TOEFL Syllabus | AdmitKard
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TOEFL Syllabus

RARachit Agrawal
Updated OnSep 20, 2021

TOEFL Syllabus

TOEFL stands for Test of English as a foreign language. As the name suggests, it is a premier English language proficiency exam taken by the students aiming for admission to various foreign universities. TOEFL is accepted by a wide range of universities situated in well-admired countries of the world like Canada, New Zealand, and the United States of America. Educational Testing Services (ETS) is the body that is responsible for conducting the test, developing a syllabus, setting up the test papers, and providing results to the takers. Millions of young and aspiring enthusiasts take this test annually.

Those preparing for the test often go through a lot of confusion regarding one of the major elements of the TOEFL exam, SYLLABUS. Yes! You heard that right. Most of the students struggle to find information about the content required to be studied in order to take the exam successfully. If you are one of those confused minds, then you can have your sigh of relief because, in this article, we are going to cover each and every aspect of the syllabus to be studied upon for giving TOEFL. By the end of this article, you would be able to cover even the smallest part of the syllabus to clear the exam with flying colors.


The TOEFL exam usually takes place online via computer-based iBT mode. The paper-based mode is available only in those areas where the internet is not feasible. The exam takes place around the year, and a student can opt to give the test on his preferred date with the comfort of sitting at his/her home. He/She can either choose to self prepare or join the TOEFL coaching classes. 

Let us come back to the syllabus and pattern of the exam. TOEFL exam consists of majorly four sections – Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. All four sections are designed in a way to check the overall English proficiency of the candidate. It takes about 3 hours to successfully complete the exam with a 10 minutes break after attempting two consecutive sections. 

A candidate basically has to perform the following three functions while taking the TOEFL test:

  • Read, listen, and then speak in response to a question.
  • Listen and then speak in response to a question.
  • Read, listen, and then write in response to a question.

Each section emphasizes on a different aspect of the language like the ability to read and understand the language, ability to listen and understand the spoken language, ability to speak the language fluently and the ability to write the language in a way which is easy to read and understand by the others. 

TOEFL Exam Pattern

In the English Speaking Syllabus, there are 4 tasks that are given to the students who need to be completed in 17 minutes. Students in the Speaking task need to express their views and opinions on the topics given to them. The topics are always familiar to the student as the students should know about the issue and the speaking topic is based on the topics given to the student in the reading and listening tasks.

TOEFL Exam Pattern and Syllabus

  • There are 4 sections which are Reading, Listening, Writing, and Speaking sections. 
  • The Reading section consists of 30 to 40 questions that need to be completed in 54 to 72 minutes
  • The Listening task consists of 28 to 38 questions which need to be completed in 41 to 57 minutes
  • After these two sections, there is a break of 10 minutes 
  • And then the Speaking section takes place in which there are 4 tasks which need to be completed in 17 minutes.
  • Lastly, the Writing section takes place in which 2 tasks are given which is 50 minutes.
  • For each section, there are two skill-based courses available which are Foundation and Test Taking Skills.

Test takers can show up for TOEFL on both internet-based and paper-based. This test quantifies the language capability of the competitor.

  • Reading 
  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Writing


Reading is the First section that students come across. This section focuses on the English reading and understanding abilities of the candidate. It tests how well a student can read and analyze the material that is widely used in the English academic environment. To test the aforementioned capabilities of the student, he/she is given a few passages and asked to read them thoroughly. After carefully reading each of the given passages, he is further asked to answer a few questions pertaining to them. 

The passages given are excerpts from university-level textbooks that would be used in the introductions to a discipline or topic. They generally cover a variety of subjects. According to ETS, all the information that a student needs to answer the questions is available in the passages. So, one shouldn’t panic if he/she feels unfamiliar with the topics of the passages given. 


  • Generally, 3-4 passages are given, each about 700 words approximately.
  • Each passage has about ten questions, making the total count of questions 30-40.
  • The time limit given for the completion of the whole section is 54-72 minutes.


The next section, which comes across the students after attempting the reading section is the Listening section. This section is specially designed to test the listening and interpreting capabilities of the test taker. These skills of the candidate are tested through the help of conversations and lectures in English. 

It basically includes listening for:

  • Basic comprehensions
  • Pragmatic understanding ( speaker’s attitude and degree of certainty)
  • Connecting and analyzing information

As mentioned earlier, the listening passage has two types of items in it- Lectures and Comprehensions. It consists of 3-4 lectures and 2-3 conversations. Both use university-based language. You can take notes on any of the audio items given throughout the test to answer questions smoothly and more effectively. The listening section includes native-speaker English accents from major English speaking places like North America, the UK, New Zealand, and Australia. It is done in order to make the students comfortable with a variety of these accents which they might encounter while studying in the abroad countries. 

Here is the link to a sample audio clip available on the website of the ETS  greenhouse effect (MP3). The lecturer is from the UK.


