How Long Is the TOEFL Test?

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It can be almost as tricky to figure out how to make sure you get to all the TOEFL questions as it is to figure out how to answer them. As such, many test takers worry about the TOEFL test time. But how long is the TOEFL test? Answer: about four hours for the TOEFL iBT, and three for the paper-delivered TOEFL. As you can see, the TOEFL certainly isn’t short—but it doesn’t have to be endless, either.

In this guide, we go over the length of the TOEFL iBT, the revised Paper-delivered Test, and all of their sections. We also give you four tips on how to deal with the TOEFL test time so that you can beat exhaustion on test day.

 

How Long Is the TOEFL Test Overall?

The TOEFL test time is about four hours. This means that with check-in the TOEFL iBT takes about four and a half hours. I say “about” because the length of the TOEFL is not the same each time—rather, it varies due to differences in the Reading and Listening sections (which I’ll explain more in just a moment).

There are four sections on the TOEFL iBT: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. Each section has its own designated time limit. There is also a mandatory 10-minute break in the middle of the test, between the Listening and Speaking sections.

The following table gives an overview of TOEFL timing and the number of questions you’ll have on each section:

Section Time # of Questions
Reading 60-80 mins 36-56 questions
Listening 60-90 mins 34-51 questions
Break 10 mins
Speaking 20 mins 6 tasks
Writing 50 mins 2 tasks
TOTAL About 4 hrs

Source: ETS.org

As you can see, the Reading and Listening sections vary in length depending on how many questions you get. Reading can have 36-56 questions and last anywhere from 60 to 80 minutes, whereas Listening can have 34-51 questions and last anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes. These ranges exist due to the possibility of having unscored, experimental questions.

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By contrast, the Speaking and Writing sections are always the same length—20 minutes and 50 minutes, respectively—since they do not have any experimental questions (or, in this case, tasks) like the Reading and Listening sections do.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the length of each TOEFL section.

 

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How Long Is TOEFL Reading?

TOEFL Reading is 60-80 minutes long. In total, you’ll get three to four passages and 36-56 questions. Each passage is accompanied by 12-14 questions that ask you specific questions about the content and style of the text.

Although you are not timed on specific parts of Reading, you should generally aim to spend around 20 minutes on each passage and question set. This gives you about five minutes to read the passage and 15 minutes to answer the questions (essentially, a pace of about one minute per question).

 

How Long Is TOEFL Listening?

TOEFL Listening is similar to Reading: its length varies depending on whether you get any experimental questions. Listening can include 34-51 questions and last 60-90 minutes, making it one of the longest TOEFL sections.

In this section, you’ll listen to various audio clips, which take the form of lectures (or class discussions) and conversations. In total, you’ll get four to six lectures and two to three conversations. Lectures are three to five minutes long and come with six questions each, while conversations are about three minutes long and come with five questions each.

Here’s a chart that summarizes this information:

Type of Audio Clip Total # of Clips Time per Clip # of Questions per Clip
Lecture/Class Discussion 4-6 3-5 mins 6
Conversation 2-3 3 mins 5

 

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How Long Is TOEFL Speaking?

TOEFL Speaking is just 20 minutes long, making it the shortest section on the TOEFL. This section consists of six tasks: the first two are Independent tasks, and the latter four are Integrated tasks. Below, we look at how each task is timed.

 

Independent Tasks (Tasks 1 and 2)

These two tasks require you to express your opinion on familiar topics. For both tasks, you’ll read a short prompt and then get 15 seconds to prepare your response and 45 seconds to speak.

 

Integrated Tasks (Tasks 3 and 4)

These next two tasks require you to combine your reading and listening skills with your speaking skills. You must read a passage, listen to an audio clip (of a conversation for task 3 and of a lecture for task 4), and answer a prompt.

Overall, you’ll have:

  • 45-50 seconds to read the passage
  • About 60 seconds to listen to the audio clip
  • 30 seconds to prepare your response
  • 60 seconds to speak

 

Integrated Tasks (Tasks 5 and 6)

These final two tasks don’t contain any reading passages but do require you to listen to an audio clip and answer a prompt. Task 5 focuses on a conversation, while task 6 focuses on a lecture.

You’ll get:

  • About 1-2 minutes to listen to the audio clip
  • 20 seconds to prepare your response
  • 60 seconds to speak

 

How Long Is TOEFL Writing?

TOEFL Writing is 50 minutes long and consists of two essays: an Integrated essay and an Independent essay. We explain how these two tasks differ below.

 

Integrated Essay

The Integrated task is the first essay you’ll write. For this task, you must read a passage, listen to a lecture on the same topic, and write an essay comparing the two.

In total, you’ll have:

  • 3 minutes to read the passage
  • About 2 minutes to listen to the audio clip
  • 20 minutes to plan and write your essay

 

Independent Essay

Unlike the Integrated task, there’s no passage or audio clip on the Independent task. Here, all you’ll get is a short prompt to write about. You’ll have 30 minutes to plan and write your response.

 

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ccarlstead/Flickr

 

How Long Is the Revised TOEFL Paper-Delivered Test?

Most people take the TOEFL iBT (iBT stands for “internet-based test”) on a computer. But those based in a country that doesn’t offer the TOEFL iBT must instead take the revised TOEFL Paper-delivered Test.

This version of the TOEFL is similar to the iBT but lacks a Speaking section and experimental questions on the Reading and Listening sections. As a result, it’s a much shorter test: about three hours long.

