TOEFL Exam Pattern 2024

The Test of English as a Foreign Language, better known as TOEFL, is a critical examination, a formidable challenge, a crucial checkpoint for non-native English personnel’s, who are aspiring students and professionals aiming to navigate the linguistic landscape of English-speaking environments.

Let’s understand what is TOEFL, its objective and why should one take TOEFL?

TOEFL, short for Test of English as a Foreign Language, is now an Internet-based test (iBT). It’s a standardized examination crafted by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), a private non-profit organization. ETS is responsible for designing and administering the tests, and they created TOEFL to gauge the English language proficiency of individuals who don’t speak English as their native language. 

The primary goal of TOEFL is to assess one’s ability to comprehend and use English at a college or university level. It holds significant recognition among academic institutions and employers worldwide as a trustworthy measure of English proficiency. Notably, TOEFL is accepted by over 12,000 universities and various institutions spread across more than 160 countries and territories. It’s crucial to remember that there’s a limitation on how often one can take the test — individuals can only attempt it once every three days. This rule has been in effect since September 2019.

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The objective of this test is to meet the admission requirements of universities and colleges in English-speaking countries. These institutions often request TOEFL scores as part of the admissions process, ensuring that students can understand lectures, actively engage in class discussions, and successfully complete academic tasks in English.

TOEFL is a vital demonstration of English proficiency, particularly for those applying to universities or jobs in English-speaking nations. A strong TOEFL score not only improves the chances of admission to esteemed institutions but may also be a prerequisite for specific professional certifications and visas. Recognized by numerous institutions across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and other countries, TOEFL serves as a valid measure of English proficiency.

The TOEFL test comes in different variations for one to choose from, namely the TOEFL iBT® – a traditional test which is taken at a test centre; TOEFL iBT® Home Edition – this test is taken from the privacy of your own home and monitored online by a human proctor, TOEFL iBT® Paper Edition – Paper Edition measures the same four skills, but you’ll take it in two sessions (Reading, Listening, and Writing sections: on paper at a test center and the Speaking section at home on your computer within 3 days after the paper sections. Your Speaking session will be monitored online by a human proctor) . Once you choose the variant, you need to choose an area and date range convenient for you and finally, choose your preferred date and test location.

In 2024, TOEFL adopts a comprehensive format, evaluating four key language skills: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. Each section scrutinizes essential language skills, with certain tasks requiring the integration of multiple abilities. This design ensures a thorough evaluation of language use in academic and higher-education settings, reflecting the integrated nature of the test. The updated 2024 structure aims to provide a nuanced and comprehensive assessment of English language proficiency.

The intentional segmentation of TOEFL into these four sections ensures a thorough assessment of language skills. It reflects the interconnected nature of language use in academic and real-world scenarios, making TOEFL a robust indicator of overall proficiency. The initial parts of the test evaluate reading and listening skills, followed by a ten-minute break. Following this break, the speaking and writing sections are completed. The entire examination has a time constraint, with a maximum duration of around 2 hours allowed.

TaskDescriptionApproximate TimeScore RangeScore Mean
Reading3-4 passages, each containing 10 questions54-72 minutes0-3020
Listening5-7 passages, each containing 5-6 questions41-57 minutes0-3019
Speaking4 Tasks17 minutes0-3019
Writing2 Tasks50 minutes0-3020
Total162-196 minutes0-12078

(The above image is a reference taken from the web)

Let us delve deep into understanding each of the above mentioned sections in detail. You may also seek our student help.

1. Reading Section: 

The Reading section remains a cornerstone of TOEFL, challenging test-takers with 3–4 academic passages, each roughly 700 words long and containing around 10 questions. These passages cover academic subjects, resembling the kind of content discovered in an undergrad university textbook. Comprehending rhetorical functions like cause and effect, comparison and contrast, and argumentation is necessary for these passages. Students respond to inquiries regarding primary concepts, particulars, deductions, crucial details, inserting sentences, language usage, rhetorical intention, and overall concepts.

