TOEFL Decoded: A Comprehensive Guide for Test Takers

TOEFL Decoded: A Comprehensive Guide for Test Takers

TOEFL Decoded: A Comprehensive Guide for Test Takers

The TOEFL, or the Test of English as a Foreign Language, is held as a standard test to gauge the English language ability of non-native speakers aspiring for admission in English-speaking institutions.

Types of TOEFL Exam

Two types of TOEFL exam i.e. TOEFL PBT and TOEFL iBT and other TOEFLs such as TOEFL Junior and IPT take place. Let’s understand the two main TOEFL types:

TOEFL PBT: Paper-Based Test

Countries and Scholarships accepting TOEFL Scores

The Paper-based Test is held in offline mode. With a total duration of 2 hours 25 minutes, it comprises three sections and is only conducted in those locations where internet is not available. Understand the exam pattern of the TOEFL PBT exam given below. 

SectionQuestion TypesNumber of QuestionsDuration
Reading3 Reading Comprehension Passages with ten questions each30 MCQs54 minutes
Listening2 Conversations with three lectures and a total of 28 questions28 MCQs41 minutes approximately
Writing1 Integrated Task and 1 Independent Task2 Constructed Responses50 minutes

TOEFL iBT: Internet-Based Test

The Internet-based TOEFL has four sections, including reading, listening, speaking, and writing, and encompasses a total duration of four hours. It is one of the preferred TOEFL exam types and replaced the computer-based test, which no longer takes place since 2006.  Look at the highlights of the iBT TOEFL exam:

SectionQuestion TypesNumber of QuestionsDuration
Reading3-4 Reading Comprehension PassagesTen questions/passage54-72 minutes
Listening4-6 lectures and 2-3 conversations6 questions/lecture41-57 minutes
The speaking topic or academic issueThe candidate needs to speak on a4 Tasks17 minutes
Writing after a reading passage and classroom lectureGiven an opinion or provide a logical analysis2 Tasks50 minutes

Other Types of TOEFL Exam

Now that you are familiar with the two main types of TOEFL exams that you can take to apply for a program abroad, there are three lesser-known types that you must also know about. These are:

TOEFL Junior Tests

The TOEFL Junior Tests evaluate the English proficiency of middle school students aged 11+. It consists of two formats, i.e., paper-based as well as computer-based. This test has four main sections: Reading Comprehension, Listening Comprehension, Speaking, and Writing.


IPT stands for Institutional Testing Program and is extensively used in an academic context to assess the English proficiency of non-native English speakers

CBT (Computer Based Test)

This was a frequently opted TOEFL exam earlier but has been replaced by the Internet-based Test, and CBT was discontinued in 2006.

TOEFL iBT – All you wanted to know

How Should I Register for the TOEFL?

Before proceeding, ensure that you have the following:

  • A debit/credit card, electronic check, PayPal® account, or TOEFL registration voucher.
  • Applicants in Mainland China should refer to the TOEFL China website to register for the test.
  • Read about fees and payment options, which vary by location.
  • An identification document (ID) you plan to bring with you on the test day
  • When you register, the name you use must exactly match the name on the ID you get to the test center.
  • Up to four institution names you want to send your scores to

Step 1: Create an ETS Account

Once you have an ETS Account, log in or download the free TOEFL official app from Google Play or App Store and proceed to the next step.

Fill in all personal information as required on the form of ID you will use when you take the TOEFL.

Sign up for the TOEFL Search Service. (Learn more about the TOEFL Search Service).

Create a username and password, review your information, and click on “Submit” to create an account.

Step 2: Select a Date and Test Center 

On your TOEFL Home screen, select the “Register/Find Test Centers, Dates” button.

Mention your test date period and location and click on “Find Test Centers and Dates.”

Select a test center location and date. Then, click on “Show Test Times and Register.” When you find the time you prefer, click on the “Register” button.

Step 3: Complete Your Registration

Review the terms and conditions before you register.

You can register anytime online here or by downloading the free TOEFL official app from Google Play or App Store.

Registration deadline: 7 days prior to the test date (not including the test day)

Late registration deadline: 2 days prior to the test date; You will have to pay a US$40 late fee.

Rescheduled deadline: 2 days prior to the test; You need to pay a fee of US$60.

The fee depends on the location where you will be taking the test. The fee is shown after you select a test location and date.

Registration Payment Methods

  • Credit/debit cards (American Express®, Discover®, JCB®, MasterCard® or Visa®)
  • Electronic check (e-check)
  • PayPal®
  • TOEFL voucher

NOTE: Please check the ETS website to see if there are any payment restrictions for your location. 

How to Plan for TOEFL

The TOEFL iBT® Home Edition is convenient for aspirants who wish to take their test at home instead of at a test center. The Test is:

  • Offered everywhere that TOEFL® testing usually is available, based on the country of your account address, except Mainland China and Iran
  • Identical in format, content, and on-screen experience to a test taken at a test center
  • Taken on your device at home and monitored by an online human proctor through ProctorU®
  • Accessible 24 hours a day and four days a week, with appointments as early as 24 hours after you register

Here are the Dos and Don’ts you must follow for the examination.


