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TOEFL Exam Pattern and Syllabus

Are you aspiring to study at a reputable U.S. university but unsure where to start? Look no further—TOEFL could be the key to unlocking your academic journey. TOEFL scores are widely accepted by renowned U.S. universities, making them essential to your educational dreams. With TOEFL, you can prove your English language skills and open doors to a world of opportunities in American higher education.

What is the TOEFL exam syllabus?

The TOEFL syllabus was developed to assess candidates' proficiency in reading, writing, listening, and speaking in a university environment. It evaluates a wide range of skills and determines their English language competency. The TOEFL syllabus encompasses all exam facets, including writing, reading, listening, and speaking.

TOEFL exam marks pattern
Sections Questions TOEFL exam time duration Details
Reading 20 questions 54 – 72 minutes Each section will include 3–4 passages, with 10 accompanying questions. These passages will be sourced from university-level books.
Listening 28 questions 41 – 57 minutes You can expect 3-4 recorded lectures and 2-3 recorded conversations, each with 10 associated questions. The topics may cover inference, academics, purpose, and attitude. The questions will include multiple choice, charts and binary options.
Speaking 4 tasks 17 minutes 4 questions pertain to speaking about familiar and education-related topics.
Writing 2 tasks 50 minutes You will encounter 2 writing tasks. You'll convey information, viewpoints, ideas, and personal experiences in the first task. The second task is functional, where your reading, listening, and speaking skills come into play.

TOEFL exam total marks = 120 marks

Section-wise TOEFL exam details

Reading Section:

In the TOEFL Reading section, you'll face 20 questions based on two passages. This section assesses your English comprehension and your capacity to respond effectively. These passages are sourced from university-level textbooks, typically around 700 words each. You'll have 35 minutes to tackle all the questions in this section, with each passage featuring 10 questions. TOEFL Reading Topics span diverse fields.

Reading Question Types

  • Factual and Negative Factual Information:Distinguishing between factual and negative factual information questions is crucial. For negative factual information questions, identify the incorrect answer among four options, paying attention to words like 'NOT' and 'EXCEPT.'
  • Recognizing Vocabulary: Vocabulary questions are relatively straightforward, requiring candidates to define highlighted words in the passage.
  • Inference and Rhetorical:Inference questions aim to clarify ambiguous statements in the passage, marked by terms like 'INFERRED,' 'IMPLIES,' and 'SUGGESTS.' Except for 'WHY' questions, rhetorical purpose questions focus on similar concepts.
  • Sentence Explanation:This question type challenges candidates to discern between two similar sentences and select the one with a simpler explanation.
  • Prose Summary:Applicants must identify the key ideas and significance of the reading passage in this question type.
  • Insert Text:This question evaluates the logical placement of ideas within a reading passage and features one insert text question in each section.

Listening section

This section assesses your listening skills in diverse contexts, preparing you for real-world situations where you must comprehend spoken English. It is crucial to practice and become familiar with various accents and types of discourse to perform well in this part of the TOEFL exam.

The TOEFL exam's Listening section typically consists of 28 to 39 questions, assessing a candidate's ability to comprehend spoken English. This section is further divided into two main categories: Lectures and Conversations.


  • There are usually 3 to 4 lectures, some of which may include classroom discussions.
  • Each lecture lasts 3 to 5 minutes and is accompanied by 6 questions related to the content.


  • The Listening section includes 2 to 3 conversations.
  • Each conversation is approximately 3 minutes long, followed by 5 questions to evaluate your comprehension.

Candidates are granted a total time of 41 to 57 minutes to answer all the Listening section questions. It's worth noting that various English accents are presented in the audio recordings to reflect real-world language diversity.

Listening Question Types

  • Gist-Purpose:These questions ask you to explain the primary intention or purpose of a discussion or lecture. You can recognize them by phrases like "mainly about," "mainly discussing," "why does the student," or "what is the main purpose." They differ from gist-content questions.
  • Inference:Inference questions challenge you to deduce the meaning of something that is not explicitly stated in the conversation or lecture.
  • :Organization Organization questions evaluate your comprehension of how a lecture is structured and may include phrases like "Why does the professor mention..." or "Why does the professor discuss..."?
  • Function:Function questions require you to determine the precise meaning of a statement within its context, as the meaning may change based on the situation.
  • Attitude:Attitude questions test your ability to understand the emotions or attitude of the speaker towards a particular topic.
  • Connecting Content:Connecting content questions assess your capacity to grasp the relationships between ideas presented in the lecture. These might require you to complete a chart or table.
  • Detail:Detail questions aim to identify a specific, explicitly mentioned conceptual detail within the listening conversation or lecture.

