Frequently Asked Questions About the TOEIC® Listening and Reading Test


What does the test measure?

The TOEIC® Listening and Reading test measures the ability to listen and read in English.


What is the test format?

The TOEIC Listening and Reading test is a paper-and-pencil, multiple-choice test. There are two separately timed sections of 100 questions each. See test content description.


Why does the TOEIC program require test takers to use only pencils?

It has always been the industry standard, set by makers of the optical scanners used to read answer sheets, that only No. 2 pencils be used to mark responses on the answer sheets. This ensures proper reading of the response ovals during the scoring process. Like other testing programs, ETS requires TOEIC test takers to use only No. 2 pencils to fill in the answer sheets. Other writing instruments, such as pens, are not permitted, as they can make the answers bleed over or stain the answer sheets in a way that causes errors in scanning. ETS makes the No. 2 pencil requirement clear to all test takers, and if the use of other instruments creates errors in the scanning process, the result is the test taker’s sole responsibility.

In addition, pencils permit the test taker to change responses; pens do not.

Security is also an important factor here. The TOEIC program does not permit mechanical pencils and pens into the testing room because security incidents in the past have demonstrated that information can be brought into the test room, or test items can be removed from the test room, using an unapproved writing instrument.


How long does the test take?

The test takes about 2½ hours, with:

  • 45 minutes for Section I
  • 75 minutes for Section II

approximately 30 minutes to answer biographical questions


Are questions taken from specific contexts?

TOEIC Listening and Reading test questions are based on a variety of real-world settings and situations:

  • Corporate Development — research, product development
  • Dining Out — business lunches, banquets, receptions, reservations
  • Entertainment — cinema, theater, music, art, exhibitions, museums, media
  • Finance and Budgeting — banking, investments, taxes, accounting, billing
  • General Business — contracts, negotiations, mergers, marketing, sales, warranties, business planning, conferences, labor relations
  • Health Care — medical insurance, visits to doctors, dentists, clinics and hospitals
  • Housing/Corporate Property — construction, specifications, buying and renting, electric and gas services
  • Human Resources — recruiting, hiring, retiring, promoting, job applications, job advertisements, salaries, pensions, awards
  • Manufacturing — assembly lines, plant management, quality control
  • The Office — procedures, board meetings, committees, letters, memos, telephone, fax and e-mail messages, equipment
  • Purchasing — shopping, ordering supplies, shipping, invoicing
  • Technical Areas — electronics, technology, computers, laboratories and related equipment, technical specifications
  • Travel — trains, airplanes, taxis, buses, ships, ferries, tickets, schedules, station and airport announcements, car rentals, hotels, reservations, delays and cancellations


How is the test scored?

Scores are determined by the number of correct answers, which is converted to a scaled score. The score report provides Listening, Reading and total scaled scores. The total scaled score is derived by adding the two scaled scores together.

For alternate scoring information for test takers with disabilities, please see the Disabilities Accommodations page.


Why are raw scores (i.e., number-correct scores) not reported to test takers?

The TOEIC item development process includes a rigorous series of reviews that ensure all items meet ETS’s quality and fairness standards. Individual test forms are then carefully assembled so that each test form is similar in overall difficulty to other test forms. Nevertheless, some minor variations in test-form difficulty are expected across forms. As a result, a test taker may achieve a higher or lower raw score depending on the individual form (assuming his or her ability remains the same). In short, raw scores from different test forms are not comparable, due to inevitable differences in overall form difficulty.

For this reason, the TOEIC program has established the policy that raw scores should not be reported to test takers. To ensure comparable scores, only scaled scores are reported to test takers. Scaled scores are transformed and derived from test takers' raw scores through a proven statistical procedure called 'equating'. This procedure adjusts for test-form difficulty and establishes the relationship between test takers’ raw and scaled scores so that the scaled scores from different test administrations are comparable.


Can test takers fail the test?

The TOEIC Listening and Reading test is not a pass-or-fail test. Test results indicate proficiency levels in listening to and reading in English.


Why are TOEIC raw-score-to-scaled-score conversion tables not disclosed to the public?

Statistical analysis is conducted after each Public Testing administration (also known as a Secure Program administration), and a unique raw-score-to-scaled-score conversion table is created for each test form based on statistical equating results. Scaled scores that are comparable across different test forms are then reported back to the test takers. The TOEIC scaled score range is from 5 to 495 for the listening and reading tests, respectively.

As each test form will be reused multiple times in different areas of the world, the TOEIC program has a policy not to release test forms, for security reasons. Since test forms are not released to the public, the conversion table that is unique to each test form is not released either. A conversion table, used for reporting scaled scores, is of no practical use to the public when the test form to which it applies is not disclosed. In fact, the conversion table may fall subject to misuse if it is applied to the wrong test form and results in incorrect scaled scores being calculated.


Who uses the test?

Many leading companies, academic institutions and language programs worldwide rely on the TOEIC Listening and Reading test as a fair, objective measure of English-language proficiency for students and business professionals. Individuals who take the test include:

  • employees who work at hotels, hospitals, restaurants, international meetings, conventions and sporting events and need to use English on a daily basis
  • individuals employed in managerial, sales and technical positions in international business, commerce and industry who use English to communicate in their jobs
  • new entrants to the workforce


Why take the test?

The TOEIC Listening and Reading test will enable you to:

  • verify your current level of English proficiency
  • qualify for a new position and/or promotion in a company
  • enhance your professional credentials
  • monitor your progress in English
  • set your own learning goals
  • involve your employer in advancing your English ability


Why are TOEIC test items and answer keys not disclosed to the public?

TOEIC test forms are used in multiple test administrations and therefore must be maintained under secure conditions at all times. If the items and answer keys were disclosed to the public, such exposure would erode the integrity of the testing program. In addition, TOEIC test items and answer keys are protected by copyright law as property of ETS, the copyright holder of the TOEIC test. For this reason, ETS's TOEIC test items and answer keys should not be disclosed or used for any purpose without written permission by ETS.


How long are scores valid?

Scores are used to measure a test taker's English proficiency at the time that a test is administered. Because English–language skills may improve or decline over time, a score report will not be re-issued if two years have passed since taking the test. ETS does not require testing centers to retain test administration data beyond two years.


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