Updated on - January 19th 2020 by Rachit Agrawal


TOEFL Syllabus

There is no prescribed syllabus for the exam but you should know the pattern as it gives you an idea about how you should prepare for the exam. There are four sections:


You will find 3-4 passages of 700 words each from academic texts with 12-14 questions after each passage. These are unseen passages which are randomly taken. The intention is to check the comprehension skills of the candidate. You’ve to read the passages and frame answers completely based on them. You’ll get an hour, or maybe 20 minutes more to read and answer the questions.


The candidate is expected to listen to 4-6 lectures which are of 500-800 words each and lasting for about 5 minutes. The content is of academic lectures, classroom discussions, and conversations. It is followed by a question & answer round containing about 6 questions related to the topic. This is where the listening skills of the candidate are tested. This section is given for about an hour and 30 minutes.


The section contains 6 tasks which last about 20 minutes. There are 2 tasks. The first one involves two independent tasks while the other one consists of 4 integrated tasks where one has to read or listen to passages and talks and then answer questions related to the same. Then one has to listen to a lecture and answer a question asked about it. An opinion is needed to be expressed in the task relating to the given topics.


Reading and listening tasks are provided based on which the candidate has to write essays. Facts are provided to support one’s argument and hence the candidate is expected to be well-informed to do well in this section. Two independent tasks take place for a period of one hour. In the first one, candidates read or listen to some passage/content and then write about it. In the second one, the candidates get thirty minutes to write something expressing their knowledge and experience.

TOEFL Pattern Highlights


No. Of Questions

Time allotted

Types of Questions



60 to 80 minutes

It has about 36 to 56

questions where you’ve to

read passages, comprehend

them and then phrase

answers to the given




60–90 minutes

It has 34 to 51 queries where

you’d listen to lectures and

answer the questions.



20 minutes

Involves 6 tasks where you’d

have to express your views on

the given topic.

Writing - Provides 2 tasks

where you’ve to write essays.



50 minutes

You’d have to write essays

with opinions backing them

with facts.


TOEFL Test Format

Though most of the countries accept the iBT test which is more common, these are few countries or places with a deficiency in internet facilities conduct the paper-based TOEFL. There are two test formats.

iBT Test Format

There are four sections namely reading, writing, speaking and listening. These are provided to check the candidate’s proficiency in all the sections. The test is given in computer labs. Every candidate is provided with a PC to give his/her exam. Each section is of about 30 marks each and a minimum score of 80 out of the total 120 is needed to pass the exam and achieve the certificate.

PDT Test Format

PDT consists of 3 sections namely Listening, Reading and Writing. The speaking section is absent. The listening section tests the ability of the student to understand English in university classrooms and contains about 34 questions where the candidate is given 1 hour to complete. Reading section requires one to understand non-technical reading material and contains 34 questions and also needs 60 minutes to be finished. The writing section tests the ability of the candidate to write English academically and has 2 tasks which require 50 minutes.




  1. Where can I find the previous question papers for TOEFL?
    You can find the previous year’s question papers from the website: http://entrance-exam.net/toefl-papers.

  2. What are the best books for preparing for the TOEFL?
    Some of the books recommended are Complete Guide to the TOEFL Test, Vocabulary, and Grammar for the TOEFL Test, Oxford Preparation for the TOEFL iBT Exam, NorthStar Building Skills for the TOEFL iBT.

  3. Which universities accept TOEFL paper-based in the USA?
    Almost all North American universities accept TOEFL. Many universities like Harvard University, Hofstra University, Howard University, Idaho State University, Samford University, Stanford University clearly accept the TOEFL PDF.

  4. Does the test contain MCQs? If yes, what’s their score range?
    Yes, most of the reading questions are multiple-choice questions format containing 1 raw point each.

  5. Would I get a refund if I cancel the test?
    You can get a refund of only 50% if you cancel 4 days before the conduction of the test.
  6. What should I carry on the exam day?
    You need to carry your identification documents like passport, photo identification card, your confirmation email printout, and a small snack.

  7. What things should I not carry in the test center?
    Don’t bring any valuables and a lot of money. Also, you don’t need to carry stationery as you’ll be provided with a pen, paper, and pencils at the test center itself.

  8. What’s the fee of the test in India?
    You've got to pay a fee of $180 to sit for the test in India in reference to the year 2019.

  9. Can I get a review if I’m not satisfied with the test score?
    Yes. You can send for a review at a fee of $80 for each section.

  10. How can I improve my vocabulary for the test?
    Using vocabulary flashcards, learning vocabulary words given on university websites, reading articles online, news stories and novels may help improve your vocabulary.  

  11. How should I manage my time in the reading section?
    You should know the art of scanning important details by just going through the text once and not spend more than 20 minutes on each passage. This can be achieved through rigorous practice.

  12. How can I perform well in the listening section?
    You should understand what you heard in one go. There’s no way you can re-listen to the audio or pause it in between so you should practice the same way.

  13. How are my speaking responses scored?
    The recorded answers are sent to ETS where some certified human raters score you from 0 to 4. The average score of the 4 tasks is then calculated on a range of 0 to 30. They see the effectiveness of your communication and your ability to perform the given tasks.

  14. Can I take notes during the test?
    You are given a blank sheet of paper which is destroyed at the end of the exam during the test center only. You can make notes on it throughout the test.

  15. Are headphones provided for the listening test?
    A pair of noise-canceling headphones with a microphone is provided for the listening test.


Study Abroad Expert & Co-Founder @ AdmitKard

Rachit believes in the power of education and has studied from the top institutes of IIIT Allahabad, IIM Calcutta, and Francois Rabelias in France. He has worked as Software Developer with Microsoft and Adobe. Post his MBA, he worked with the world's # 1 consulting firm, The Boston Consulting Group across multiple geographies US, South-East Asia and Europe.