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TOEFL Exam Pattern 2021

Test of English as a Foreign Language is a standard test that assesses an individual’s ability to communicate in English. It is taken by non-native speakers of the English language for academic and professional purposes. The TOEFL exam pattern is similar to that of other language proficiency tests.

The test is conducted by the Educational Testing Service and is accepted by more than 11,000 universities in countries like Australia, Canada, the UK, and the USA. It consists of four sections- listening, reading, writing and speaking. The test lasts for approximately three hours, including a ten-minute break in between.

TOEFL exam pattern The TOEFL exam pattern consists of four main sections which are separately scored on a scale of 0-30. The four sections are as follows:


The reading section aims to assess the applicant’s ability to interpret the given text in the form of a comprehension passage. The test comprises three or four passages with approximately thirty to forty questions. The entire section lasts approximately between fifty-four to seventy-two minutes.


The writing section assesses the applicant’s ability to express their views and feelings in written form, based on a particular text or the recordings they hear. This section consists of two tasks that last for around fifty minutes.


Candidates will be able to effectively use their English-speaking skills to express their views on various topics in this segment. It consists of four tasks that take a total of seventeen minutes to complete.


Candidates are asked questions based on the recordings they hear in this segment. These may be general conversations or specific classroom discussions. It takes about forty-one to fifty-seven minutes to complete and consists of twenty-eight to thirty-nine questions.

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TOEFL Scores

To ensure uniformity and fairness, TOEFL scoring is handled via a central scoring system. The testing service uses artificial intelligence to ensure consistency and minimize the amount of bias. Candidates can access their score report through their ETS account six days after taking the test. Applicants can choose up to four score recipients for free through their ETS account, and they can add more recipients at an additional cost of $20 per institution.

The TOEFL scores are valid for two years, and selected score recipients, such as universities and organizations, automatically receive the report after 6-10 days of taking the exam. The TOEFL exam pattern is such that each section has a score range of 0-30, resulting in an overall 0-120. Candidates receive section-wise scores based on their proficiency level and a total score combining the four separate scores. Different universities have varying requirements in terms of the overall score or the score for each segment. Candidates are graded based on fixed criteria, and each section has several levels of proficiency that evaluate their level of excellence.


TOEFL Scoring Pattern 


      Proficiency Level


  • Advanced (24–30)
  • High-intermediate (18–23)
  • Low-Intermediate (4–17)
  • Below Low-Intermediate (0–3)


  • Advanced (24–30)
  • High-intermediate (17–23)
  • Low-Intermediate (13–16)
  • Basic (7–12)
  • Below Basic (0–6)


  • Advanced (22–30)
  • High-intermediate (17–21)
  • Low-Intermediate (9–16)
  • Below Low-Intermediate (0–8)


  • Advanced (25–30)
  • High-intermediate (20–24)
  • Low-Intermediate (16–19)
  • Basic (10–15)
  • Below Basic (0–9)

TOEFL Exam Syllabus

The TOEFL exam pattern and syllabus are structured to evaluate an applicant’s ability to communicate in English by assessing four primary skills: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. To prepare for the exam, students can enrol in a short online course or an offline course. They can also prepare at home using interactive apps and keep up with the latest details by participating in online TOEFL forums. Here is some information about the TOEFL exam questions and syllabus:

1. Reading

The reading portion of the exam mainly consists of three to four comprehensions. These reading passages are usually taken from university textbooks and are based on a wide range of subjects. This section consists of questions in which the students have to pay close attention to the minute details and interpret the given text’s meaning. It will enable them to take on questions about:

  • Vocabulary: This includes finding the meaning of the words mentioned in the reading comprehension.
  • Text completion: This entails identifying and analyzing the main ideas of a passage and their logical positioning.
  • Text interpretation: These types of questions require candidates to pay close attention to figure out the subtle differences between closely related statements.
  • Summarization: Candidates must determine the meaning of the passage based on recurrent themes in such questions.

2. Listening

The section will test the candidate’s ability to be an active listener and retain critical information. Due to the variety of accents used in the recordings, this part may be a little trickier than the other sections. The recordings that you will hear will be a combination of three to five minutes long lectures and conversations about any academic discipline under the sun. The goal is to pay attention to the primary purpose of the conversation and draw relevant inferences based on the factual information provided by the speakers.

