be in multiple-choice format and will include questions on vocabulary and content. In the last few questions for each passage, you will be asked to add an additional sentence to the passage or complete a chart that summarizes the main points of the reading.
The TOEFL Listening Section
The listening section consists of 34 to 51 questions. In this section, you will listen to two to three conversations and four to six lectures and then answer questions about the content of each. Some questions will ask you about the main ideas or details from the passage, and others will ask you to answer pragmatic questions about the speaker's or lecturer's intention or meaning. This tests your ability to understand lectures in a college environment as well as participate in in-class discussions or group projects.
The TOEFL Speaking Section
The new TOEFL iBT speaking section consists of six tasks: independent speaking tasks and integrated speaking tasks. For an independent task, you will verbally respond to a prompt asking for your opinion or preference about a topic. The integrated tasks are meant to test your ability to successfully participate in a college lecture or discussion, and you will either read a short passage or listen to a short lecture before being asked to respond to a related prompt.
The TOEFL Writing Section
The last section is the writing section, and it consists of two tasks: an independent writing task and an integrated writing task. For the independent task, you will be asked to respond to a prompt based on your prior knowledge or your opinion. Your answer should be in the form of an academic essay. For the integrated writing task, you will be asked to read a short passage, listen to a short lecture and then respond to a prompt that will test your ability to synthesize information from multiple sources.
Megan Ritchie has been a writer for more than 10 years, and has been published in a number of journals and newspapers, including "The Daily Targum" (Rutgers University's daily newspaper) and "The Philadelphia Inquirer." She has a Master's degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania.