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A Comprehensive Guide to the TOEFL Exam Syllabus

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TOEFL Exam Syllabus

Are You Worried about the TOEFL Exam Syllabus?

The vast TOEFL exam syllabus can intimidate even the best of students. But when you break it down into categories and understand the exam pattern, the syllabus becomes easier to manage.

TOEFL Exam Pattern and Syllabus - An Overview

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is one of the most reputable English language proficiency tests that students appear for to study in the USA, Canada, the UK, etc. The TOEFL has undergone significant changes to cut down the total exam duration and improve the overall experience.

These updates are expected to go live on July 26, 2023.

Based on these newer enhancements, here’s an overview of the exam pattern and syllabus:



Number of Questions



Current – approx. 54 – 72 minutes


New – 35 minutes

Current – approx. 30-40


New – 20

You must read around 3 or 4 passages related to academic content and answer questions related to them.


Current – approx. 41 – 57 minutes


New – 36 minutes

Current – approx. 27 – 40


New - 28

You must listen to audio files that include dialogues, monologues, classroom lectures, etc. and answer questions.


Current – approx. 17 minutes


New – approx. 16 minutes

Current – 4 tasks


New – 4 tasks

You will be provided 4 tasks where you must speak on the given topic and articulate your thoughts.


Current – approx. 50 minutes


New – 29 minutes

Current – 2 tasks


New – 2 tasks

The writing section includes essays based on the reading and listening tasks.

TOEFL Exam Syllabus Structure - Section Wise

To check whether your English skills as a non-native speaker meet international standards, the TOELF tests the following –

  • Reading skills
  • Listening skills
  • Speaking skills
  • Writing skills

Therefore, the entire syllabus is divided into four sections as well. The estimated number of questions and time taken for each section is based on the current syllabus.

Reading section

The reading section is designed to assess your ability to read and comprehend materials used primarily in an academic environment. It involves reading through 3-4 passages (each approximately 700 words long) and answering the questions related to the passages.

The topics for the passages can be related to any academic field. But you won’t face any issues even if you’re unfamiliar with the topic.

  1. Number of questions asked from each passage – approx. 10
  2. Total number of questions in the reading section – approx. 30-40
  3. Total time required – approx. 54-72 minutes

Listening section

The listening section of the TOEFL is specifically designed to check whether you will be able to keep up with daily conversations in an English-speaking country. It tests your ability to comprehend English instructions, synthesize information and connect what you’ve heard to your knowledge.

There are two question types in this section:

Type I – 3-4 class discussions of approximately 3-5 minutes in length (approx. 6 questions asked from each discussion)

Type II – 2-3 conversations between two or more people of approximately 3 minutes in length (approx. 5 questions asked from each conversation)

  1. Total number of questions – approx. 27-40
  2. Total time required – approx. 41-57 minutes

Speaking section

The speaking section checks whether you have sufficient English skills to carry out a fluent conversation with minimum mistakes. The tasks are related to conversations you’re likely to encounter in the academic or general everyday context.

The syllabus includes 4 tasks –

Independent Speaking Task 1: You receive a prompt where you are expected to talk about your own experiences and use your own ideas to maintain a conversation.

Integrated Speaking Tasks 2-4: The prompts for the integrated speaking tasks require you to combine all your English skills when delivering your answer.

  1. Total number of questions– 4 tasks
  2. Total time required – 17 minutes (15-30 seconds of prep, 45-60 seconds to answer for each task)

Writing section

The writing section is the final step of the TOEFL, where your ability to present ideas in written form is tested. You’ll encounter two essay-type tasks in this section –

Task I: Integrated writing task

You must read a short passage (3 minutes), listen to a lecture (2 minutes), and then write your response to what you’ve read and heard (15 minutes).

Task II: Independent writing task

You must write an essay based on your personal experience or highlighting your opinions about any one of the topics provided (30 minutes).

  1. Total number of questions– 2
  2. Total time required – 50 minutes

Now that you have a better idea of the section-wise syllabus for the TOEFL, you can predict the questions you’re most likely to encounter on the main test.

How is the TOEFL Exam Syllabus Beneficial for Students?

Since the TOEFL is one of the most popular English language proficiency tests globally, the competition to secure excellent scores is always cut-throat. The TOEFL score falls between 0-120, and although 65-79 is considered a good TOEFL score, the minimum score has been hiked significantly in some of the top educational institutions in the USA, Canada, Australia, Germany, and the UK.

  1. Minimum TOEFL iBT score in top USA universities –100+
  2. Minimum TOEFL iBT score in top Canadian universities – 90+
  3. Minimum TOEFL iBT score in top UK universities – 100+
  4. Minimum TOEFL iBT score in top Australian universities – 80+
  5. Minimum TOEFL iBT score in top German universities – 90+

Of course, with a thorough understanding of the TOEFL exam syllabus and question pattern, you can take the necessary preparations to ace your exam in one go. When you solve sample papers based on the same pattern as the official TOEFL, you can easily figure out your shortcomings and fix them before the main exam.

TOEFL Exam Preparation Tips

You’ll find a hundred exam guides that explore the entire TOEFL exam syllabus in great detail. But one preparation method that suits one student might not suit you the best. That’s why we're going to list all the exam tips that we could think of.

It’s up to you to try them out and figure out the ones that suit you the most.

