TOEFL Syllabus : Exam Pattern and Section-Wise Analysis

TOEFL Syllabus : Exam Pattern and Section-Wise Analysis

Updated on 21 January, 2022

Mrinal Mandal

Study Abroad Expert

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The Test of English as a Foreign Language or TOEFL, as it more popularly known, is a standardized examination that evaluates the English language proficiency of non-native English speakers. TOEFL scores are widely accepted by reputed universities in popular study destinations. The TOEFL exam syllabus is divided into four sections–writing, speaking, reading, and listening. Students are required to solve integrated tasks that test various English language skills.


TOEFL exam pattern

The TOEFL examination score is a prerequisite to attain overseas education for high school, undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. The Educational Testing Service (ETS) conducts the TOEFL exams over 50 times a year. The test can be taken in two different modes – IBT and PBT. The IBT exam module is internet-based and the PBT examination is pen and paper-based. Students can choose the type of TOEFL exam they want to take based on the availability of the internet (offline or online) and their comfort. The exam pattern is further divided into four sections. The major sections of the examination are Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening. The score ranges from 0-120, without any failing or passing marks. Based on the four sections of the examination, the scores are given. The examination pattern includes the sections, number of tasks and questions, and duration of the examination.

The below-given detailed TOEFL exam pattern will be beneficial for test-takers.

Section of examinationTOEFL syllabus of examinationDuration of examination
ReadingThere will be 3–4 passages and a total of 10 questions for each passage. The passages will be extracted from university-level books.54-72 minutes
Listening3-4 recorded lectures and 2-3 recorded conversations will be there. 10 questions will be there under each of these. The topics can be based on inference, academic, purpose and attitude. Multiple choice questions, charts and binary questions will be there.41-57 minutes
Speaking4 questions related to speaking about familiar and educational-based issues.17 minutes
Writing2 tasks for writing will be there. In the first task, the students will present information, views, ideas, and experiences. The second task will be a functional task where reading, listening, and speaking skills will be important.50 minutes


TOEFL exam syllabus: Section-wise analysis

TOEFL Reading syllabus

TOEFL Reading is the first compulsory section of the examination. In this section, the students are assessed and marked based on their reading and understanding abilities. The students are marked on how well they read and utilize the materials provided in English language. Three to four passages of around 700 words each are given. The students need to read the passages and then answer the questions that are set from the passage. The passages will be of varied interest and based on educational topics. They are derived from university-level textbooks and study materials. The passages are from different subjects and topics that the students need to study. The topics in the passage may not look familiar, so students should not panic. The pattern will be like that of unseen comprehension.

TOEFL Listening syllabus

The second section of the examination is the listening section. The TOEFL syllabus for listening is designed to measure the listening and interpreting skills of the candidates. The listening and understanding abilities of the students are tested in this section. Students need to be very careful in this section, as they can listen to a conversation or recording only once. There will be recorded lectures and conversations that the students need to listen to and then give answers to them. The questions will be based on:

1. Basic comprehension.

2. Connecting, analyzing, and interpreting the available information.

3. Pragmatic understanding, attitude, and certainty.

The listening section of the examination will have two parts-lectures and conversations. 3-4 recorded lectures and 2-3 recorded conversations will be there. The conversation and lectures will be in the accents of native English speakers from countries like the USA, Australia, Europe, Canada, and Germany. The candidates need to have a good understanding of international English accents. This is done so that the students are made familiar with the accent that they will find during the study abroad opportunities. The lectures and conversations will be 3-5 minutes long and students can take notes to answer questions easily.

TOEFL Speaking syllabus

The third compulsory section is the TOEFL speaking examination. This section is designed to test and measure the speaking skills and fluency of international students in the English language. The fluency of English in an academic setting is measured under this speaking examination. There will be a total of four tasks that will be completely based on the situations that the students will face while studying at international colleges and universities. The first task will be ‘independent speaking’, where the students will be free to speak about their experiences, ideas, views, understanding and their own values. The remaining three tasks will be ‘integrated speaking’, where all the skills like reading, speaking, and listening skills will be used. It will be like students interacting and using all the skills in the classroom while studying. Time duration of 15-30 seconds will be given to the candidates for preparing their answers and they will need to speak with their head speakers.

TOEFL Writing syllabus

The last section of the TOEFL examination is the writing segment. This examination section is completely focused on the writing abilities of the students. It will assess and test the ability of the students to put down all their thoughts and understanding in the correct English by maintaining a proper structure and format. This is a very important section of the examination and holds a lot of weight. The students need to have a good command on the basics of the English language. Only then will they be able to put forward their thoughts and ideas in the proper format. This section has two types of tasks-integrated and independent writing.

1. Integrated writing

Here the students will first listen to short audio clips, passages, and educational lectures. After listening to these tasks, the students need to draft a passage based on everything they have understood in their own words. The entire passage should be based on individual understanding and own vocabulary.

2. Independent writing

Under this task, the students need to write a passage based on their individual opinion and experience in response to some viewpoint or argument. Using words and tone in the right way will make students score high in this section.

The TOEFL examination is a premier screening method for top universities that measures various skills like speaking, writing, reading, and listening in terms of the English language. The TOEFL exam syllabus and TOEFL exam pattern are well elaborated and proper guidance is given by upGrad Abroad team. It makes overseas education easy and helps students to communicate easily in a foreign land.


Q. Is it difficult to pass the TOEFL exam?

TOEFL is not very difficult, but yes, it is lengthy and can be tricky. It can be difficult for non-native English speakers who do not have their first language as English. The questions cover various skills, like writing, speaking, reading, and listening. One needs a good amount of practice in all the sections, considering the lengthy aspect of the test. Solving a good number of practice papers within a stipulated time duration will be beneficial to achieve good scores.

Q. What is the eligibility for the TOEFL exam?

The Test of English as a Foreign Language has a minimum requirement of a 10+2 academic background from a recognized board or university. There is no other eligibility for taking the TOEFL examination. However, it is recommended to be taken by high school students, graduates, and postgraduates as the level of the examination is high.

Q. How many times one can take the TOEFL exam?

The TOEFL examination does not have a fixed number of attempts for students. The examination is conducted 50 times a year and students can take the examination as many times as they want. There are no limitations. Students can keep taking the examination until they achieve the desired score to get admission to their dream institution. Candidates, however, cannot attempt the exam within 12 days of the previous attempt.

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