The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL®) tests English writing, reading, listening, and speaking skills for non-native speakers at the university academic level. TOEFL® questions are either multiple choice or essay. The exam consists of several sections including a reading passage with questions, a series of short essays, a multiple-choice section, and a series of incomplete phrases that must be filled in with the correct word. The exact structure of the exam depends on whether it is taken via the Internet or on paper. Most students will take the Internet version, as the paper exam is typically only used when the testing facility does not have Internet access.
TOEFL® questions on the Internet-based test, also known as TOEFL® iBT™, come in four sections. There are four hours allotted for taking this version of the test. After the first two sections — reading and listening — there is a ten minute break. Then the speaking and writing portions follow.
The reading section typically includes about three to five passages. There are 12 to 14 questions that must be answered about each passage. Then there are about six to nine passages in the listening section about which there will be five to six questions each. TOEFL® questions in the speaking section consist of six tasks where a student must answer one question per task. The final section is writing, in which the student will write two essays in response to two questions.
TOEFL® questions in the paper version of the exam are similar, but arranged slightly differently. The four sections are listening, structure and written expression, reading comprehension, and writing. A primary difference between the two is that the paper version is one hour shorter than the Internet version.
The first section is listening, which has three parts: one with questions about short conversations, a second that covers long conversations, and a third that requires the student to answer a series of questions after listening to short talks or lectures. The next part is the structure and written expression section, which has 15 sentences that must be completed with the correct word from a list of choices and another 25 questions in which the student must identify the errors in various pieces of writing. In the reading comprehension section, the student will answer questions after reading a series of passages. Writing is the final section. It consists of one short essay which must be written in answer to a question.