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What is the TOEFL?

Announcement! As of August 1, 2019, the TOEFL Reading, Listening and Speaking sections will be shortened. The TOEFL will also make changes to its prep materials and scoring system. Because of this, some of the info in our blog posts may not yet reflect the new exam format. We cover all the changes here.

We’ve answered a lot of questions about the TOEFL on this blog, but up until now, we’ve never provided an answer to perhaps the most beginner question of all: what is the TOEFL? The TOEFL takes many forms, and the answer is not as simple as you might think. In this post, I’ll talk mainly about the TOEFL iBT (iBT = “internet based test”), and include some resources at the end if you want to learn more about the other versions of the exam. Read on to learn more about this test, and click the infographic below for a larger version. 🙂

What is the TOEFL


What is the TOEFL Test?

“TOEFL” stands for “Test of English as a Foreign Language,” and it is designed to measure English language skills of non-native speakers. In particular, it measures four skills – speaking, reading, writing, and listening. However, it also tests skills that are bigger than just speaking or reading in English — such as your ability to understand new information, to create information, and to infer. You can read more about these skills here.

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The test has 4 sections, lasts 4 hours and 30 minutes, and costs $150-$225 (depending on where you live). It’s scored on a scale of 0 to 120.

Who makes the TOEFL?

The TOEFL is made by ETS, which stands for “Educational Testing Service.”  ETS also makes the GRE, as well as a number of other tests.

Who takes the TOEFL?

Since the TOEFL has a strong focus on academic English abilities, international students planning to go to undergraduate or graduate programs make up a large bulk of TOEFL test takers. Others who may take the TOEFL include scholarship seekers and students and workers applying for visas. You can find out if you need to take the TOEFL here.

Where can I take the TOEFL?

The TOEFL iBT is offered in a lot of countries, and you can find your closest testing center here. If you live in a country with limited access to the internet, you’ll need to take the PBT (which we’ll learn more about below!). You can find a list of countries that only offer the PBT in this blog post. If you’re looking to just take a practice test for now, check out our blog post with the best TOEFL sample tests.

What other types of TOEFLs (besides the iBT) are there?

There are quite a few different types of TOEFLs, but luckily, almost all students take the iBT. 🙂 The other types of TOEFL include the PBT (paper based test), the CBT (computer based test), and the ITP. We have an entire video and blog post explaining the different types of TOEFLs.
And there you have it — now you know what the TOEFL is!  If you have any more questions like this, I’d definitely suggest checking out our posts on Frequently Asked Questions about the TOEFL. If you can’t find the answer to your question there, let us know in the comments below. 🙂

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