TOEFL 2020: Preparation Tips, Section Wise Details, Exam Pattern, Practice Papers

    Sayantani Barman Sayantani Barman
    Study Abroad Expert

    TOEFL is a profound English language proficiency exam taken by the test takers who want to pursue higher education in foreign lands. To get a good TOEFL score, test takers need distinctive skills to perform in all sections – Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing. This is an exam, where the test takers are examined on basis of communication, comprehension, articulation and depth of vocabulary. Before TOEFL registration, one must know a different section of exam.

    Unlike other language proficiency exams, TOEFL is famous among test takers for its academic approach. Before indulging into preparation, applicants must know the exam pattern of TOEFL. In most of the top universities of the world, TOEFL score is considered as an admission requirement. TOEFL iBT preparation will be different from that of TOEFL PBT. This major difference is due to its difference in mode of exam.

    TOEFL 2020: Planning

    First one should spend ample time to find out strengths and weaknesses. Without knowing their own strengths and weaknesses, one will never find a discursive path to success. ETS is the conducting body for this exam. For preparation, ETS uploads all sample papers for easy access to the test takers. Few steps for TOEFL 2020 planning are as follows

    • First select the foreign nation where you want to study
    • Without knowing proper deadlines and requirements of application, it will be quite difficult to score well in exam
    • Before preparation, make a plan when to take TOEFL exam
    • Register at least 5 months before exam
    • Without proper preparation and practice, it is meaningless to appear for exam
    • Finally make a proper planner month wise keeping focused on separate sections


    ObjectivesTasks and Resources
    Define Target ScoreGet a proper score after researching score required in different universities
    Proper Institutional ResearchWithout a proper research of institution, it will be difficult to score a good marks in TOEFL
    Know about exam patternWithout a clear idea about exam pattern, one will never score well
    Know about fellow test takersGet an idea of fellow test takers to know preparation details before appearing for exam
    First Mock TestGet a practice mock test before starting the preparation to know about basic strengths and weaknesses

    After this basic plan, make a week wise plan to get a steady scanning of each step

    Week 1Find out strengths and weaknesses of any particular section
    Week 2Choose any section out of 4 (Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing) and collect practice papers on that particular topic ex. Speaking then try to give speech in front of mirror or ask any teacher to find out mistakes
    Week 3After speaking, try to focus on Listening. Only these sections are easier than the other two. Try to listen audio clips of English films, songs, or news to understand accent
    Week 4Then focus on reading. In this particular section you will have to passages within stipulated time to answer questions. For reading it is advisable to study excerpts taken from different kinds of books, novels, newspaper, journal etc.
    Week 5Finally focus on writing, the most important section. For this section, test taker has to write different kinds of essays to articulate logic, argument thoroughly through writings
    Week 6After completing these sections, take another mock test to know how well you have prepared
    Week 7After getting the result of mock test, focus on those areas where you need improvement

    This is a circular process where you have to practice and take mock tests simultaneously.

    TOEFL 2020: Preparation Tips

    TOEFL iBT is a 3hrs long exam where test takers have to complete all four sections. In this exam pattern, test takers get integrated tasks. In TOEFL iBT, examiner measures skills of the test takers on basis of different parameters. Integrated question types include

    • Listen and read any specific excerpt before a response to a Speaking question
    • First listen to an audio clip for a response in Speaking section
    • Reading and listening to an excerpt before a response to a question in Writing section
    Exam Format

    TOEFL iBT 2020: Exam Format

    Test SectionNo. of QuestionsTime Duration
    Reading3 – 4 passages with 10 questions from each passage54-72 minutes
    Listening3 – 4 lectures with 6 questions from each lecture
    2 – 3 conversations with 5 questions from each conversation
    41-57 minutes
    Break10 minutes
    Speaking4 tasks with 1 independent and 3 integrated17 minutes
    Writing1 integrated and 1 independent task20 minutes for integrated one and 30 minutes for independent one