Before the Test

Run a final Equipment Check and fix any issues before attempting to check in for your test. You must resolve all the problems before your appointment time.

Close all applications and browsers not needed for the test. This can help prevent bandwidth issues.

  • Ensure that other devices in your home that use the internet are not running.
  • Collect the materials you’ll need for your test session. (All other materials are prohibited.)
  • Passport or other acceptable ID
  • Allowed note-taking materials, such as a whiteboard or plastic transparency sheet that you can erase in view of the proctor
  • Cellphone or hand-held mirror for check-in
  • Make sure your testing area meets all environmental requirements, including:
  • The room is quiet and well-lit.
  • The table and surrounding area are clutter-free.
  • Your table and chair are positioned such that the door to the room will be visible to the proctor.
  • Ensure that you have dressed appropriately, with your ears and face visible to the proctor. Avoid wearing any jewelry or other accessories.

During the Test

  • If you have a technical issue during the test, notify the proctor by speaking aloud and waving to the camera. (If you lose your web connection momentarily, you’ll automatically be reconnected to the proctor when your connection is restored. If you can reopen your exam, your proctor will do so for you. If you cannot reconnect and speak to the proctor, call ProctorU at +1-855-772-8678 for assistance.)
  • Check that you are always seen on camera by the proctor. Suspicious actions could invalidate your test.
  • If you have to contact the proctor during your test, speak to get their attention and use LogMeIn chat. It may require 30–60 seconds for a proctor to reply.
  • If the proctor attempts to chat with you, the blue owl will bounce up and down.


  • Don’t use any unauthorized materials, including pre-written notes, mobile devices, or textbooks, at any time during the test, including the 10-minute interval.
  • Before the test, you must disable any screen-sharing or remote-access software (Zoom, Skype™, TeamViewer™, Microsoft Teams™, and Apple Remote Desktop™). It must stay disabled throughout the test. Make sure that the software does not open automatically during the test.
  • There might be references to using a headset in your test. Ignore it; headsets are not allowed in the TOEFL iBT Home Edition.
  • Don’t attempt to communicate with anyone other than the proctor.
  • Avoid wearing jewelry or other accessories.
  • There is a 10-minute break following the Listening section when you may leave your seat. You must return on time. Unscheduled breaks aren’t allowed.
  • At the completion time of the test, you’ll be able to see your unofficial scores for the Listening and Reading sections. Then, you will receive the option to cancel or report your scores.
  • ETS monitors testing locations and the reuse of devices for unauthorized access. Inappropriate reuse of shared testing devices and recurring testing locations may result in score delay and cancellation. This could impact your eligibility to take future ETS exams.

How to Practice for TOEFL and Resources Available

Understand the TOEFL Format

Unexpected issues on the TOEFL are not fun. So before you take the test, please familiarize yourself with the basic features of the TOEFL and its scoring system. By understanding how the exam is structured, you’ll know what to expect on test day and can thus prepare accordingly—and more confidently.

Set a Goal Score

By exceeding this target, you increase your chance of gaining admission to not just one of your schools but all of them!

Give Yourself Sufficient Time to Prepare

Three to six months of preparation time should generally suffice. However, the exact time frames will differ depending on your English ability and the amount of time you can dedicate to prepping.

Take Notes

In the TOEFL, you get to listen to audio clips only once. You will then have to answer questions, write, or speak on the topic you heard about. Taking notes confidently and recording all the essential information in real-time will help you on your TOEFL and in your future studies.

Opt for an Early Test Date

An early test date assures you that your TOEFL scores will get to your desired schools in time. TOEFL scores are automatically sent by mail to schools you chose during registration beginning 13 days after your test.

Personalize Your Study Plan

This ensures that you’ll spend more time honing your skills and have a greater chance of obtaining high scores on all four TOEFL sections.

Use High-Quality Resources

By far, the best resources out there are official ones (those created by ETS). Other options include official TOEFL prep books, including The Official Guide to the TOEFL and Official TOEFL iBT Tests Volumes 1 and 2. These books, which generally cost around 15-25 USD, contain full-length practice tests and hundreds of practice questions.

Take Practice Tests

Practice tests will further help you understand the question types, test environment, and constraints you may face on test day.

What Are the Eligibility Criteria for TOEFL?

  • First, you must understand that the TOEFL (both TOEFL-IBT and TOEFL-PBT) is open to all.
  • To appear for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), you must have completed 10+2 from any recognized Indian University/Board.
  • If you are a student from high school or are studying for a higher degree, you can appear for this test to get your TOEFL score. The exam measures your proficiency in the English language to work/study in the United States. The TOEFL score is usually accepted by institutions in the United States and outside.
  • Few institutions do not require the TOEFL score from some international applicants. These sections include:
    • Non-native speakers with diplomas/degrees from post-secondary institutions in English-speaking countries such as Canada, England, United States, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia
    • Non-native speakers who have completed at least a two-year program where English was the instruction language
    • Students who have transferred from institutes in Canada or the United States having well-evaluated academic course work meeting the test requirements
    • Non-native speakers who have taken the TOEFL in the past two years
    • If you are a non-native speaker and have successfully pursued academic work at English speaking schools in an English-speaking nation for a certain period, usually of two years

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