Speaking Section

Speaking in English takes center stage when it comes to participating in lectures, inquiring about a subject, or delivering a presentation, and the TOEFL speaking assessment gauges the essential abilities required to ensure fluency.

The TOEFL 2023 allocates a total of 16 minutes for this section. In the first two independent tasks, candidates are given 45 or 60 seconds to articulate their viewpoints on familiar topics. Each audio clip and reading passage must be completed within a 60-second timeframe. This section assesses the test taker's skill in conveying their opinions effectively, supported by sound and well-structured reasoning.

Speaking Question types

The TOEFL speaking test structure comprises two question types:

  • Question 1:Independent TaskIn this task, examinees are tasked with expressing their personal opinions, experiences, and ideas.
  • Question 2:Integrated TaskThis integrated task combines listening, writing, reading, and speaking skills, evaluating a broader range of language abilities.
Research Summaries:

Providing experiment descriptions, this segment emphasizes questions about experiment design and result explanation. Test-takers engage with content that evaluates their comprehension of experimental processes and outcomes.

Writing Section

The final part of the TOEFL exam is the writing section, which assesses the students' writing skills.

This section comprises two essays, with candidates allotted 50 minutes in total. For the Integrated writing task, candidates are given a 3-minute to peruse an academic text of approximately 300 words. Following the reading passage, they listen to a 2-minute lecture.

Writing question types

  • Integrated Writing Task:You'll read a passage and listen to an audio clip. Following this, you will compose an essay elucidating the connection between the two sources. You'll have a 20-minute timeframe for writing, with a target length of 150-225 words.
  • Independent Writing Task:For this task, you will be presented with a prompt on a familiar topic and must craft an essay expressing your viewpoint. You'll be allotted 30 minutes for this task and should aim for a minimum length of 300 words.

TOEFL exam structure

The TOEFL exam's format can be understood by consulting the TOEFL test syllabus, which provides a comprehensive overview of the areas in which students are evaluated.

To achieve a high score, reviewing the syllabus and utilizing reputable resources for preparation is advisable. Test scores are typically available on the official website within six days of completing the test.

Students can select their preferred universities, with the ability to choose up to four institutions. The scorecard will be sent directly to these universities. The TOEFL Exam syllabus outlines the available test patterns, namely Online (test from home), iBT (internet-based test), and PBT (Paper-Based Test).

The PBT option may not be accessible in all countries and is primarily intended for regions with limited internet connectivity where students have no alternative. The exam format and TOEFL syllabus are consistent across these options, with the only distinction being the absence of a speaking section in the PBT.

FAQs icon

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the TOEFL exam syllabus cover?

The TOEFL exam syllabus comprehensively covers the content and structure of the test, including details about the Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking sections. It provides information about the format and types of questions in each section.

How can I access the TOEFL exam syllabus?

The TOEFL exam syllabus can be accessed on the official TOEFL website, typically in PDF format. It is free and provides essential information to help you prepare for the test.

Does the TOEFL syllabus change frequently?

The TOEFL syllabus does not change drastically or frequently. However, checking the official website for updates and any minor adjustments to the test structure is a good practice.

Are there any recommended resources to study based on the TOEFL syllabus?

Yes, there are various official and unofficial resources available to help you prepare for the TOEFL exam, such as study guides, practice tests, and sample questions. These resources are found on the TOEFL website and through reputable test preparation organizations.

Can I rely solely on the TOEFL syllabus for preparation?

While the TOEFL syllabus provides valuable information, it's advisable to use it as a foundation and supplement your preparation with additional resources like practice tests, study guides, and language skills improvement materials.

Are there any sample questions in the TOEFL syllabus?

No, you cannot use dictionaries or any outside resources during the exam. You must rely on your own language skills.

What Constitutes a Good TOEFL Score?

The TOEFL syllabus typically includes sample questions and practice sections for each part of the exam, allowing you to become familiar with the types of questions you'll encounter.

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