The TOEFL and IELTS exams have been subject to a number of changes over recent months. Some of them are minor and don’t alter the test-taking experience in a significant way, but some of the modifications deserve more attention.   

PrepAdviser has summed up the most recent changes to the most popular English-language proficiency tests. We begin with TOEFL iBT, the exam that underwent a more significant transformation.  

TOEFL is shorter

The duration of the TOEFL exam was cut by 30 minutes to just three hours on 1 August, 2019. ETS, the organization that administers the test, reduced the duration of all sections except the writing one. Here is what is different.

The Reading section now lasts between 54–72 minutes compared with 60–80 minutes before 1 August 2019. While previously each of the three or four reading passages had 12-14 questions each, now they have 10 questions each.

The Listening section now has three to four lectures, instead of up to six previously, and lasts 41–57 minutes, compared with 60–90 minutes previously.

The Speaking section now has four tasks instead of six and lasts 17 minutes, compared to 20.

The Writing section remains the same, with two tasks taking a total of 50 minutes. The test is scored on a 0–30 scale for each section, and 0–120 for the total score.

Check out: The TOEFL Is Now 30 Minutes Shorter

Here is a summary of the test changes:

Test Section

Before August 1, 2019

After August 1, 2019

Reading

3–4 reading passages
12–14 questions each
60–80 minutes

3–4 reading passages
10 questions each
54–72 minutes

Listening

4–6 lectures, 6 questions each
2–3 conversations, 5 questions each
60–90 minutes

3–4 lectures, 6 questions each
2–3 conversations, 5 questions each
41–57 minutes

Speaking

6 tasks (2 independent, 4 integrated)

20 minutes

 

4 tasks (1 independent, 3 integrated)

17 minutes

 

A new score reporting system

In addition, TOEFL has introduced a new feature called MyBest scores, which combines the best scores for each section if the test taker has sat the test more than once over the last two years. The change is meant to allow test takers to show their best overall test performance across multiple tests, not just the scores from the last exam they have taken. All TOEFL iBT score reports sent after 1 August, 2019, regardless of the test administration date, will automatically include MyBest scores along with the traditional scores from the test taker’s selected test date. This will be done automatically at no extra cost. For people who have only sat the test once, the score reporting system remains exactly the same.

Faster score reporting

TOEFL has also shortened its score reporting periods. Scores are posted online about six days after the test date, instead of 10 days. The PDF version of the score report is available to download within eight days of taking the test. If test takers request a paper copy, they can expect score reports to be mailed to them and sent to their selected institutions or agencies within 11 days of the test date.

IELTS tweaks its Listening section

The British Council, the administrator of the IELTS test, in late December 2019 announced the introduction of changes to the paper-based Listening test designed to ensure that paper-based and computer-delivered versions of IELTS are aligned. These changes, three in total, went into effect on 4 January 2020. So let us review each of them and examine what they mean for the test taker.

  1. The word ‘Sections’ was changed to ‘Parts’. The paper-based test will now be divided into Part 1, 2, 3, 4.

This is a very minor change that does not affect the test takers. 

  1. Removal of the Part 1 example.

Of all the changes, students need to pay attention to this one the most. Previously, examinees used to listen to a sample recording and get prompts before the start of Part 1. Now, they are expected to be ready for Part 1 straight away after hearing the instructions for the Listening section.

  1. Removal of the page number references.

This also a small change that barely has an impact on test takers.

The British Council has stressed that the content of the Listening test will remain the same, adding that no new preparation materials are needed.

Check out: How Important Is English Grammar for Your TOEFL and IELTS Scores?

If you are about to sit any of these two tests, you will certainly need to be aware of the latest changes, especially those concerning the TOEFL exam. But what is more important is to look for updated preparation materials that reflect these changes. You definitely don’t want unpleasant surprises on test day.