TOEFL Syllabus 2023: Overview, Section-wise

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Mrunmayai Bobade
Updated on Aug 02, 2023 5:19 PM IST

Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL, is an evaluation of a candidate's comprehension, understanding, and communication skills in the English language. It measures a candidate’s English proficiency across four academic skills, namely, Listening, Writing, Reading and Speaking. The overall range of TOEFL scores is from 0 to 120. The most popular version of TOEFL is the TOEFL iBt, an internet-based test that takes nearly 116 minutes to complete.

The TOEFL syllabus remains the same every year with only minor changes (if any). The TOEFL syllabus for examinations administered on paper does not include a Speaking section. The TOEFL syllabus is designed by trained experts with extensive expertise.

TOEFL Syllabus 2023

Before knowing about the syllabus, let us first see what is the TOEFL full form. The TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language. The conducting body of the TOEFL test is the Educational Testing Services, also known as ETS, and it is in charge of setting the TOEFL 2023 syllabus.

The test comprises a total of four sections aimed at testing the English language skills of the test-taker. These include Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening. The exam duration is of three hours.

It is recommended that all test takers have a solid understanding of both the TOEFL exam pattern and the TOEFL 2023 syllabus before registering for the exam. Every TOEFL section comprises crucial specifics that applicants should be familiar with in order to perform well.

Thousands of applicants who want to attend prestigious colleges in more than 190 countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, and all of Europe and Asia, take the TOEFL test. Suffolk University, Auburn University, Chester University, Dublin City University, and Wolverhampton University are a few of the institutions that recognise the TOEFL.

Interested to know why you should take the TOEFL exam to study at your desired university abroad? The following links are worth checking out to make yourself more acquainted with the test before attempting it:

Documents Required for TOEFL

IELTS or TOEFL? Which Exam Should You Take to Study Abroad?

Why TOEFL May be a Better Option Than IELTS

IELTS vs TOEFL vs PTE vs Duolingo - Which Exam to Take for Study Abroad?

Want to Know How to Get Admission into TOEFL Accepting Universities?

TOEFL Syllabus At a Glance

Let us take a quick look at the TOEFL exam syllabus now that you are aware of what the TOEFL syllabus entails. As discussed, some universities recognise the TOEFL results as reliable evidence of English language proficiency. Following that, it is important to know what exactly the TOEFL exam syllabus contains and the various types of tasks that applicants must perform for each TOEFL section:

TOEFL Sections

Tasks to be Performed by the Test Taker

TOEFL Listening

Respond or answer to questions related to in-class conversations or brief lectures 

TOEFL Writing

Read the given passage, listen to the audio recording that will be played and then type your response

TOEFL Reading

Read the given passages carefully, then answer the questions accordingly

TOEFL Speaking

Discuss about a subject or a topic, what you have read in the passages or heard in the audio recordings

Section-wise Syllabus of TOEFL

Mentioned below is the syllabus and the types of questions that will be asked in each section under the TOEFL 2023 test.

TOEFL Reading Syllabus

The TOEFL Reading section tests a candidate's capacity to understand text in the English language in an academic setting, particularly complicated written texts. The majority of this section would consist of two to three reading paragraphs, each of which would have 7-8 questions and be about 500 words long. Applicants will have roughly 35 minutes to answer the questions in this section.

The excerpts in this section will, for the most part, be taken directly from college textbooks and utilised to exemplify a specific subject or profession. If applicants are familiar with the topics covered in this part, their knowledge of the material should not be a hindrance.

Additionally, a dictionary tool will be included so that applicants can look up definitions of words they do not understand if necessary. To get detailed information about how to ace the real test, check out the TOEFL Reading Section.

TOEFL Reading Question Types

  • Negative Factual Information & Factual Information: The Factual Information question structure focuses on the key concepts, interpretation, supporting information, and terminology. As the key difference, finding the single incorrect response from a list of four options distinguishes factual information questions from negative factual information questions. Do not forget to use the words like 'Neither', 'Not', and 'Expect' when responding to questions requiring negative factual information.
  • Rhetorical & Inference: The inference questions on the TOEFL reading syllabus are meant to clarify and point out the unclear statements in the passage. Inference questions can be recognised by the use of words like 'Implies', 'Inferred', and 'Suggested'. Rhetorical purpose questions are mostly identical to inference questions. However, there is an exception in responding to the question 'Why', which indicates the intent of the passage.
  • Sentence Explanation: For these questions in the TOEFL reading pattern, applicants must distinguish between two extremely similar sentences and pick the one that has a clearer explanation.
  • Identifying Vocabulary: Probably the simplest questions to respond to, vocabulary questions on the TOEFL's most recent reading pattern ask applicants to determine the definitions of specific words that have been highlighted in the given passage.
  • Prose Summary: In these questions from the TOEFL reading question pattern, candidates must recognise the key ideas and significance of the given passage.
  • Insert Text: The purpose of this type of reading question is to assess the logical flow of ideas within a particular reading text. There is one insert-text question in each reading section.

