Changes to the TOEFL iBT Test
The TOEFL is changing on August 1, 2019. The ETS is making changes to the reading, listening and speaking sections. The writing section will remain the same.
Over the past year the test has already changed quite a lot, in ways that haven’t really been publicly announced by ETS (or added to their books!) For instance, the ETS has made the independent writing prompts quite complicated, but they did not announce this to the public. However, now they are making serious changes to the length of the test, not just the prompts.
The Reading Section
Each reading passage will have only 10 questions, instead of 12-14. It will take 52-74 minutes to finish the reading section, instead of 60-80 minutes. Note this means each question will be worth a whole point out of thirty.
The same types of questions will be used. No question types will be eliminated. However, it seems that pronoun referent questions may have been eliminated. This is nothing new– these have gotten more and more rare over the years (something I mentioned in my book about the Reading section). It also seems that “CHART” questions have been eliminated. Again, this isn’t particularly new as they have been phased out over the last few years.
The number of articles will not change. You will have either 3 or 4.
If you get THREE passages, you will now have 54 minutes to complete all three.
If you get FOUR passages, you will have 72 minutes to complete all four.
This means you have approximately 105 seconds per question. On the old version, you had approximately 90 seconds per question. Therefore, you actually have a little more time! (Good news!)
The Speaking Section
There will only be one independent speaking question, and Speaking Question 5 (the problem/solution question) will be removed from the test. However, at this time it is not known what style the independent question will be. For now, it’s best to continue to practice the styles for both independent question types one and two.
It will take 17 minutes to finish the speaking section, instead of 20 minutes.
The Listening Section
The listening section will be shortened. There will be 3-4 lectures in the listening section, instead of 4-6. The number of conversations will not change. The number of questions will not change.
It will take 41-57 minutes to finish the listening section, instead of 60-90 minutes. You have about 35 seconds to answer each question (just like before.)
Timing of the Test
It will take three hours to finish the test, instead of 3.5 hours. Each section will continue to be scored out of a possible 30 points. The highest score possible will continue to be 120.
Kathy’s final thoughts on these changes:
Many students are asking me if the test will be “easier” after August. My answer is: YES AND NO.
Allow me to explain. Tests that are shorter always seem to be easier. You get less tired, right? Of course! So if you are the kind of student who gets worn down and exhausted by long tests (LIKE ME!) You will like these changes.
However, each question will now be WORTH more. Think about it: Now EVERY question on the reading will be worth one FULL point, rather than a percentage of your score. You must be even MORE careful about your answers on the Reading section.
I am very glad the Listening will be shorter — this section used to be so draining and exhausting.
As for the Speaking section, I’m disappointed they are getting rid of #5. I thought it was the most fun to teach, and it was the most realistic in terms of the type of situation you might encounter in college. From a student’s point of view, it was also an “easy” question — no academic terms, just a conversation. So that’s a big disappointment of mine.
Overall, I think the difficulty level will be about the same. I do not expect students to suddenly pass in record numbers, or suddenly all begin to fail. I expect it to stay about the same.
I would like to extend a special thanks to Michael Goodine for making this information public. More can be found at his website https://www.toeflresources.com/changes-to-the-toefl-in-2018-and-2019
Thanks for reading this blog post, and good luck on your test!