  1. Become familiar with the exam pattern.
  2. Practice English conversations with friends and family.
  3. Listen to English audiobooks, Ted Talks, documentaries, etc., to familiarise yourself with different accents and pronunciations.
  4. Begin your preparation at least six months before you appear for the test.
  5. Solve sample papers at least once weekly to track your progress throughout the month.
  6. Set a reasonable score as your goal and push yourself to achieve more than that score in your mock tests.
  7. Choose an early exam date to give yourself time to retake the test if needed.
  8. Personalize your study plan and take your weaknesses into consideration before allotting time slots for revision.
  9. Use reliable study materials, official sample papers, and good resources to prepare for the exam.
  10. Improve your reading habit and expand the genres you dab into to boost your vocabulary.
  11. Appear for mock tests to get rid of nervousness before the exam.

And finally, don’t forget to take good care of your health. Because if you’re not healthy, you won’t have the energy or motivation to study for the TOEFL.

How Many Times Can I Take the TOEFL?

The Educational Testing Service (ETS) has not limited the number of times you can appear for the TOEFL. Due to the difficulty level of the examination and intense competition, there’s a high chance your scores after the first attempt do not meet your expectations. In such situations, you can register for the TOEFL again to improve your scores.

However, you cannot appear for the exam more than once within 3 days.

Instead of being in a hurry to retake the exam, you should revise your answers, figure out the sections where you must improve, and prepare thoroughly before appearing for the exam again. Ideally, you should take the exam at least three or four weeks after your previous attempt.

Why is the Best Consultancy for English Proficiency Test Preparation? has established itself as a reputed educational consultancy service that assists millions of students fulfill their dreams of study abroad. To help you on your journey, we have introduced TOEFL coaching sessions, where you can enjoy the following benefits –

  1. One-on-one sessions designed according to the latest TOEFL exam syllabus
  2. Interactive sessions with trained experts and renowned academicians
  3. Conversation classes with native English speakers
  4. Regular mock tests and Q&A sessions
  5. Consultation sessions with our trained career advisors
  6. Assistance with choosing the best educational institutes

You’ll also find excellent coaching sessions on the IELTS, the DET, and the PTE Academic only on The professionals on our website have 10+ years of experience training students for the TOEFL. Thus, you can look forward to personalized sessions that are dedicated entirely to improving your English and helping you ace the TOEFL.

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Frequently Asked Questions by Students

The total number of hours for the current TOEFL is approximately 3 hours (approx. 162-196 minutes). However, effective from July 26, 2023, the ETS has decided to shorten the total duration of the TOEFL to just under 2 hours (approx. 116 minutes).

Since the TOEFL is one of the oldest and most reputable English language proficiency tests recognized globally, it is highly competitive. So, if you want to pass the TOEFL on your first attempt, you should focus on improving your English speaking, reading, writing, and listening skills. Begin your preparations early and solve sample papers regularly to understand the exam better.

The main purpose of the TOEFL reading section is to assess your ability to read and comprehend materials in the academic context. The questions asked in this section check whether you can read complex English sentences, understand the meaning, and form connections to ideas while answering the questions. The topics of the passages provided are generally taken from university textbooks.

The TOEFL syllabus for the speaking section includes four tasks, which you can divide into two parts –

Part I: 1 Independent speaking task, where you must speak your mind on a particular topic, highlighting your own experiences and opinions.

Part II: 3 Integrated speaking tasks, where your recording will assess your mastery over the basic English skills, check your fluency, use of language, vocabulary choice, and delivery.

The TOEFL is considered one of the more challenging of the available English language proficiency tests. However, 'difficulty' is subjective and depends on the students. If you begin your TOEFL preparations early, solve multiple sample papers, and take the necessary preparatory steps, it should not be too difficult for you.

It’s hard to determine whether the TOEFL is harder than the IELTS because student experience regarding this matter varies. Some students believe that the reading section of the IELTS is significantly easier compared to the TOEFL, while others are of a different opinion. However, based on objective variables such as test duration, question types, and number of questions, the TOEFL is harder than the IELTS.

To prepare for the TOEFL, you should follow these steps diligently:

  1. Begin your preparations at least six months prior to the exam.
  2. Focus on the listening and speaking section if you’re not used to conversing in English.
  3. Solve TOEFL sample papers regularly.
  4. Become familiar with the TOEFL exam syllabus.
  5. Read more books to improve your knowledge of words.
  6. Keep a note of all the new vocabulary that you learn.

The results for the TOEFL iBT exam are published approximately six days after the date of the exam. But if you’ve opted for the Special Home Edition of the exam, your results will be available after 6-10 days from the date of the exam.

The total duration of the TOEFL, including the 10 minutes of break, is approximately 3 hours (162-196 minutes). However, from July 26, 2023, ETS has decided to reduce the TOEFL duration to under 2 hours (116 minutes).

The TOEFL exam format is as follows –

Reading Section - Includes 3-4 passages

  • Total number of questions – approx. 30-40
  • Total duration – approx. 54-72 minutes

Listening section - Includes 3-4 lectures and 2-3 conversations

  • Total number of questions – approx. 27-40
  • Total duration – approx. 41-57 minutes

Speaking section – Includes 1 independent task and 3 integrated tasks

  • Total number of questions – 4
  • Total duration – 17 minutes

Writing section – Includes 1 integrated task and 1 independent task

  • Total number of questions – 2
  • Total duration – 50 minutes

The TOEFL contains a total of 66-86 questions across the four sections. They are divided as –

  1. Reading section – approx. 30-40 questions
  2. Listening section – approx. 27-40 questions
  3. Speaking section – 4 tasks
  4. Writing section – 2 tasks

However, from July 26, 2023, the ETS plans to reduce the total duration of the TOEFL to just under 2 hours. As a result, the number of questions for each section will become approximately 54.

  1. Reading section – 20 questions
  2. Listening section – 28 questions
  3. Speaking section – 4 tasks
  4. Writing section – 2 tasks

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