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All about the TOEFL iBT English exam

The TOEFL iBT English exam is an internet based English exam taken by international students who are looking to study at an international university. The exam is managed by an American company called ETS. There are TOEFL iBT test centres across the world and there is usually a test held every weekend throughout the year.

toefl ibt exam homestay intensive preparation course advice and tips

Why should I take the TOEFL iBT exam?

International students take the TOEFL iBT exam as part of the university entrance requirements. Most North-American universities require international students to take the TOEFL iBT test and many other universities around the world also accept TOEFL iBT as proof of your level of English. Please note that since 2015, TOEFL iBT scores are not accepted by the United Kingdom Government for Tier 4 visas. The TOEFL iBT exam can also be used for work visa applications in certain countries and many companies around the world recognise TOEFL iBT.

Please remember that TOEFL iBT scores are only valid for 2 years. After 2 years the scores are deleted from TOEFL’s records and scores are not valid.

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What’s in the exam?

The TOEFL iBT exam tests speaking, writing, listening and reading skills. The exam lasts about 4 & 1/2 hours.

Section Time Limit Questions Tasks
Reading 60–80 minutes 36–56 questions Read 3 or 4 texts and answer questions.
Listening 60–90 minutes 34–51 questions Listen then answer questions.
Break 10 minutes
Speaking 20 minutes 6 tasks Reply to questions and also speak based on reading and listening tasks (integrated).
Writing 50 minutes 2 tasks Write essay after reading and listening tasks (integrated) and write essay.


All answers are submitted using the computer but you are allowed to write notes to help you answer questions.

For the listening sections you only hear the listening passage once.


What are integrated tasks?

The TOEFL iBT has a unique format for speaking and writing tasks and it is very important that students are familiar with this and practise answering integrated tasks. An integrated task is a question where you listen to a passage, then read a passage on the same topic and then have to speak or write an answer based on the notes you have taken. In order to do well in integrated tasks, you have to take good notes. Remember notes don’t have to be written in English, you can write them in your own language and use shorthand or even symbols. It’s a good idea to practise taking notes, try making notes from listening passage online or even from English language radio shows. ESL Cyber Lab is a good website to practice listening.


What score do I need to get?

Each university, government or company has a different requirement so it is important to check first. Generally for an undergraduate degree programme you will need to score 70-80 and for a master’s degree 90-100.


What can I do to prepare?

1. The TOEFL iBT is a very USA focussed exam, so it is important that you are familiar with the US university system, US history and US geography. Learn TOEFL iBT specific vocabulary, there are many books you can buy to help you or search online for TOEFL iBT vocabulary resources. You should also practise listening to American accents as most of the listenings use American English speakers.

2. To get a good score in TOEFL iBT, you have to have excellent note taking skills. You need to take notes to answer the listening questions and also the integrated tasks. You should practise taking notes and remember you don’t have to write the notes in English.

3. Another important factor in getting a good score in the TOEFL iBT exam is to perfect answering the questions using the TOEFL iBT format. For example in the independent speaking tasks, you must use the format: introduction, body and conclusion.

4. Get used to speaking to yourself! There are no teacher or examiners in the speaking section. You have to give a mini “speech” answer for 30 – 45 seconds, speaking into the microphone. This can be strange at first so try practising in the mirror at home.

5. Practise answering questions using a timer. All questions have a time limit and it can be difficult at first to answer the questions quickly enough.

6. Buy some TOEFL iBT exam practice books and take a TOEFL iBT preparation course. Your teacher will help coach you and explain the format of the exam as well as teaching you the tips and techniques that can help you reach your goal. You should start preparing for the TOEFL iBT exam about 6-9 months before planning on taking the test.


You can find more information and resources for the TOEFL iBT exam online. These are two sites to get you started.



If you need more information about TOEFL iBT or advice on choosing the right International English Exam, please contact your Bucksmore Homelingua Course Consultant.

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