Sections of the TOEFL

The TOEFL has four sections. Each section tests a student’s ability to understand written and spoken North American English. The material used for the questions comes from words and conversations that international students would typically experience in university settings in the United States.


This section of the TOEFL measures your ability to read and understand short passages on academic topics that might be found in university-level textbooks.
Typical questions ask about the main idea of the passage. Some questions are interactive and require students to click on words or phrases that best answer the question.

The TOEFL reading section allows you to skip questions and go back to check, or change, previously answered questions.


The listening section of the TOEFL contains two parts. One part contains short conversations (3 minutes each); the other part contains longer conversations (4-6 minutes each).

Students listen to the conversations through individual headphones while looking at pictures on the computer screen. Conversations consist of student interactions and academic lectures or discussions.

Questions are asked through the headphones and also appear on the computer screen. Questions must be answered as they appear. The listening section of the TOEFL does not allow you to skip questions or go back to change answers.

Students MAY NOT TAKE NOTES during this section of the test.


This section of the TOEFL was added in 2005. Students must complete six speaking tasks.

The first two speaking tasks require the student to express an opinion about a familiar topic. Students have 15 seconds to prepare a response and 45 seconds to deliver the response.

The remaining four tasks require students to summarize a topic based on reading a passage and listening to conversations about the passage. Students have 30 seconds to prepare a response and 60 seconds to complete their response.

Note taking is allowed during this portion of the TOEFL to help formulate your response.


The writing section of the TOEFL has two components: Integrated Writing and Independent Writing.

The first section is the Integrated Writing section and tests the ability to write based on reading and listening. In this section students first read a passage about an academic topic. Next, they listen to a short lecture about the same topic. They are then given a question that relates to both the passage and the lecture. Students have 20 minutes to compose and write a response to the question. Ideal responses should be between 150-225 words.

The second section is the Independent Writing section. This section of the TOEFL requires you to write a single essay. The essay should give your opinion on a common topic or common experience. Students have 30 minutes to prepare and write the essay. Ideal essays are 4 to 5 paragraphs long and contain 300-350 words.

Note taking is allowed during the writing section of the TOEFL.