What’s new in 2024 is an increased emphasis on critical thinking and analysis. Questions delve into main ideas, details, inferences, and vocabulary, mirroring the complexity of texts encountered in university settings. This section aims to assess not only comprehension but also the ability to synthesize information.

2. Listening Section: 

The Listening section, a tapestry of 2–3 conversations each having around 5 questions and 3–4 lectures each with around 6 questions, immerses test-takers in the realm of academic discourse. Every conversation lasts 2.5–3 minutes, and lectures go on for 4.5–5.5 minutes. The conversations and lectures are quite similar to the regular conversations happening in the campus and one must not be worries about knowing the subject beforehand. Each chat and lecture passage is played only once. Examinees are allowed to make notes as they listen, and they can use these notes while responding to the questions. The listening questions are designed to check if you can understand the main ideas, important details, suggestions, connections between ideas, how information is organized, the speaker’s purpose, and the speaker’s attitude.

Updated in 2024, the section scrutinizes detailed understanding, main ideas, and inferential skills. The goal is to evaluate how well one can grasp spoken English in an academic context, preparing individuals for the nuanced language encountered in lectures and discussions at the university level.

3. Speaking Section: 

The Speaking section involves four tasks: one independent (Task 1) and three integrated (Tasks 2, 3, 4). In Task 1, participants respond to opinion questions on familiar topics, showcasing spontaneous speaking abilities. Tasks 2 and 4 require test-takers to read a short passage or listen to an academic lecture, integrating information to answer a question. Task 3 involves listening to a lecture and responding to a related question. Throughout these tasks, test-takers can take notes to aid their responses. A brief preparation time precedes the speaking segment, and responses are digitally recorded, sent to ETS’s Online Scoring Network (OSN), and assessed by three to six raters.

The Speaking section in 2024 demands more than just verbal expression. Test-takers face tasks that require them to articulate opinions, summarize information, and discuss familiar topics. These responses are recorded and scrutinized for coherence, pronunciation, and vocabulary use. This section aims to gauge not only fluency but also the ability to communicate ideas effectively.

4. Writing Section: 

The Writing part evaluates how well a person can write in an academic environment and includes two tasks: one combined and one individual. In the combined task, participants read a passage on an academic subject and then listen to a speaker talking about it. Following this, they write a summary of the crucial points in the listening part and clarify how these connect to the main ideas of the reading passage. In the individual task, the test-taker needs to compose an essay expressing their opinion or choice, followed by an explanation, rather than merely listing personal preferences. The responses are sent to the ETS OSN and assessed by at least 3 different raters.

The Writing section retains its focus on essay composition in 2024 as well, but with a twist. Test-takers must craft responses based on reading and listening tasks, showcasing their ability to synthesize information from multiple sources. This nuanced approach evaluates not just the writing skills but also the analytical prowess of the candidate, preparing them for the demands of academic writing.

As of July 26, 2024, the TOEFL iBT test taken at a test centre or at home contains a more modern and concise Writing task, called “Writing for an Academic Discussion,” that replaces the Independent Writing task. All other TOEFL iBT question types will remain the same*

Importantly, note-taking is allowed during the TOEFL iBT test. The TOEFL Exam Pattern 2024 maintains its division into these four distinct sections, each crucial for assessing language proficiency. This intentional segmentation guarantees a thorough evaluation of language skills, reflecting how language is interconnected in both academic and real-world situations.

What is a good TOEFL score and how is it measured?