  • 3–4 lectures, each 3–5 minutes long, with six questions per lecture
  • 2–3 conversations with two speakers, each 3 minutes long, with five questions per conversation
  • The time limit given for completing the entire listening section is 41-57 minutes.


The third section coming across the test takers after reading and listening is the Speaking section. As the name suggests, it is designed to check the speaking skills of the candidate and how fluently he speaks the English language. It measures the student’s ability to speak English effectively in academic settings. It basically consists of 4 major tasks that are inspired by the real-life situations that the student might encounter while studying in foreign universities.  

  • Question 1 is called an “Independent Speaking task” because it gives full liberty to the candidate to act entirely as per his/her own intuitions, ideas, opinions, and experiences.
  • Questions 2-4 are called “Integrated Speaking tasks” because they require the candidate to collectively use all of his skills like Reading, listening as well as Speaking and then attempt these just as the candidate would do in or out of the classroom. 

The candidate is given 15-30 seconds of preparation time before giving the response of each question, and the response is required to be 45-60 seconds long. The test taker is supposed to speak in the headset. The responses given by him/her are recorded and sent to ETS, where they are scored using the combination of AI scoring and certified Human raters. The accent part is the same as the listening section.


  • A total of 4 tasks to be completed.
  • The time limit given to complete the entire section is 17 minutes.


The last section of the exam is the Writing section. It is designed to measure the candidate’s ability to write the English language in a clear and understandable manner. It checks whether the candidate is able to put forward his thoughts and ideas in a well organized and clear manner. It is a very crucial part of the entire exam.

There are two tasks:

  • Integrated Writing task which consists of reading a short passage and listening to a short lecture and then writing in his/her own words on what he/she understood by them.
  • Independent Writing task which consists of writing an essay based on personal opinion or experience in response to writing response.

The candidate is required to write his/her responses on a computer keyboard. The responses are sent to ETS, where they are scored using the combination of AI scoring and certified Human raters.


  • 2 Tasks are given requiring 20 minutes and 30 minutes, respectively.
  • The time Anlimit is given to complete the entire writing section is 50 minutes.


Q.1 What books can I refer to when preparing for TOEFL?

Answer: Deciding which book to refer to while preparing for TOEFL is quite a task. There are a number of books available which can be helpful while studying for the exam. The Official Guide to the TOEFL test and Official TOEFL iBT tests (Volumes 1 and 2) from the ETS lords is the best one when it comes to reputation and authenticity. Kaplan’s TOEFL iBT Premier, Barron’s TOEFL iBT, Cambridge Preparation for TOEFL, etc. are some of the popular books which are referred by the students. You can choose any one as per your convenience.

Q.2 How long should I study for TOEFL?

Answer: The answer to this question is quite subjective. It actually depends upon the grasping capabilities and the aim of the student. Some people might require more practice than others, while some of them might be able to grasp the content in a short period. Also, if you are aiming for a score above 100, then you require intensive study. It also depends upon the amount that you are able and willing to give to this paper.

Q.3 How do I start preparing for TOEFL?

Answer: The most troublesome task is to decide when and how to start preparing for TOEFL. Here are some basic steps which can be helpful while making the decision:

  • Set your Goal. Also, set small targets to be achieved daily.
  • Plan your daily schedule and allocate time.
  • Read new words and increase your vocabulary.
  • Find the material to study from and start practicing. 
  • Follow up and take a regular check if the daily targets are getting achieved.

Q.4 Is TOEFL hard?

Answer: TOEFL is the English language Competency testing exam. Naturally, students coming from non-native English speaking countries always have this doubt regarding the difficulty level of the exam. As per ETS, the conducting body of TOEFL, which is also responsible for setting up the questions, TOEFL is a test that checks the ability of the candidate to read, listen, speak and write English effectively. Thus, it entirely depends upon the student taking the test to define the difficulty level of TOEFL. The questions can be quite tricky, but those who have a good command over the language and are exposed to it wouldn’t find it extremely hard. 

Q.5 How often is the test given?

Answer: The TOEFL exam takes place over 50 times in a year. It is conducted at thousands of secure, internet-based test centers around the world. Alternatively, a student can take the exam while being in the comfort of sitting at his/her home. However, the offline mode of the exam is only available in those areas where there is no internet facility available. A student can take the test as many times as he/she wants but only once within a period of 3 days. The scorecard of the student is then made available on his/her ETS account within 6-10 days. A confirmation mail is also sent to the candidate’s registered mail id.

JeffreyVery educating,
JohnVery good information thanks.
Abdul Rehman I read whole information for TOEFL It is pertinently effective for learners. Appreciated
JeevanAll together everything is fabulous and motivating. About money for the test and how can a student give test is not written.. By the way. It comprising everything one desires.
Prakash RathiGood information
Poulami MukherjeeVery useful and encourageble information.
Varun Malikll
Varun Malikll
MD ARIF HUSSAINVery good information!!! Plz tell how one, from Hindi medium, can prepare for it. Is it possible?
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About the Author
Rachit Agrawal
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.