TOEFL Listening Syllabus

The Listening section in TOEFL 2023 emphasises assessing the capability of a candidate to understand English content that they may listen to. When attempting the TOEFL 2023 listening section, candidates will be required to:

  • Recognising the speaker's attitude and level of conviction, as well as connecting and merging the data

  • Have a basic understanding because the TOEFL Listening section will be based on two scenarios: lectures and discussions, both of which will use campus-based language.

  • One to Two discussions or conversations with two speakers, each lasting less than two minutes and including 2-4 questions.

  • Two to Three lectures, each lasting one to three minutes and including 2-4 questions.

It must be noted that candidates may take notes on any audio component during the test in order to answer questions. They will have 36 minutes to respond to the questions asked.

TOEFL Listening Question Types

You must convey the central idea of the audio recording you just listened to for the gist content. On the contrary, the gist purpose requires you to specify the primary goal of the recording. Terms like ‘Mainly discussing’, ‘Mainly regarding’, ‘What is the main objective’, ‘Why does the student’, etc. serve as indicators of this TOEFL Listening question type.

Section 1:

Part 1- Personal Preference

Part 2- Select the option of your choice. You will have a little window of time to think before speaking.

Section 2:

Part 1- Campus conversation: reading, listening, and speaking It will be necessary for you to read a brief text, hear a dialogue between two persons about it, and then speak.

Part 2- Academic Lecture: You will need to read a brief paragraph about a certain subject, hear a monologue relevant to it, and then either speak about it or summarise what you listened to and read.

Section 3:

Part 1- Speaking and Listening (Campus conversation):  You will be required to listen to a discussion, respond by speaking about the issue raised and express your viewpoint.

Part 2- Academic Lecture: You will need to pay attention to and summarise an academic lecture.


The Listening section of TOEFL would feature native-English accents from the United Kingdom, North America, New Zealand, or Australia to determine whether the candidate is familiar with them or not.

Extra Questions

The TOEFL 2023 sections may feature additional questions in the Reading and Listening sections that are not included in the final score but enable examiners to compare scores over iterations and investigate how such questions operate under real-world testing situations.

TOEFL Speaking Syllabus

The objective of the TOEFL speaking section is to evaluate a candidate's proficiency to speak English in an academic environment. There are four tasks in this section, and they each deal with a predicament that students might face in or out of the classroom.

  • Independent speaking task: The first question is classified as the independent speaking task since the candidate must completely rely on their thoughts, suggestions, and experiences to provide a solution to the situation posed. 
  • Integrated speaking task: Questions two to four are referred to as integrated speaking tasks since they call on applicants to use all aspects of the English language, such as listening, speaking, reading, or just speaking and listening.

A test-taker would have between 15 to 30 seconds to reckon during the test before responding to each question, which should last between 45 to 60 seconds.

Candidates should speak via their headset microphone, which will record the audio. This audio will be then forwarded to the ETS for further evaluation. A group of qualified human and artificial intelligence (AI) assessors will evaluate the same to guarantee quality and fairness during the test. The TOEFL 2023 Speaking section will have a total time allotment of 16 minutes.

TOEFL Speaking Question Types

The following are the two types of tasks candidates will be required to perform in the TOEFL Speaking section:

  • Task 1: In task 1, candidates will need to read a passage based on a certain subject, hear a lecture on the subject read, and then write an essay summarising the passage's and the lecture's key points. 
  • Task 2: In task 2, candidates will be required to express their opinions or come up with a response on what is needed for a particular topic or subject.

Following TOEFL the reading and listening sections, candidates will get a 10-minute break. As per a certain modification made in March 2013, the TOEFL iBT's Speaking and Listening parts now include native English speakers with accents other than those from North America.

Since there is no set TOEFL exam syllabus, test takers should concentrate on honing the skills necessary to effectively complete the modules and sections.


