Test of English as a Foreign Language
Test of English as a Foreign Language

TOEFL Exam Syllabus 2023: Detailed Syllabus for TOEFL IBT and Essentials

TOEFL Syllabus 2023 helps applicants understand the test content better. Aligning the TOEFL preparation with the exam syllabus helps students maximize their results. Check this to know the TOEFL exam syllabus of the IBT and Essentials tests.
TOEFL Syllabus 2023

TOEFL Syllabus 2023

TOEFL Syllabus 2023: Test of English as a Foreign Language or TOEFL is a widely used English Proficiency test. Administered by the Educational Testing Services (ETS), the exam evaluates applicants on their ability to speak, write, read, and listen in the English Language. Top universities and institutions abroad require non-native speakers to submit a language test score as a part of their admission process. Hence, many candidates planning to migrate to English-speaking countries for academic or work purposes take the test. Due to the high competition, students must prepare well for the test by aligning their preparation with the TOEFL Syllabus and Pattern.

Also Check: TOEFL Pattern

Before taking the test, it is crucial to understand the TOEFL exam syllabus and structure. The syllabus is focused on the domains and sub-fields of the English language as it is a proficiency test. One should be familiar with the topics covered in the exam and the types of questions that will be asked. Continue reading to understand the TOEFL exam syllabus in detail. 

TOEFL Exam Syllabus 2023

ETS offers two test types: TOEFL IBT and TOEFL Essentials. Both tests have similar sections (Reading, writing, speaking, listening) and serve the same purpose as language tests. The only difference lies in the test structure and syllabus. For the reference of candidates planning to register for TOEFL, the detailed section-wise syllabus for both tests is explained in this article.

TOEFL IBT Exam Syllabus

The TOEFL IBT exam measures students through four sections: Reading, Listening, Writing, and Speaking. Moreover, each section will have different tasks and types of questions that students will be required to answer. 

TOEFL Exam Reading Section

How well students can read and comprehend content presented in an academic setting is evaluated on the TOEFL IBT Reading exam. There are three (at times four) reading passages comprising about 700 words each, and each passage has ten questions. To complete all of the section's questions, students will have between 54 and 72 minutes. Reading passages are segments of college-level textbook topics that are used to introduce a subject. The passage will have all the details students need to answer the questions. A glossary tool is included that defines uncommon words.

Types of questions in the TOEFL IBT Reading section include-

  • Factual and Negative Factual Information- In the factual segment, students will need to recognize information that is explicitly stated in the given passage. This will include supporting details, major ideas, and definitions. In the Negative Factual section, applicants will be given a total of 4 statements out of which only 1 will be correct. They will be asked to identify the false statement. Students are advised to not select answers based on phrases and words that were a part of the given passage, instead, evaluate each option well and answer accordingly.
  • Inference and Rhetorical Purpose- Inference questions will include the following words: Inferred, Implies, or Suggestions. Rhetorical purpose questions will ask students why the author has mentioned certain facts and information in the passage.  Applicants can tackle this segment by eliminating wrong answers if they cannot identify the correct answer immediately.
  • Sentence Simplification- questions in this segment will require candidates to identify that has the same meaning and purpose as a sentence from the given reading passage. The correct answer will contain similar ideas from the sentence in the passage. Students will have to recognize the essential information and leave out the nonessential information when selecting the correct answer option.
  • Reading Vocabulary-Question in this part of the section will ask applicants to determine the meaning of words and phrases. Certain phrases or words will be highlighted in the passage and students will need to identify words that are closest in meaning. The questions may be asked in the following way: The word "X" in the passage is closest in meaning to… or n stating "X", the author means that…
  • Insert Text Question- This segment helps in determining whether applicants understand the logical order of the plan in a reading passage. Every reading passage will at least have one question from this category. Blank spaces or black squares will be given in the passage and according to students' understanding, they will be asked to fill in the blanks with the most valid options.

TOEFL Exam Listening Section

This section is designed by ETS to determine the ability of students to understand lectures and conversations in the English language. It will test students on: Comprehending information, understanding the speaker’s motive, and basic comprehension. Students will need to listen to recordings from academic and classroom settings. To better depict the range of accents one could encounter while studying or working abroad, the Listening section offers English accents from North America, the U.K., New Zealand, and Australia. It is advisable that candidates take notes throughout the duration of played recordings as this will make it easy for them to answer questions. 

