Conquering the TOEFL iBT

Conquering the TOEFL iBT

Written By: Barbara Kristof (ESL Teacher, HOFT Institute ESL Program)

May 17, 2016

The iBT is a difficult exam, but if you stay focused, work hard, and practice consistently you can get the score you need to get into a university—or to get a job!

The iBT tests the four skills of reading, listening, speaking, and writing, in that order.  The regular exam is set up in the following way:

  • The reading section is based on three academic reading passages, each of which is followed by 12-14 questions. Time for this section: 60 minutes (20 minutes for each passage + questions).
  • The listening section consists of answering questions about conversations and lectures. This section takes 60 minutes.
  • The speaking section, which takes 20 minutes, has six tasks: two independent tasks on familiar topics, two integrated ones (where reading, listening, and speaking are integrated), and two tasks based on a conversation and a lecture.
  • The writing section has two parts: an integrated task (involving reading, listening, and writing) and an independent essay. The entire section takes one hour: 20 minutes for the integrated essay, 30 minutes for the independent essay.

If you are in an ESL Program, it is important to do your best and apply your full effort in your reading, writing, listening and speaking, and grammar classes. Everything you learn there will help you do better on the TOEFL.  There is usually a direct correlation between good grades in class and a high score on the TOEFL. 

The most important way for you to prepare for the iBT exam is to constantly increase your vocabulary, and there are many ways to do that:

  • Read English-language books and newspapers as often as possible, so that you learn new vocabulary in context. Make a note of the new words, write them down, use them in sentences, and try to make them part of your working vocabulary.
  • Have conversations with American students or other foreign students who also want to practice English.
  • Watch English-language movies. Try watching the movie once, without subtitles, just to practice understanding. Then listen again with the subtitles. After you have watched the movie, summarize the movie either to yourself or to a friend—in English, of course!
  • Watch American television shows. You may not understand everything, but, if you pay close attention to the language, your brain takes it in and stores it away, taking the first step toward adding it to your working vocabulary.

Most American universities require foreign students to pass the Internet-Based TOEFL (iBT) as part of their application for study. Because a number of universities also accept the Paper-Based TOEFL (pBT) or Institutional TOEFL (ITP), it is important to check with your university of choice to find out which version of the test they prefer.

Take advantage of every opportunity to read, write, or speak English, whether in the classroom or in a social setting. The key to success on the TOEFL is PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!

HOFT Institute ESL Program

2400 Pearl Street Austin TX 78705
1-512-472-6996 |