The TOEFL Speaking section will test a candidate's familiarity with native English accents from North America, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia.

You can get a better understanding of how to crack the actual TOEFL Speaking Section by studying it.

TOEFL Writing Syllabus

An applicant's ability to write in English at a university level, where they are expected to communicate ideas in a structured or coherent manner, would be evaluated in the TOEFL Writing section. The TOEFL Writing section includes two tasks: 

  • Independent Writing Task: In response to the assigned topic, candidates must write an essay based on their personal experience or opinion.

  • Integrated Writing Task: In response to reading a short passage and listening to a short lecture, candidates are required to write an essay.

Each response must be typed into a computer, which will then send it to ETS for evaluation by human and artificial intelligence (AI) examiners. The TOEFL Writing section will last 29 minutes in total to record the responses.

Know Whether Your Dream University Accept TOEFL or Not! 

FAQs on TOEFL Syllabus

How much time is allotted to complete the TOEFL Writing Section?

The total time allotted to complete the TOEFL Writing section is 29 minutes. Test takers will have nearly 15 minutes to complete the Independent writing task in this section, in which they will be required to write about their own opinions or experiences. Furthermore, test takers will get approx. 14 minutes to complete the Integrated writing task, in which they will be required to read a brief passage and respond appropriately.

What are the important topics in TOEFL iBT?

As such there are no important topics in TOEFL iBT that are specified by the ETS. Since the TOEFL iBT is an English proficiency test, there are no particular topics on which test-takers need to concentrate on. To understand some common topics and questions asked during the test, candidates are advised to attempt practice or mock TOEFL iBT tests.

What topics are covered in the TOEFL Writing Section?

There are no specific topics that are covered in the TOEFL Writing section. However, both the test taker's sentence-building and comprehensive abilities will be put to the test in this section. One of the tasks in this section will be based on your personal experience/opinion, while the other tasks will be based on audio or passages.

What is the syllabus for TOEFL speaking section?

The syllabus for the TOEFL speaking section has not been defined by the ETS, similar to the writing section of TOEFL iBT. As per experts, it is preferable for a test taker to plan their studies well in advance and practise things like how to structure a strong self-introduction, how to pronounce English words clearly and fluently, etc.

Has ETS introduced any new changes to the TOEFL exam syllabus this year?

No, ETS has not introduced any new changes to the TOEFL exam syllabus this year. The TOEFL iBT syllabus has not changed in the past several years. The only modification made to the TOEFL by ETS is the addition of the TOEFL iBT test at home option as one of the year-round alternatives available to test takers worldwide. However, no changes have been made to the syllabus for TOEFL.

How is the TOEFL exam syllabus for TOEFL iBT and TOEFL Essential different?

The difference between the TOEFL exam syllabus for TOEFL iBT and TOEFL Essential is that TOEFL Essentials does include the fundamentals of general English language knowledge, in contrast to TOEFL iBT, which measures academic English proficiency. In comparison to TOEFL iBT, the TOEFL Essentials is shorter and will just briefly cover the various English language skills.

What skills sets are required for TOEFL?

The TOEFL iBT tests applicants' reading, listening, speaking, and writing competencies from an academic perspective; as a result, the skill sets required for the TOEFL iBT include, comprehension, sentence construction, critical thinking, self-assurance, time management, etc. If you want to improve these skill sets to ace the TOEFL exam then, get in touch with our experienced TOEFL faculty members.

What does the TOEFL speaking section evaluate?

The ETS incorporated the TOEFL speaking section to measure an applicant's ability for speaking persuasively in a classroom setting through its integrated and independent tasks. While questions two to four will demand you to use all of your English language skills to provide a good answer, the first question in the section will ask you to develop responses using your own thoughts and perspectives.

What topics are covered in the TOEFL listening section?

The lectures and conversations heard and seen in an academic environment, such as a university campus, are covered in the TOEFL iBT's Listening section. Through a series of questions, the TOEFL iBT listening section is intended to evaluate an applicant's ability for fundamental comprehension and pragmatic grasp of what is being said in an academic context.

What topics are included in the TOEFL reading section?

The TOEFL reading section includes all subjects that can be studied in an academic setting and are generally used to gauge an applicant's competence for reading and understanding academic texts that are typically found in a university's academic curriculum. The TOEFL reading section will evaluate a student’s comprehension and reading skills through three to four passages, which must be completed within 54-72 minutes.

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