Understanding the TOEFL

U Understanding the TOEFL

As you already know, The TOEFLs are essentially a language proficiency exam which tests you for key aspects of any language i.e. reading, writing, listening and speaking. Through them, it also test your ability to comprehend and understand and respond to new materials and situations. Hence its becomes that your truly understand the working of the TOEFL before you start with your TOEFL preparation. With this in mind, Here is a completely breakdown of the TOEFL sections.

R The Reading section

Provides you with three to five passages (pieces of text from academic texts or talks), each approximately 700 words long. The passages may be talking about a certain topic or about comparing several points of view. They can be scientific, historic and even philosophical.

Each text will be followed by 12-14 questions. These questions may ask you to do one of the following tasks:

  • Define a word (testing your vocabulary)
  • Elaborate an idea or argument (testing your understanding)
  • Find a false statement (testing overall comprehension)

You will have from 60 to 100 minutes to complete this section depending on the number of passages and accompanying questions.

The Reading section is a demanding one. It can be difficult, because the texts you will get are often complex. You should not hope for an easy passage with easy vocabulary.

To do well, you need to be used to reading long and complicated paragraphs. You should learn to work with unfamiliar words to be able to infer (make a guess about) their meaning. Texts presented in the Reading section may have multiple focuses and arguments. The time limit also creates difficulty, as you will have to read fast.

T The Listening section

The Listening section pertains two the two following types of audio

  • Recordings of lectures
  • Recordings of conversations

You should expect to listen to four to six lectures that deal with academic topics. Conversations are more casual, so there are usually only two to three of these. Each bit of audio can be from three to five minutes long, followed by five to six questions. The questions may ask you about the contents of the recording. They may also ask you about what you think happened before or what could happen after. There could also be the “why” and “how” type of questions.

You will hear every audio lecture or conversation only once. There is an exception: Some questions will play back a part of the recording for you to listen to again. However, you cannot depend on this. You should expect to only hear the audio once.

TOEFL has a policy of including different English accents in the Listening section. You could hear American, British, New Zealander and Australian English on the test.

S The Speaking section

Speaking is an Integral part of the test. It judges your overall command on English and it can be a bit difficult. You will not have an interviewer to ask you questions and listen to your answers, you will only have a microphone. Your voice is recorded and someone will listen to your answers later.

There is very little time to answer each question, and there is even less time to prepare each answer before you start talking. Speaking is the hardest part of learning any language. You will do your best if you know what to expect from this section.

You will be given six Speaking tasks in total. Two of them will ask you to express an opinion on an everyday topic. This is the Independent Speaking section. For the Independent Speaking section, all you will hear is a question. You will not need to listen to a long recording or read any long passages.

The four remaining tasks will require you to discuss something that you read and hear. This is the Integrated Speaking section. For Integrated Speaking, you will read a short passage or hear an audio recording followed by a question.

You will have up to 30 seconds to prepare a response and up to one minute to record it by speaking into a microphone.

T The Writing section

It is the section that judges your writing ability, grammar knowledge and vocabulary usage. Writing consists of only two tasks.

  • One Integrated Writing task
  • One Independent Writing task.

The idea behind these tasks is similar to the Speaking section tasks. For the Independent Writing task, you will write an opinion on a casual topic. You will get a question to answer, but you will not need to listen to a long audio recording or read a long passage.

For the Integrated writing task, you will write an essay based on additional reading and listening material. You will have more time (30 minutes) to spend on the Independent task than on the Integrated task (20 minutes), so you will be expected to deliver a very good essay on the former (the Independent task) and a slightly shorter answer on the latter (the Integrated test). Taking notes and creating an outline of your answer is very useful during both parts of the Writing section.

Outside of the sections, it essential to know that TOEFL is a fully computerised test and all your inputs happen via a keyboard. Also, Unlike the IELTS, all the exams take place on the same day with one break in between. The average marks that universities generally look for are above 90.