Here is an overview of the time limits for the paper-delivered TOEFL:

Section Time # of Questions
Listening 60 mins 34 questions
Reading 60 mins 42 questions
Writing 50 mins 2 tasks
TOTAL About 3 hrs

Source: ETS.org

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As you can see, the Reading and Listening sections are always 60 minutes long because there are no experimental questions on the paper-delivered test. This means that all Reading and Listening questions you get will count toward your final TOEFL score.

You also don’t get a 10-minute break on the paper-delivered TOEFL like you do on the TOEFL iBT. In other words, you must take the entire test in one sitting without stopping.

 

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Don’t fall asleep during the TOEFL!

 

How to Stay Focused for the Full TOEFL Test Time

The TOEFL is a long test. That’s a fact! But it doesn’t need to be a tiring test, too. Here are our top tips for dealing with TOEFL timing, both before and on test day.

 

#1: Choose a Test Date and Time That Work Well for You

When you take the TOEFL can have a big effect on how easily you get through test day, so try to take the test on a free, easygoing day of the week. This way you’ll have nothing to worry about before the test and can rest and relax upon finishing it.

You should also choose a time that works well for you. For example, if you often have trouble focusing in the early morning hours, consider taking an afternoon TOEFL. On the other hand, if you’d rather get the TOEFL done and over with, a morning test is likely a better fit for you.

Ultimately, your goal is to be at your most focused during the TOEFL, so don’t choose a day or time when you won’t feel as prepared for the test or as confident in yourself.

 

#2: Take Full-Length Practice Tests

Another way to deal with the lengthy TOEFL is to take full-length practice tests. This allows you to get used to the TOEFL test time and steadily build up stamina for test day.

By far the best TOEFL practice tests to use are official ones. There are three ways you can get these:

  • TOEFL Practice Online (TPO) tests (coming soon): These tests are based on real TOEFL tests and cost 45.95 USD a piece. Though pricey, they’re some of the most helpful TOEFL tests available, with a realistic interface and timed mode.
  • The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test: A comprehensive prep book, The Official Guide comes with four full-length practice tests on paper and DVD. Like the TPO tests, these tests contain extremely realistic TOEFL questions. However, this book is far cheaper than a TPO test, usually selling for around 25 USD.
  • Official TOEFL iBT Tests Volume 1 and Volume 2The cheapest way to access TOEFL practice tests is through these two prep books. In each book, you’ll get five full-length practice tests on DVD, and all tests are real retired TOEFLs! What’s more, both books only cost around 20-25 USD each.

Once you’ve got a practice test and are ready to take it, try to recreate a real testing environment as closely as possible: find a slightly noisy place to take your test in (this is important since testing rooms can get loud during the Speaking section), gather scratch paper, and time yourself using official time limits.

Following these steps will help you get used to the TOEFL format and allow you to prepare yourself, both physically and mentally, for the length of the test.

 

#3: Get Up and Move During the Break

You’ll have one mandatory 10-minute break between the Listening and Speaking sections. This is an important resting period as it helps break up the monotony of the test, so definitely take advantage of it!

Make an effort to get away from the computer: stand up, stretch, and walk around the testing room. Exercise will reenergize your brain and make the test feel less exhausting. In addition, go to the bathroom, drink some water, and eat a snack so that you don’t worry about getting hungry or needing to use the bathroom later.

Don’t just sit in your chair the entire break. Not only is this bad for your health, but it can also make the test feel endless!

 

#4: Get Lots of Sleep the Night Before

No matter what time you plan to take the TOEFL, make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before and are well rested for the test. Going into the TOEFL tired can make the test feel longer and more challenging than it really is, so take it easy and try to go to bed early, even if your test isn’t scheduled for the morning.

Furthermore, avoid studying the day before the test. Your brain will need a break from studying, and this is not the time to pull an all-nighter!

 

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Recap: How Long Is the TOEFL Test?

The TOEFL iBT test time is about four hours, while the revised TOEFL Paper-delivered Test time is about three hours. The TOEFL iBT is slightly longer because there is no Speaking section and no experimental questions (for Reading and Listening) on the paper-delivered TOEFL.

Each TOEFL section varies in how much time it gives you. Here is a quick recap of how TOEFL timing works for both the TOEFL iBT and paper-delivered test:

Section TOEFL iBT revised TOEFL Paper-delivered Test
Reading 60-80 mins 60 mins
Listening 60-90 mins 60 mins
Break 10 mins
Speaking 20 mins
Writing 50 mins 50 mins
TOTAL About 4 hrs About 3 hrs

 

To do well on the TOEFL, you must mentally and physically prepare yourself for the length of the test. Here are our top tips for helping you deal with the four-hour test:

  • Choose a test date and time that work well for you—ideally, when you’re not tired or busy
  • Take full-length practice tests to increase your stamina for test day
  • Get up and move during your break—if needed, use the bathroom, drink water, and eat a snack, too
  • Get plenty of sleep the night before to stay focused and avoid exhaustion on test day

 

What’s Next?

Got more questions about how the TOEFL works? Read our guides to learn how the TOEFL is scored and how you can register for the test today.

Getting ready to take the TOEFL? Then you’ll need to know how to prepare for itGet expert tips on how to attack difficult questions, and take a look at our picks for the best TOEFL resources.



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Author: Hannah Muniz

Hannah graduated summa cum laude from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in English and East Asian languages and cultures. After graduation, she taught English in Japan for two years via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.

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