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What Does the TOEFL Look Like?

One of the most powerful ways to prepare for the TOEFL is to know what it looks like. So what does the TOEFL look like? What content is on the TOEFL? And how is that content displayed on the TOEFL iBT computer screen

What Does the TOEFL’S Content Look Like?

The TOEFL has four sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing.

what does the toefl look like

When you take the exam, you’ll see a reading section first, followed by a Listening section. These first two sections are multiple choice.

The TOEFL Reading section contains a series of academic reading passages followed by question sets. There will usually be three passages, but there can be four if you get an extra-long experimental TOEFL section for Reading.

The TOEFL Listening section has six audio tracks. Two of the audio tracks are conversations related to school life in the Untied States. Two additional tracks are short academic lectures from professors. And the remaining two tracks are “classroom discussions”; these are basically lectures with student participation. Each audio track also comes with its own question sets. In rare instances, you’ll get one extra conversation, one extra lecture, and one extra discussion. This will happen if you get an extended experimental TOEFL Listening section.

The TOEFL Speaking section looks–as Lucas has playfully observed in his TOEFL Tuesday Video–“so strange.” The first two tasks are fairly straightforward–you just give two short recorded 45-second talks about your life and your opinions. Then the weirdness sets in. On the remaining TOEFL Speaking tasks (referred to as TOEFL Integrated Speaking), you have to read short passages, listen to lectures and conversations, and talk to a computer that’s recording your spoken responses. It can be a real juggling act, so make sure you get all the info and can really visualize all of the TOEFL Speaking Tasks.

The TOEFL Writing section is the simplest section in some ways. There are just two tasks. First, there’s the TOEFL Integrated Writing Task. In this task, you read a passage, listen to a related lecture, and write an essay summarizing what you read and heard. Then in the Independent Writing Task, you write an essay where you give your opinion on a social issue. You’ll be given scrap paper and a pencil for your pre-writing, but the essays themselves will be written on a computer screen.

What Does the TOEFL iBT Computer Screen Look Like?

Speaking of computer screens, visualizing the iBT computer screen is an important part of visualizing your TOEFL success. I’m tempted to show you some screenshots, but I won’t. Why not, you ask? Because still images can’t capture the interactive, frequently changing screen you’ll see on test day.

The TOEFL iBT computer screen is very much “alive.” There is always something moving or changing on the screen. Exam timers tick down, passages fill the screen at one point, but then get moved to a sidebar. New audio and text pop up, new input screens appear for recording and typing, and so on.

ETS’s free TOEFL Interactive Sampler software provides a quick look at most of the screen features for the test. But for the most accurate look at the TOEFL screen, use the software from the CDs that come with The Official Guide to the TOEFL and Official TOEFL iBT Tests, Vol. 2.

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