    TOEFL iBT 2020: Test Scores

    Test takers get a TOEFL score on a range of 0-120. For each section, examiners measure the test takers on a scale of 0-30. Total score comes out as summation of 4 sections. Scores are evaluated on the basis of performances in each section. To get a score card in exam, test taker has to attempt at least 1 question from Listening and Reading sections each, 1 essay from Writing section and 1 task from speaking section. ETS uses both human examiner’s rating and automated AI computational score to evaluate the ability of test takers. AI scoring has advantages like it doesn’t measure any effectiveness of responses given and appropriateness of any content written by the test takers. Therefore this combination of this AI computation and human judgment evaluate skills of the test takers properly.

    TOEFL iBT Score Reports

    ETS introduced this new feature of MyBest scores for TOEFL iBT test takers. For this, test administration will take only the best scores from the dates when the test takers appear for exams. With this new feature, a score card will be generated with the best scores from each section to provide the best score of the test taker. In MyBest scores, test administration takes only scores from TOEFL exam taken in the last 2 years.

    TOEFL 2020: Test Administration

    • Test takers will appear for exams at secured and authorized test centers located around the world
    • For answering each question, test takers have to read instructions thoroughly
    • While reading or listening or before speaking, test takers can make necessary notes as required
    • All these notes will be destroyed for security purpose
    • For speaking section, test takers have to speak into a microphone. Speech will be recorded for evaluation. Proper headphones will be provided for reducing external noise
    • Test takers will be measured in writing section on marks given in combination of human examiners and AI scoring
    • ETS personally trains and certifies all these human examiners who measures test takers
    • All these human examiners are under constant monitoring throughout rating system
    • Scores will be updated online

    TOEFL 2020 Reading

    This section measures how well an individual understands academic passages taken from university level. Three purposes that are measured in TOEFL Reading section are as follows

    • Ability to decode information from graphical representation
    • Basic ability to comprehend the underlying idea to get details and making inferences out of it
    • To understand connections present within ideas

    TOEFL Reading Section

    In TOEFL reading section, test takers get only excerpts from textbooks. Exam measures how well an individual will read any particular academic reading and depict meaning out of it. In this section, test takers get 3-4 reading passages of different length to answer 10 questions from each passage. Total time allotted for this section is 54-72 minutes.

    TOEFL Reading Passages

    Mostly test takers get a wide range of subjects for TOEFL reading passages. Test takers have to answer each question from given passage. In all these passages, test takers have to recognize the underlying tone present within.

    TOEFL Reading: Exam Format

    • There will be questions with 4 MCQ options with a single correct answer
    • Questions with 4 MCQ options with a single answer where it fits the best
    • In Reading to Learn section, questions with more than 4 MCQ options, test taker has to choose more than 1 correct answer

    TOEFL Reading: Preparation Tips

    • Increase vocabulary from different academic topics
    • Use flash cards for reviewing words easily
    • Try to learn etymological meaning of the word
    • Try to work in group to perform better
    • If you are making a headline around the main idea of the paragraph, make it as short as 6-8 words
    • Try to record reading time of passages to understand how to improve reading speed
    • Always read questions before starting passages to understand what to answer
    • Look out for same kinds of words present within passage
    • Practice skimming and scanning of passage to get an idea

    TOEFL 2020 Listening

    In TOEFL Listening section, examiners measure how well an individual listens to a lecture and conversation in an academic setting to comprehend underlying meaning. Purposes for TOEFL listening section are as follows

    • Listen English accent properly to comprehend major underlying points
    • Understand attitude of speaker and purpose behind it
    • Draw conclusions and find out implications

    TOEFL Listening Section

    Test takers will get 3-4 lectures of 3-5 minutes long and 2-3 conversations of 3 minutes long. Test takers have to attempt 6 questions from each lecture and 5 questions from each conversation. Total time allotted for TOEFL listening section is 41-57 minutes. Most of these lectures are taken from classroom to occasional comments made by the professor or student.

