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Internet-Based Test of English as a Foreign Language

The following gives you an introduction to the TOEFL iBT - the most commonly administered test of English required of students applying to a college or graduate program in the U.S.
By GPA Admin

Internet-Based Test of English as a Foreign Language

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is a test that evaluates a student’s ability to use English in an academic setting.  It has long been a paper-based test until 2005 when the internet-based TOEFL, otherwise known as the TOEFL iBT, was initially introduced. 

The paper-based test is still available in countries where the TOEFL iBT network has not been set up.  One of the advantages of the TOEFL iBT is that it makes it possible for an applicant to take the test within one to four weeks from registration; the paper-based TOEFL normally takes several months. 

The TOEFL iBT has some new features:

It tests all four English language skills – reading, listening, speaking and writing – to measure a student’s communication and language skills as used in an academic setting.

The newly added speaking section has six tasks during which the test taker wears headphones and speaks the answers into a microphone.  The responses are digitally recorded and sent to the Educational Testing Service (ETS) for evaluation.  The ETS Online Scoring Network employs three to six ETS-trained and certified raters to evaluate the responses, ensuring maximum objectivity, reliability, accuracy and quality control.  They rate the responses by a scale of 0-4, which is then converted to a scale of 0-30.

The new writing portion requires the test takers not only to respond to material they have heard and read but also to compose an essay supporting an opinion.  The responses are typed in, sent to the ETS Online Scoring Network and rated similarly as the speaking section responses.

Some questions require the test takers to use more than one English language skill to formulate a response.  For instance, a question might need a test taker to read a passage, listen to a lecture and then write or speak the response, much like what a student needs to do to communicate ideas effectively and successfully from day to day in a classroom.

Taking notes

Taking notes is allowed in all sections, just like students would do in a classroom. The test-takers can use these notes in responding to questions.  However, the notes are destroyed before the test-takers leave the testing centers to ensure testing security.

The test takes about four hours to complete with all sections done in one day, avoiding multiple trips to the testing center. The test is delivered via internet on computers at secure testing centers around the world.

The new comprehensive scoring system helps to explain a test taker’s English language skill level.  The ETS provides scoring information including scores for every section as well as a total score which test takers can refer to a performance feedback section explaining what the new scores mean.  Additionally, test takers receive performance feedback that describes their English proficiency levels and skills and offers advice on how they can improve.

Test Results

Test takers can view their test scores online within fifteen business days of taking the test.  Colleges and universities chosen by the students may also view the applicants’ test scores within that time period.  However, the institutions will continue to receive test results in paper and electronic format while the students can also choose to receive the results in paper format by mail.

To obtain additional information about the test, please visit the websites below:

For a list of TOEFL testing centers, visit www.ets.org/toefl.

For a brief comparison of the three TOEFL tests, go to www.ets.org/toefl  and download "TOEFL® iBT At a Glance".

For sample questions on the TOEFL iBT, click on


For an idea of the timing on each test section, go to


Source: www.ETS.org

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