What Is TOEFL?

The TOEFL iBT test measures your ability to use and understand English at the university level. And it evaluates how well you combine your listening, reading, speaking and writing skills to perform academic tasks.

There are two formats for the TOEFL test. The format you take depends on the location of your test center. Most test takers take the TOEFL iBT test. Test centers that do not have Internet access offer the Paper-based Test (PBT).

The TOEFL® test is the most widely respected English-language test in the world, recognized by more than 8,500 colleges, universities and agencies in more than 130 countries, including Australia, Canada, the U.K. and the United States. Wherever you want to study, the TOEFL test can help you get there.


The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) measures the ability of nonnative speakers of English to use and understand North American English as it is spoken, written and heard in college and university settings. Most people who take the TOEFL test are planning to study at colleges and universities where instruction is in English. In addition, many government agencies, scholarship programs, and licensing/certification agencies use TOEFL scores to evaluate English proficiency.

Test SectionNo. Of QuestionTimingScore ScaleReading3-5 passages, 12-14 questions each61-100 minutes0-30Listening4-6 lectures, 6 questions each, 2-3 conversations, 5 questions each61- 90 minutes0-30Break 10 minutes Speaking6 tasks, 2 independent and 4 integrated20 minutes0-30Writing1 integrated task

1 independent task20 minutes 30 minutes0-30Total 4Hrs0-120


In 1962, a national council made up of representatives of 30 government and private organizations was formed to address the problem on ensuring English-language proficiency for nonnative speakers wishing to study where the medium of instruction is English. This council recommended the development and administration of the TOEFL® test for the 1963-1964 time frame.

The test was originally developed at the Center for Applied Linguistics under the direction of Stanford University applied linguistics professor Dr. Charles A. Ferguson.

The TOEFL test was first administered in 1964 by the Modern Language Association financed by grants from the Ford Foundation and Danforth Foundation.

In 1965, The College Board and ETS jointly assumed responsibility for the continuation of the TOEFL testing program.

In 1973, a cooperative arrangement was made between ETS, The College Board, and the Graduate Record Examinations board of advisers to oversee and run the program. ETS was to administer the exam with the guidance of the TOEFL board.


More than 8,500 colleges, agencies and other institutions in over 130 countries accept TOEFL scores. For more information, including using your scores to satisfy visa requirements in Australia and the United Kingdom, how to find institutions that accept TOEFL scores, and more, see Who Accepts TOEFL Scores.


The TOEFL test has more test dates (30–40 per year) and locations (4,500 test centers in 165 countries) than any other English-language test in the world. You can retake the test as many times as you wish.

The Computer-Based TOEFL Test has 4 sections

Section 1: Listening
Section 2: Structure (Grammar)
Section 3: Reading
Section 4: Writing

  1. Listening Comprehension:
    Measures the ESL student’s ability to understand North American English.
  2. Structure & Written Expression
    Measures the ESL student’s ability to recognize language appropriate for standard written English.
  3. Vocabulary & Reading Comprehension
    Measures the ESL student’s ability to understand non-technical reading material.
  4. Essay Writing
    Measures the ESL student’s ability to express ideas in standard written English.


The score range on the CBT TOEFL Test is: 0-300. In other words, the highest possible total score is 300 points.

This breaks down in each section as a scaled score:

Listening: 0-30
Structure/Writing: 0-30
Reading Comprehension: 0-30

The score from the essay in the Writing Section is included in the Structure score. The essay is graded on a scaled score of 0 to 6. 6 is the highest possible total score on the Writing Section. Note: The essay score is one sixth of the total test score.

Number of Questions in the test and the time to complete each section:

Tutorials: 7 untimed tutorials explaining in detail the exam procedure

Listening: 30 to 49 questions with 15-25 minutes to answer the questions. 40-60 minutes to complete entire section. The clock runs while you are answering questions, but not while you are listening to conversations and talks.

Structure: 20-25 questions with 15-20 minutes to complete the questions.

Reading: 44-55 questions with 70-90 minutes to complete the section (includes time spent reading passages and answering questions).

Writing: One assigned essay topic, with 30 minutes to write the essay.

How often can I take the CBT TOEFL test? & If I cancel my scores, can I take the test again?

You may take the CBT TOEFL test only once in any calendar month, even if you took the test and cancelled your scores. For example, if you test in May, you must wait until June to take it again. IMPORTANT: If you take the test more than once in a calendar month, your new scores will not be reported and your test fee will not be refunded. Violation of this policy may also result in additional action being taken.



  • The TOEFL iBT® test is scored on a scale of 0 to 120 points.
  • Each of the four sections (Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing) receives a scaled score from 0 to 30. The scaled scores from the four sections are added together to determine the total score.
  • Each Speaking question is initially given a score of 0 to 4, and each Writing question is initially given a score of 0 to 5. These scores are converted to scaled scores of 0 to 30.


  • The TOEFL PBT score ranges between 310 and 677 and is based on three subscores: Listening (31–68), Structure (31–68), and Reading (31–67). The score of the Writing section is not part of the final score; instead, it is reported separately on a scale of 0–6.
  • The score test takers receive on the Listening, Structure and Reading sections are not the percentage of correct answers. The scores are converted to take into account the fact that some versions of the test are more difficult than others. The converted scores correct these differences. Therefore, the converted score is a more accurate reflection of the ability than the correct answer score would be.


The TOEFL iBT test uses a combination of human and automated scoring. Scoring takes place in a centralized location outside of the test center. The Listening and Reading sections use automated scoring. The Speaking section is scored by three to six human raters. ETS uses a highly diverse pool of raters rather than those exclusive to an applicant’s country of origin, which promotes unbiased scoring. The Writing section is scored by at least two human raters in addition to automated scoring. All responses are scored anonymously to ensure fair and objective scoring.

            Accepted TOEFL Scores

Most colleges use TOEFL scores as only one component in their admission process. Each college or program within a college often has a minimum TOEFL score requirement. A sampling of required TOEFL admissions scores shows that a total TOEFL iBT score of 74.2 for undergraduate admissions and 82.6 for graduate admissions may be required.TOEFL scores are mapped to the CEFR.

            TOEFL® ITP TESTS

TOEFL® ITP tests are paper-based and use academic content to evaluate the English-language proficiency of nonnative English speakers. The tests use new and previously administered TOEFL test questions and are used for placement, progress, evaluation, exit testing and other situations. Unlike the TOEFL iBT test, TOEFL ITP tests are administered by the institution and should not replace the need for the TOEFL iBT test. There are two levels: Level 1 (intermediate to advanced) and Level 2 (high beginning to intermediate). TOEFL ITP scores are mapped to the CEFR and test takers are provided with a certificate of achievement.

            TOEFL® JUNIOR™ TESTS

ETS also offers the TOEFL® Junior™ tests, a general assessment a general assessment of middle school-level English-language proficiency. The TOEFL Junior tests are intended for students of ages 11–15. The tests are administered in two formats — TOEFL Junior Standard (paper-based) and TOEFL Junior Comprehensive (administered via computer). The TOEFL Junior Standard test has three sections: Reading Comprehension, Listening Comprehension and Language Form and Meaning. The TOEFL Junior Comprehensive test has four sections: Reading Comprehension, Listening Comprehension, Speaking and Writing. TOEFL Junior scores are mapped to the CEFR and test takers are provided with a certificate of achievement.