    TOEFL Listening: Preparation Tips

    • Test takers have to listen on wide range of topics on different difficulty level and length
    • Whenever one practices for listening section, it is advisable to note down all important points
    • Always listen to English content over television, radio, films to understand accent
    • At first stage, it is necessary to listen every section with subtitles later try to listen without subtitles
    • Whenever one listens a new word it is preferable to note it down for future reference
    • Try to predict words which you will next hear
    • Always find out reasons for such lecture and conversation
    • Pay attention to a particular information to understand underlying meaning
    • If the speaker pays stress on a specific words try to find out those words
    • Always look out for repetitive words

    TOEFL Speaking Section

    Examiners measure how well the test taker speaks on a particular topic mostly in an academic approach. In this section, test takers are given real situations so that they can easily encounter problems with solutions. Test takers have to choose a task card to select a familiar topic to talk about. Main purpose for TOEFL Speaking section are as follows

    • How to articulate a particular topic through a wide range of vocabulary
    • How well a test taker speaks without any stuttering

    TOEFL Speaking: Exam Format

    In this section, test takers have to attempt two types of tasks- Independent Task and Integrated Tasks. For Independent task, test taker has to take a particular stand with given contrasting behaviors. One gets a minimum of 15 seconds to prepare. To respond to an independent task, the test taker gets 45 seconds. For Integrated tasks, test takers get reading passage and audio clips to understand specific points before answering. Test taker gets 30 seconds to prepare and 60 seconds to respond to each integrated task. Total time allotted for the TOEFL Speaking section is 17 minutes.

    How TOEFL Speaking is scored?

    Examiners measure holistically how well the test taker has spoken in this section keeping vocabulary, grammar and coherence intact. Human raters will mark TOEFL speaking response on different features like

    • How fluently test taker speaks out point including pronunciation, natural sound, and in normal accent
    • One has to use English language with proper usage of vocabulary and grammar
    • One has to develop ideas around a particular topic and has to speak coherently

    TOEFL Speaking: Preparation Tips

    • Start using English for regular use to give opinion on a particular topic
    • Practice using contractions in your speech to sound it more natural like it’s, there’s etc.
    • Focus on pronunciation
    • Choose topics related to academic and non-academic setting
    • Always participate in group activity to improve performance
    • Ask any supervisor or teacher to give a feedback on your speaking performance
    • Always take 20 seconds to prepare for each topic

    TOEFL Writing Section

    Examiners measure writing skills of the test takers written in an academic setting. One needs to articulate argument in a proper manner. It is an important section, because test takers have to express opinions through writing. In this section, test takers have to attempt both integrated tasks and Independent tasks.

    TOEFL Writing: Exam Format

    In this section, test takers have to attempt both Integrated and Independent Writing Task. For Integrated writing tasks, test takers have to read a passage of 230-300 words in an academic setting. Reading passage is followed by a lecture required to answer TOEFL Writing section. Test takers get 150-225 words to a complete integrated task.

    For Independent writing, test takers need to provide own opinion on a particular topic. Test takers need to complete this section within 300 words. Examiners measure how well the test taker articulates his own stand to support a particular point of view.

    How is TOEFL Writing scored?

    Unlike other sections, TOEFL Writing is scored on a scale of 0-5. For this section both AI scoring and human scoring are being tallied. For Integrated writing, examiners measure precise usage of vocabulary and grammar and its appropriateness. For Independent writing, examiners measure how well the test taker develops an idea around a topic.

    TOEFL Writing: Preparation Tips

    • Always read academic passages to understand underlying meaning
    • Before writing, always make a plan what are the important points to be incorporated
    • Focus on a correct usage of tense
    • Use vocabulary properly to articulate opinions properly
    • Practice using QWERTY keyboard for easy practice in writing
    • Never use complex sentence to express a particular point
    • During practice sessions ask any teacher to point out errors
    • Always manage time properly for both writing and reading

    CheckSample Papers

    *The article might have information for the previous academic years, which will be updated soon subject to the notification issued by the University/College


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