Your Beginner’s Guide to the TOEFL® Test

These days there are so many tests to take and requirements to meet that it feels nearly impossible to keep all these details in your head. Well, we can’t help with every single test out there, but we can certainly help you learn more about the TOEFL.

If you are looking for answers about the TOEFL, this is the place to start. Basically, as a beginner, you will learn what the TOEFL test is, who should take it and how it will look on test day.

Let’s jump right in.

What is the TOEFL?

TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language. It is designed to measure the language ability of non-native speakers that want to enroll in English speaking universities. It is also common among non-native speakers who wish to attain certification in specialized vocations such as teaching, pharmacy or dentistry.

What are the eligibility requirements for the TOEFL?

The basic eligibility requirements for the TOEFL are: the student is age 16 or older and is able to present valid identification with a recognizable photo. These specific requirements vary depending on where you take the test. So it is important to check with your testing center before you book a test date.

Please note, according to ETS the following documents are not acceptable as primary or supplemental identification under any circumstances:

Birth certificate International driver's license
Social Security card Draft classification card
Employee ID card International student ID
Any temporary ID card Credit/debit card of any kind
Diplomatic, consulate or embassy ID card Notary-prepared letter or document
Birth certificate
International driver's license
Social Security card
Draft classification card
Employee ID card
International student ID
Any temporary ID card
Credit/debit card of any kind
Diplomatic, consulate or embassy ID card
Notary-prepared letter or document

How much does the TOEFL cost?

Starting from the 1st of August 2020, the fee for the TOEFL iBT will vary from $190 to $335, for more information check out the TOEFL iBT site.

How is the TOEFL structured?

The TOEFL exam is structured into 4 sections:

  1. Reading
  2. Listening
  3. Speaking
  4. Writing

The Reading section takes 36 minutes; the Listening section takes approximately 36 minutes as well. There used to be a break in the middle of the test, but as of July 26, 2023, there is no longer any break during the TOEFL test. The Speaking section takes between 16 minutes and the Writing section takes about 30 minutes to complete.

How are the TOEFL tests scored?

Each of the 4 sections has a score between 0-30, for a maximum score of 120. Your score report will include each of these numbers.

How good does my English have to be to pass the TOEFL?

The TOEFL is not a pass/fail test. The final score range can vary from 0-120. If you are taking the test to try and gain entry to a university, then it is advisable to have a high or advanced-intermediate level of English before taking the test. Below you can see a comparison between IELTS, TOEFL, and CEFR.

Score Conversion Table

Duolingo English Test TOEFL IELTS CEFR
155-160 120 9 C2
145-150 117-119 8.5
135-140 113-116 8 C1
125-130 103-112 7.5
115-120 92-102 7
105-110 80-91 6.5 B2
95-100 68-79 6
85-90 56-67 5.5
75-80 44-55 5 B1
65-70 32-43 4.5
55-60 20-31 4 A1-A2
45-50 9-19 3.5
30-40 1-8 3

How are the TOEFL exams scheduled?

The TOEFL exams are scheduled by either a mail-in form or online registration. Additionally, some locations are now offering a home-based version of the test. To see the current scheduling information, please check the official TOEFL Website for the TOEFL iBT®,  TOEFL® at-home, and The TOEFL® Essentials.

How long does the TOEFL take overall?

The TOEFL takes just under 2 hours to complete, but you should plan for 2 ½ hours, allowing 30 minutes for check-in.

How long are TOEFL scores valid?

All TOEFL scores are valid for two years from the date of the test.

How can TOEFL scores be forwarded to universities, employers, licensing boards, etc.?

According to ETS , before the test, you can have four free official TOEFL® score reports sent to the TOEFL destinations that you select before you take the test. You can add or delete score report recipients through your ETS account, either online or via the TOEFL® official app, until 10 p.m. (local test center time) on the day before your test.

After the test, you can request additional copies of your scores through your ETS account, fax, or mail.
The cost is $25 per copy.