TOEFL scores are globally acknowledged, acting as a gateway to educational and professional prospects in English-speaking nations. The scoring scale ranges from 0 to 120, with each section scored from 0 to 30 in the iBT test. Each section is divided into four to five proficiency levels. Below is the breakdown of TOEFL marks pattern for each section:

SectionProficiency Levels
ReadingAdvanced (24–30)High-Intermediate (18–23)Low-Intermediate (4–17)Below Low-Intermediate (0–3)
ListeningAdvanced (22–30)
High-Intermediate (17–21)
Low-Intermediate (9–16)
Below Low-Intermediate (0–8)
SpeakingAdvanced (25–30)
High-Intermediate (20–24)
Low-Intermediate (16–19)
Basic (10–15)
Below Basic (0–9)
WritingAdvanced (24–30)
High-Intermediate (17–23)
Low-Intermediate (13–16)
Basic (7–12)
Below Basic (0–6)

Upon completing your TOEFL iBT test, you’ll receive more than a mere score. Enhanced score reporting offers personalized feedback and performance insights, aiding you in directing future study efforts and achieving your academic aspirations.

A strong TOEFL score hinges on the prerequisites of the institution or program you’re applying to. Typically, a total score surpassing 90 is deemed competitive for most universities. Nevertheless, elite institutions may anticipate even higher standards. TOEFL scores remain valid for a period of two years. Selected score recipients, including universities and organizations, receive the report automatically within 4-16 days of the exam date depending on their chosen delivery method.

In order to maintain consistency and impartiality, TOEFL scoring is centralized through a dedicated scoring system. Artificial intelligence is employed to enhance uniformity and reduce bias in the evaluation process. Candidates can retrieve their score reports from their ETS accounts six days post-taking the test. Through their ETS account, applicants can designate up to four institutions to receive their scores at no extra charge, with the option to add more recipients for an additional fee of around $20 – $25 per institution. 

TOEFL Preparation:

TOEFL Exam Pattern 2024 requires more than just linguistic prowess; it demands strategic preparation and a nuanced understanding of the updated format. Leverage online courses, study guides, and practice tests available from reputable sources like Coursera, Udemy & Udacity and also the TOEFL app.  Engage in regular practice, simulated test environments, and targeted improvement in weak areas to build confidence for the examination day.

Achieving a TOEFL score of 100 or above requires a strategic and targeted approach. Here are few important tips from us to you to help you reach this goal:

  • Create a study plan based on your chosen test date, dedicating the required hours to reach your target score. Aim for a preparation period of two to three months. 
  • Familiarize yourself with the TOEFL format to enhance your understanding of the exam pattern and effectively tackle challenging questions.
  • Learn to manage and use your time wisely during the test. Practice answering questions within the given time limits so you can finish on time during the actual test.
  • Identify the parts you find difficult, like reading, listening, speaking, or writing. Spend extra time practicing those areas to get better at them.
  • When practicing, make it like the real test. Sit in a quiet place, follow the time limits, and use the same tools, like a keyboard, to get used to the test environment.

After following the above recommendations, the final step is to take one and complete TOEFL practice test mirroring the official exam pattern which can be found on the official website. Engaging in full-length practice tests helps assess your readiness and enhances your preparation for the real exam and also helps you analyse your readiness for the test. This will also help you learn the areas you might need to put in a little more work to achieve your target score or more.

TOEFL Exam Centres:

TOEFL is held at accredited test centres across the globe, each equipped with the essential infrastructure for a consistent testing environment. It’s vital to verify the test dates and centre availability in your region, and early registration is recommended to secure your preferred time slot. Aspiring test-takers can create an account on the official website to find the nearest testing centre. While it used to take 4 hours, the current format allows individuals to finish the test in around 3 hours.

In summary, TOEFL stands as a pivotal checkpoint for individuals not native to the English language but looking to seize educational or professional opportunities in English-speaking nations. It serves as a gateway, evaluating language proficiency in various aspects, from reading and listening to speaking and writing. To navigate this significant milestone successfully, thorough preparation, a solid understanding of the test format, and a targeted approach to each section are indispensable. By arming yourself with these crucial elements, you’re better prepared to embark on your TOEFL journey with confidence, unlocking doors to a plethora of English-language opportunities. Wishing you the best of luck on your linguistic endeavours!