3. Writing

Whether you are applying to pursue your further education from abroad or a job in an international organization, writing skills are an integral part of the process. There are two types of tasks in the TOEFL writing section, independent and integrated writing tasks. Both of them will test your writing prowess based on how well you put forth your opinions and thoughts. The integrated task requires you to pay attention to the given material (text or a recording) and provide a suitable response. On the other hand, you need to put down your own experiences and opinions for the independent task. Here are some writing questions types for the independent task based on the TOEFL exam pattern:

  • Opinion-based questions (multiple choice)
  • Agree or Disagree questions
  • Essays with paired options
  • Descriptive questions

4. Speaking
The primary aim of the speaking segment is to evaluate a candidate’s ability to express ideas fluently in English. It assesses your capacity to engage in discussions and how well you express your views on specific subjects using relevant justifications. According to the TOEFL exam pattern, the speaking section has two question types:

  • Independent task: This question will enable you to offer your thoughts and opinions. Independent speaking questions are divided into two categories. For the first task, you’ll have to pick one option from a list of many and then choose between two options for the other one.
  • Integrated task: This task tests the candidate’s excellence across a range of areas in addition to his English-speaking ability.

7 tips to get a 100+ score

Tips to get a 100+ score

An ideal TOEFL score entirely depends on the requirements of the university you are applying to. A TOEFL score of 100 falls somewhere around the 80th percentile, which is generally considered to be good enough. Follow the below tips to achieve your desired TOEFL exam score:

Set a target score
The first step to achieving a good TOEFL exam score is to have a target score in mind. You can then take an initial test based on the TOEFL exam pattern to see where you currently stand and accordingly determine the number of hours you will have to put in to bridge the gap between the two scores.

Devise a study plan
Depending upon the test date you have chosen, you need to develop a study plan consisting of the minimum number of hours you need to dedicate to achieving your target score. You must have enough time to prepare for the test, ideally between three to five months.

Get familiar with the format
The better you understand the TOEFL exam pattern, the easier it will be to get a good score. It would help if you focused on the types of questions asked in the exam to be well-prepared to tackle challenging questions.

Work on your weaknesses
Working on the sections that you struggle with will significantly help you improve your score. Concentrate your efforts on allocating more time to specific sections where you can progress.

Use additional resources
Apart from the official practice material, you can utilize non-TOEFL resources to improve your overall English-language skills. You can inculcate a regular reading habit to improve your speed and be a part of online conversational clubs to work on your English-speaking skills.

Pay attention to constructive feedback
Get a native English speaker or a teacher to read your work and help you improve. Ask them to give you constructive feedback on your writing and speaking skills in particular.

Take multiple practice tests
Once you have followed the above suggestions to a tee, the only thing left to do is take a practice test based on the TOEFL exam pattern. Taking full-length practise tests will assist you in evaluating yourself and preparing for the actual exam.

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Q1. Can I reschedule the test?
Yes, candidates can cancel or reschedule their tests via their ETS account. The cancellation must be done at least four days before the exam date to receive a partial refund.

Q2. Does ETS directly send the scores to universities?
While creating your ETS account, you will have the option of selecting four score recipients for free.

Q3. What are the requirements for the ETS at-home test?
Applicants must have a device that fulfils the basic ETS requirements and access to a suitable environment for taking the test. Other than that, the TOEFL exam pattern remains the same.

Q4. How do I start my preparation?
It’s never easy to get things moving at first, but once you set your mind to it, you can refer to the below-mentioned steps:

  • Familiarize yourself with the TOEFL exam pattern
  • Take an initial test without any preparation
  • Identify your weak areas
  • Set a target score
  • Devote extra time to your problem areas
  • Choose study material based on the TOEFL exam pattern
  • Set daily reading targets to improve your speed and vocabulary

Q5. How many times can a person take the test?
You can take it as many times as you like; there is no limit as such. However, you can only take it once in a period of three days.

Q6. When does the test take place?
The test is offered around 45-50 times in one year on fixed dates. You can check the official website and select your preferred exam date and centre after creating an account.

Q7. What kind of practice material should I use?
It is always recommended that candidates refer to official material based on the latest TOEFL exam pattern for their initial preparation. You can refer to the official guide to the TOEFL test by ETS to get you started. After that, you can also refer to Kaplan’s iBT prep plus or Cambridge preparation for the TOEFL test.

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