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English Proficiency Tests (IELTS, TOEFL, etc.): Preparing for TOEFL

Suggests tools and resources to help students prepare for IELTS, TOEFL, and more

What is TOEFL?

What is TOEFL®?

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL®) is an American English based standardized test that measures the ability of non-native English speakers to use and understand the English language at the university level. The test assesses a person's four academic English skills — reading, listening, speaking, and writing — the skills that a student needs to succeed in an academic environment. 

TOEFL® is developed and administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). It is accepted by over 11,000 colleges and universities in over 150 countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, and across Europe and Asia.


About TOEFL®

The time needed for the entire test is around 3 hours, but it is advised that you should plan for 3 hours 30 minutes to take it, allowing 30 minutes for check-in.

  • Reading: 54-72 minutes
  • Listening: 41-57 minutes
  • Break: 10 minutes
  • Speaking: 17 minutes
  • Writing: 50 minutes

Extracted from the TOEFL Official Website

About TOEFL®

TOEFL® is held in two formats: TOEFL iBT® (Internet-based Test) and TOEFL Paper-delivered Test.


The online version of the TOEFL test for candidates taking the exam on a computer. TOEFL iBT® is the more preferred mode of the exam and represents more than 98% of the TOEFL test given worldwide due to its ease of convenience and uses fewer resources. 

ETS has launched an additional option to the test - TOEFL iBT® Home Edition - to help candidates who are unable to take the TOEFL iBT® test at a test center due to public health concerns.


TOEFL Paper-delivered Test:

Candidates who do not have access to the TOEFL iBT® test can opt for the revised TOEFL Paper-based Test. The revised TOEFL Paper-delivered Test is only available in locations where testing via the Internet is not available. The paper test has been modeled closely with the TOEFL iBT test. Candidates should be aware that in this format of the TOEFL® exam, the spoken section is replaced by the structure and written expressions section because of the technological requirements of capturing spoken responses.

About TOEFL®

A short video produced by ETS introduces the structure of the TOEFL iBT® test will help you understand what to expect on the test.


The Reading section is designed to assess how well you can read and understand the kind of materials used in an academic environment. Candidates have to respond to 30-40 multiple choice questions from 3 to 4 reading passages. 

Reading passages are excerpts from university-level textbooks that would be used in introductions to a discipline or topic. 



There are two types of listening items in the Speaking section - lectures and conversations. Both items use campus-based language.

  • 3–4 lectures, each 3–5 minutes long, with 6 questions per lecture
  • 2–3 conversations with 2 speakers, each 3 minutes long, with 5 questions per conversation



The Speaking section is composed of 4 tasks that resemble real-life situations you might encounter both in and outside of a classroom.

  • Question 1 is called an "independent speaking task" because it requires you to draw entirely on your own ideas, opinions and experiences when you respond.
  • Questions 2–4 are called "integrated speaking tasks" because they require you to combine your English-language skills — listening and speaking, or listening, reading and speaking — just as you would in or out of a classroom.



The Writing section is designed to measure your ability to write in English in an academic setting, and you're expected to be able to present your ideas in a clear, well-organized manner.

There are 2 writing tasks.

  • Integrated writing task (20 minutes) — read a short passage and listen to a short lecture, then write in response to what you read and listened to.
  • Independent writing task (30 minutes) — write an essay based on personal experience or opinion in response to a writing topic.


Extracted from the ETS TOEFL website. The details of each test section can be found here.

About TOEFL®

There are no passing or failing scores set by the TOEFL Program or ETS. Each institution or university sets its own score requirements. You are advised to check with institutions directly to confirm their TOEFL score requirements.

Once you have taken the test, you will receive 4 scaled section scores and a total score.

  • Each section has a score range of 0–30.
  • These are added together for a total score of 0–120.

Each skill has 4 or 5 proficiency levels, so where your score falls within that range tells you your proficiency for that skill. One important thing to note is TOEFL scores are valid for two years after the test date. After they expire, you won't be able to access them online or send them to schools.


To see all TOEFL scores points, please click here

About TOEFL®

Here are the fees associated with taking the TOEFL iBT® test.

Item Fees
Registration Fees vary by testing location.
Late registration US$40
Rescheduling US$60
Reinstatement of canceled scores US$20
Additional score reports (per institution or agency)    US$20 each
Speaking or Writing Section score review US$80
Speaking and Writing Section score review US$160
Returned payment US$20

Prepare for TOEFL

Prepare for TOEFL®

Prepare for TOEFL

TOEFL iBT® Free Practice Test

The free practice test features a full test with all 4 sections and real past test questions.

TOEFL® Test Preparation: The Insider’s Guide

This free, highly interactive course uses videos, short quizzes, collaborative discussion boards, tips from expert instructors and more to help you understand what you can do to achieve your best scores on the TOEFL iBT® Test.

There are a number of helpful TOEFL materials available at HKBU Library.


Recommended books

Here are some highlights from the Library's book collection that my be of interest to you:

TOEFL Official Website

The official page of TOEFL. Includes information about how to sign up for the TOEFL test and the most updated information about TOEFL iBT.

TOEFL Go Anywhere

Another TOEFL website administered by ETS, contains information for you to explore, practice, plan and connect with the exam.

HKBU Language Centre - TOEFL Resources

A website prepared by HKBU Language Centre with web resources for the preparation of the TOEFL exam.