  • Gist Content and Gist Purpose- Questions here will ask applicants to identify gist purpose and gist content questions. This means the gist content problems will require students to the key ideas and main idea of or key point of the recordings. Whereas, the gist purpose will ask students "Why is this happening" type questions. 
  • Detail and Function- Detail questions are considered to be the most straightforward of all other questions in this particular section. They will require students to remember facts about the recordings. Simply put, detailed questions are basically specific facts. Whereas, function questions will ask students to identify the meaning of a statement in a given context as statements will have different meanings. They will be the real meaning of a statement in the recording.
  • Attitude and Organization- As the name suggests, attitude questions will ask students to comprehend the feelings and attitudes of the speaker. The questions will simply ask students what the speaker is feeling or thinking about. Whereas, organization problems will ask applicants to identify the structure of the recording. Such questions will require students to recognize the purpose of the speaker.
  • Connecting Content- Questions in this segment will ask students to recognize the relationship between lectures and ideas. Further, students may have to fill tables and charts while answering such questions.
  • Inference- In such question types, students will be asked to identify details that are not particularly stated in the recordings. They will ask students to draw out implications or determine what the speaker is implying. 

TOEFL Exam Speaking Section

The speaking section measures a student's ability to communicate in the language effectively without making any errors. The scoring will be done by a combination of certified human raters and AI scoring software. There are four tasks in the section, which are:

  • Independent Speaking- For this particular task, students will be given a topic to speak on and will be provided 15 seconds to prepare for their answers. Before giving a topic, applicants will be introduced to two opinions or situations- based on the student's preference, the examiner will give a topic from either the opinion or the situation segment.
  • Integrated Speaking (Task 2)- In the second task, students will be asked to read a certain passage about a campus topic. After which they will be presented with a recording of a conversation on the same topic. Students will be given 30 seconds to prepare a response and they will have to answer accordingly. In short, students will be summarizing and combining information from a recording and a passage.
  • Integrated Speaking (Task 3 and 4)- Just like question 2, in tasks 3 and 4, students will be given a passage and a recording of the same topic. The topic will be academic courses. Task 3 will require students to read and listen to an academic subject whereas task 4 will ask applicants to hear the recording of a part of a lecture. Students will need to summarize the lecture in 60 seconds.

TOEFL Exam Writing Section

The TOEFL writing section will measure the ability of students to write in the English language. This will be done through two key tasks wherein students will be required to write essays. The answer will be typed or written on paper, based on the test mode the student registered for. Writing tasks will be scored keeping the scoring guidelines in check and will be determined by a combination of AI and certified raters.

  • Task 1: Integrated Writing- In task 1 of the writing section, students will be given a passage followed by a recording. After carefully comprehending both of these, they will be asked to structure a response in the form of an essay. There is no word limit for one's response, but typically the answer should be between 150 to 225 words. Candidates must identify the main idea and purpose of the sources and incorporate the same in their essays.
  • Task 2: Independent Writing- In task 2 of the same section, students will have to write another essay. This will be an independent essay based on the applicant's personal experiences and opinions, and will not be based on any sources. There is no specified word limit but the ideal essay should at least be 300 words. Essay topics will be based on questions like "Do you agree or disagree" "Do you support or oppose" etc. 

TOEFL Essentials Exam Syllabus

Just like the IBT test, the Essentials exam will have the same four sections Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking. It will also have an additional fifth section which will stand unscored.

  • The listening section of this test type will test the student's capability to comprehend discussions and talks held in formal, informal, and public contexts through listening questions. Australian, British, New Zealand, and North American accents will be presented.
  • Applicants' skill to comprehend academic and nonacademic texts is assessed in the TOEFL Essentials Reading section. The tasks here will include- General Reading: Daily Life, Academic Reading: Tables, Academic Reading: Passages, and Vocabulary.
  • The TOEFL Essentials Writing section tests applicants' proficiency in writing, editing, and reviewing documents in English for a variety of communication contexts, including emails and online forums.
  • In the speaking section, applicants will be asked to read aloud, listen and repeat, and also communicate with an interviewer. This will test the student's ability to speak the language effectively.

Check Exam Overview: TOEFL Exam

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is the syllabus for TOEFL IBT and Essentials different?

Yes, the two exams offered by ETS, IBT, and Essentials have different patterns and syllabi. Even if the exams serve the same purpose of being proficiency tests, the syllabus and pattern will still be different

How many words should the essays be in the TOEFL writing section?

ETS has not specified any maximum length of the essays that students have to write in the writing section of the exam. But it is advisable and recommended to at least write 200-300 words.

Is the TOEFL exam more difficult than IELTS?

Which test between IELTS vs TOEFL proves to be more challenging wholly depends on individuals. Some may find IELTS to be more difficult while some may struggle with studying for the TOEFL exam

Can TOEFL Syllabus change with time?

Yes, the TOEFL syllabus can be updated with time. The last time it was updated was in 2019. Students should ensure that they are conducting their preparation with the updated pattern and syllabus.

What is the TOEFL full form?

Test of English as a Foreign Language is the full form of TOEFL.


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