Who needs to take the TOEFL?

Typically, non-native speakers who wish to attend English speaking universities or achieve certification with specialized licensing boards must take the TOEFL. It is always a good idea to check with your program and confirm the requirement.

What is considered a “good score” on the TOEFL?

The definition of a “good score” and the requirements for each university or license board can vary significantly. Therefore, it is always important to check with the program you are applying to. Please note, some may require only a total score of X, while others may have more specific scores. For example, an overall score of 100 with a 26 or above in speaking.

Some common scoring thresholds are a 90 or above on the overall test and a minimum requirement for the speaking section. Many of the most competitive programs require a total score of over 100, which essentially implies a high degree of fluency.

However, you must check with your program to confirm its requirements.

How long does it take to get your TOEFL results?

It takes about 6 days from your test date for your TOEFL score to show up in your ETS account. You will receive an email when your TOEFL results are available, and you can access your account online or via the official TOEFL ® app.

What do you need to take with you when taking the TOEFL?

A printout of your confirmation email from ETS and your valid photo I.D. Pencils, pens, and paper will be provided. You may also choose to bring a small snack.

Are other language exams as good as the TOEFL?

There is some disagreement on this topic. Some universities and programs accept other tests. It is always best to check with your program or university to see what is and is not allowed. The TOEFL, however, is often considered the gold standard of English proficiency tests and is accepted nearly everywhere.

Looking for more information?

Complete TOEFL Test #13 - Cover - Desktop

TST Prep has all the practice, feedback, and support you need to get your TOEFL score as quickly and as easily as possible.

Check out our site for some free test materials and expert tutors. If you feel like you want more help, Sojourning Scholar also made a list of the Best TOEFL YouTube Channels in 2023 where you can find additional helpful materials.

Complete TOEFL Test #13 - Cover - Tablet

Download the PDF version of your: Complete Practice Test #13 and discover the TOEFL questions you will need to answer on test day.

Complete TOEFL Test #13 - Cover - Mobile

Do you have a question that is not listed here?
Let us know in the comments section below.

Good luck TOEFL takers 🙂


  1. Aryan

    I want to take the TOEFL test after 2 years by that time I will be 15 years old. Which test do you think will be best for me TOEFL essential or TOEFL ibt?

    • Josh

      Hi Aryan, and good question. It depends on what you are taking the test for. If you are taking the TOEFL to enter a specific university, check their requirements first. If you don’t know which school you are going to go to or how you will use your TOEFL test score, then you should take the TOEFL iBT since it is more well-known.

  2. Rodrigo Otaiza

    I took the test so many years ago and I pass it, BUT I didn´t have the kind of professional help that you provide. Dear MacPherson family, I am so happy to feel that I am in a very good hands. I have been reading all the info at and there is only on conclusion; you are the best.
    This NEW TOEFL is a new challenge for me, but this time I have teachers, technology and people who really knows what they do. It feel that I have a back up or a wingman yelling at me … “No! watch out! It is the other way. We care about you. Follow my sistem. Listen to me and you will succeed”.
    And that’s exactly what I am going to do.
    I am studying right now.
    Thank you guys

    • Josh

      This is one of the sweetest and most thoughtful comments we have ever had! Thank you so much for the support Rodrigo and we are are happy to hear you find our resources so helpful. Good luck and let us know if there is any way we can improve.

  3. Andy

    I just got your mail about the new ETS TOEFL book, would you recommend buying it once it is available? What’s your opinion on the Official Guides?

    • Josh

      Good question. The official guides are a great resource so I usually recommend them. Of course, I haven’t seen the new guide yet, but it will have the tests in the new test format. However, if this book is anything like the previous editions, it will mostly recycle a lot of old information. It is up to you, but I will buy it to see if anything else has changed. I’ll keep you posted once I get my hands on a copy.

  4. Michael

    Hey Josh, thanks for this great advice, it’s nice to have all the information in one place.

    • Josh

      Thanks for commenting! Glad you found it helpful 🙂


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