TOEFL Tests – What is in the Test and How is it Scored?

Ethel Gonzales

The ‘Test of English as a Foreign Language’, or (TOEFL) was designed to assess an individual’s understanding and use of English in an academic environment. Tests can be conducted in ‘paper-based-tests’ (pBT) or ‘internet-based-tests’ (iBT). For those of you wondering how a TOEFL score is calculated, this article provides a brief overview of the key-components used in assessing scores.

What you need?

Both Internet-based-tests and paper-based-tests are conducted in controlled environments at authorized test centers. To register for a test, contact your nearest test center which can be found with a simple Internet search. With over 4500 test centers worldwide, hopefully you will find a center near you. Follow the link at the bottom of the article.

Stage 1

Reading: 25% of overall score.

Duration: 60-100 minutes.

Test comprises: Reading 3-5 passages, and answering 12-14 questions.

This assessment comprises reading between 3-5 passages of approximately 700 words in length and answering questions associated with the text. All passages are academic in nature.

Following reading the text, test-takers answer a series of questions to check their understanding. Questions relate to: main context, ideas, inferences, key information, vocabulary and essential information. The subject content requires no previous knowledge, as indeed it does for all subsequent tests.

Stage 2

Listening: 25% of overall mark

Duration 60-90 Minutes

Test comprises: Listening to 6-9 passages and answering 5-6 questions.

This section comprises listening to 6 passages, 3-5 minutes in length and answering questions relating to the passage. The passages are academic in nature, normally comprising student conversations or lectures and discussions.

Each audio recording is heard only once and test-takers are permitted to take notes while they listen. Each conversation has an associated 5-6 questions to answer which are intended to measure an ability to understand: main ideas, key details, intentions and purpose and attitude of the speaker.

Stage 3

Speaking: 25% of overall score

Duration: 20 Minutes

Test comprises: 6 tasks and 6 questions

This section comprises 6 tasks of which 2 are independent and 4 integrated.

For the independent tasks, test-takers answer questions on familiar subjects.

Test-takers are assessed on their capacity to answer questions spontaneously and to relay their ideas clearly and coherently. The audio recordings are of academic-type situations.

In the integrated tasks, test-takers are required to utilize skills and answer questions from reading and listening material, and are given a little time to prepare themselves before beginning to speak.

Stage 4

Writing: 25% of overall score

Duration: 55 minutes

Test comprises: 2 tasks and 2 questions

This section measures the test-taker’s ability to write in an academic environment. The test consists of 2 tasks, 1 integrated and 1 independent.

In the integrated task, candidates read a passage and listen to an audio recording of the same subject. They are then required to write a summary of the key points of the passage and relate them to the audio recording.

In the independent task, candidates are required to write an essay, expressing their opinion on a topic rather than purely responding to choice.

Stage 5

The scores of the four individually assessed tests are collated to form a final score. There is no pass or fail scores, but educational establishments and employers may require certain scores to meet entry level requirements.

For a paper-based-tests scores range from 200-677, and a score in excess of 600 are very good.

For Internet-based-tests scores range from 0-120 and a scores above 97 are considered very good.

For your nearest test center.

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