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Whether you want to apply for college, graduate school, or even apply for a job, you may need to use the TOEFL exam to demonstrate your language proficiency. We’ve organized everything you need to know about the new TOEFL exam, including the content and types of questions, so you can prepare well!
New TOEFL vs. Old TOEFL
The TOEFL exam was modified in August of 2019. The test was shortened by 30 minutes, and the reading, listening, and speaking sections are now slightly different. Here’s a comparison chart that shows the difference between the old and new TOEFL:
|Subject||Old TOEFL（before 2019/08/01）||New TOEFL（after 2019/08/01）|
|Reading||Content: 3-4 passages, 12-14 ques./passage|
Duration: 60-80 minutes (~1.4 min./ques.)
|Content: 3-4 passages, 10 ques./passage|
Duration: 54-72 minutes (~1.5 min./ques.)
|Listening||Content: 6 passages total. 4-6 lectures, 6 questions each; 2-3 conversations, 5 questions each|
Duration: 60-90 minutes (~1.8 mins./ques.)
|Content: 6 passages total. 3-4 lectures, 6 questions each; 2-3 conversations, 5 questions each|
Duration: 41-57 minutes (~1.5 mins./ques.)
|Break||10 minutes||No change|
|Speaking||Content: 6 tasks total. Independent Speaking (#1-#2) and Integrated Speaking (#3-#6)|
Duration: 20 minutes (1-5 min./ques.)
|Content: 4 tasks total. Independent Speaking (#2) and Integrated Speaking (#3, #4, #6)|
Duration: 17 minutes(1-5 min./ques.)
|Writing||Content: 2 tasks total. 1 Integrated Writing and 1 Independent Writing|
Duration: 50 minutes (20 minutes for Integrated Writing and 30 minutes for Independent Writing)
Format for the New TOEFL
The New TOEFL exam takes a total of about 3 hours. The order of the test is Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. There is a 10-minute break between the Listening and Speaking sections.
|Reading||54–72 minutes||30–40 questions||3-4 passages, 10 questions each|
|Listening||41–57 minutes||28–39 questions||2-3 conversations, 3-4 lectures, 5-6 questions each|
|Speaking||17 minutes||4 tasks||1 independent task and 3 integrated task|
|Writing||50 minutes||2 tasks||1 integrated task and 1 independent task|
The passages in the reading section are academic-related. There are 3-4 passages, and the entire section takes 54-72 minutes. There are about 700 words for each passage, and students are required to answer 10 questions after reading the passage.
The passages are taken and modified from college textbooks (though their difficulty may be around high school level), and they can cover a wide array of topics. Therefore, it’s very likely that you will come across passages from a topic that you are not familiar with.
However, don’t worry when this happens; the passages will include definitions or explanations of the jargon (technical words) that appear in the text. The purpose of the reading section is to test your reading and comprehension ability, not your familiarity with these subject-specific words.
If you want to learn more about the reading section, we’ve created a playlist of the 6 YouTube videos from ETS. We highly recommend that you watch all 6 videos and not just the first one! You can click on the list icon on the top right corner to switch among the videos:
Occasionally, students will see 4 passages instead of 3 passages in the reading section. ETS includes an additional passage in the test in order to:
- make test scores comparable across administrations
- determine how such questions function under actual testing conditions
The questions in the additional passage do not count towards a student’s score. The extra passage may be any passage in the reading section, and students will not know (other than guessing) which passage is the additional passage.
The purpose of the listening section is to test if students can understand conversations and lectures in English, including the ability to understand colloquial English and the ability to integrate the information in an entire conversation or lecture.
The listening section takes 41 to 57 minutes in total, including:
- 3-4 lectures, 3-5 minutes per lecture, and 6 questions per lecture
- 2-3 conversations between two people, 3 minutes per converastion, 5 questions per conversation
Dialects in the Listening Section
Other than testing students’ ability to organize information, the listening section also tests students’ ability to understand English from different popular English dialects. The dialect that appears in the listening section will be mostly North American dialect, but there will occasionally be dialects from the UK, New Zealand, or Australia.
We created the following video playlist for the videos from ETS that explains the 7 different question types for the listening section.
The speaking section tests students’ ability to express their thoughts in English. There are a total of 4 questions that cover daily and academic topics.
The entire speaking section takes 17 minutes, including:
- Task 1: Independent Speaking (tests the student’s ability to express his or her own opinion)
- Tasks 2-4: Integrated Speaking (tests the student’s ability to integrate what they hear and/or read into a spoken response)
Before giving a response, the student will have 15-30 seconds to prepare for the response and 45-60 seconds to deliver the response. The student will speak to the microphone on the headset (note: if the student is taking the at-home TOEFL test, he or she will be using a speaker to play the conversations and lectures, and he or she will record the response using either an external microphone or the internal microphone from the laptop/computer).
Students’ speaking responses are sent to the ETS and are graded by humans and machines. ETS provided the following speaking rubric that explains how speaking responses are graded:
We created the following playlist to include ETS’s own explanations of the Independent Speaking task and Integrated Speaking tasks:
Dialects in the Speaking Section
Just like the listening section, students are expected to understand English dialects from common English-speaking countries to simulate real English-speaking environments. Students may hear English dialects from North America, the UK, New Zealand, or Australia, and students can give the response in any of these dialects.
ETS gave the following 2 audio samples for students to get a sense of the English dialects used in the speaking section. These are the audio from Task 1, where students have 15 seconds to prepare and 45 seconds to respond.
|Sample 1 (MP3)||If friends from another country were going to spend time in your country, what city or place would you suggest they visit? Using details and examples, explain why.|
|Some people enjoy taking risks and trying new things. Others are not adventurous; they are cautious and prefer to avoid danger. Which behavior do you think is better? Explain why.|
The writing section tests students’ ability to write logical, coherent responses or essays.
The writing section takes 50 minutes, including the following two parts:
- 1 Integrated Writing Task: There’s 1 short passage to read and 1 short lecture to listen, and the student needs to integrate the information in these two sources to write a response.
- 1 Independent Writing Task: The needs to respond to a prompt and provide his or her opinion, explanation, or experience.
Students will type the responses on the computer, and they are graded by humans and machines.
Technical Skills or Techniques Required in the Writing Section
TOEFL writing wishes to test your ability to command English writing. While preparing for the test, you do not need to prepare writing for a particular topic. As long as you can write a logical, coherent response like you do in regular English classes from school, you will receive a very high score.
ETS provides this scoring rubric to help students understand how the writing responses are graded.
For the writing section, ETS provided the following two videos to explain both the integrated speaking task and the independent speaking task. We highly recommend students watch both to understand how to receive a high score in the writing section!
Official TOEFL Practice Questions
TPO stands for TOEFL Practice Online. TPO contains official practice questions from ETS, and it is one of the best study resources to prepare for the TOEFL exam. TOEFL students at Ivy-Way Academy use these official questions, and these questions are now available on TOEFL Mocks for anyone to practice.
Click on the post below to learn more about TPO practice questions and see where you can do these questions for free!