Ultimate Guide to the TOEIC exam 2023 

the ultimate guide to the TOEIC exam 2023

As an experienced English teacher with over 10 years of teaching the TOEIC exam, I know that passing this exam needs more than just language skills. You need to understand the exam format, the correct exam strategy, and the techniques that will help you pass.

Here is my step-by-step guide, with all tips, techniques, and strategies, to help you pass the TOEIC exam:

1. Understanding the TOEIC Exam

What is the TOEIC Exam?

The TOEIC exam is a standardized test that evaluates a person’s English language proficiency in the context of the global workplace. It is a popular exam taken by students and professionals who want to advance their careers and opportunities in an international setting.

What is the format of the TOEIC Exam?

The TOEIC exam consists of two sections: the Listening section and the Reading section. Each section has a different number of questions and is timed separately. It’s important to understand the format of each section so you can prepare accordingly.

The difference between the 1-hour online exam and the 2-hour exam format

Most of the information here is for the 2-hour TOEIC exam. The tips, techniques, and strategies are mostly the same for both exams. 

However, I really like the 1-hour TOEIC for professionals or for those adding qualifications to their CVs and resumes. 

If you need help passing the 1-hour TOEIC exam please email me. Preparation time = 3 weeks approximately. 

The 1-hour TOEIC exam

The 1-hour TOEIC exam is known as “adaptive” because it is divided into 2 parts and adapts to difficulty. It is done online.  It is a new format for professionals. The format is important to learn and practice. 

The adaptive, online TOEIC Listening and Reading test comprises 90 questions and lasts approximately one hour. The questions are divided into two sections, and each section consists of two units.

  • Listening section: 45 questions (Unit 1 and Unit 2).
  • Reading section: 45 questions (Unit 1 and Unit 2).

The 2-hour TOEIC exam

The 2-hour exam is the standard exam taken in an exam center (or online)

The TOEIC Listening and Reading test takes 2 hours to complete and includes 2 sections:

  • Listening Comprehension section: 45 minutes and 100 questions
  • Reading Comprehension section: 75 minutes and 100 questions

Before the test, 30 minutes are needed to complete administrative formalities.

How is the TOEIC Exam Scored?

The TOEIC test doesn’t have a pass/fail outcome. Instead, you will receive scores for the Listening and Reading sections ranging from 5 to 495, with a total score range of 10 to 990 (in increments of five points).

This score is not based on the raw number of correct answers but is instead a scaled score calculated through a statistical method called “equating.”

To receive a TOEIC score, you must answer questions correctly, and there is no negative marking for wrong answers. So, I suggest answering all questions, even if you are unsure of the correct response.

What is a Good Score on the TOEIC Exam?

Most universities that I have experience teaching in have needed a score of 780 from 990 for a student to validate their degree. This equates to a C1 level approximately and is definitely good enough for international business. 

If you already have an intermediate level of English (A2+, B1, B2), I can help you get a score of 780 in 2 to 3 weeks of training. 

2. Tips and Strategies for the Reading Section

Understanding the Format and Structure of the Reading Section

Reading Section = 100 questions in total 

There are 3 types of questions:

  1. Incomplete Sentences = 30 questions  
  2. Text Completion = 16 questions 
  3. Reading Comprehension = 54 questions 
Tip: You don't have time to read all the text in all the questions.

Reading = Time Management

Time management and reading techniques are essential!

First, learn how to do each type of question, then practice with a time management strategy.

Strategy: Time management strategy for the 2-hour exam.

Total Time Available = 75 minutes

In my experience, it is best to do the exam in order. So, do the Incomplete Sentences and Text Completion questions first and try to answer each question in 30 seconds. The reason for this is to leave as much time as possible for Reading Comprehension. When you are doing Reading Comprehension you will have to use some techniques to help you find the answers quickly. 

Incomplete Sentences, 30 questions = 15 minutes (30 seconds per question)

Text Completion, 16 questions = 8 minutes (30 seconds per question)

Reading Comprehension, 54 questions = 52 minutes 

1. Incomplete Sentences

Timing:  30 seconds per fill-in-the-blank sentence

Common grammar topics: passive construction, prepositions, phrasal verbs, tenses (including past perfect), conditionals, modals, business sentences/ constructions (formal), the 3rd person irregulars, gerund v infinitive, adjectives, question tags, passive sentence/voice 

2. Text Completion

Timing:  30 seconds to one minute per blank.

Try to focus on just finding the answer and save yourself time. Often, you don’t have to read all the text

Topics: Business Email, formal and informal language. Sign off’s of email.

Announcements & Information (job offers)

Grammar Topics: Prepositions, gerund v infinitive, connectors, fixed expressions “to go downhill”

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3. Reading Comprehension


Scan text for 1 minute to 1.5 minutes. Then take 30 seconds for each question.

We use the scanning technique to help us fins the answer quickly.

Topics: Business Emails, formal and informal language.

Announcements & Information (job offers). Notices with email replies.

The Scanning Technique

It is best to work with a teacher to practice scanning a text. After some practice, you will discover that you get faster and faster at scanning. This reduces the time you need to answer each question in Reading Comprehension. 

For a full explanation of the scanning technique and time management for the TOEIC see Time Management techniques and strategies for the TOEIC

3. Tips and Strategies for the Listening Section

Understand the Format and Structure of the Listening Section

Listening Section = 100 questions in total 

There are 4 types of questions:

1. Photographs = 6 questions

2. Questions & Answers = 25 questions  

3. Conversations = 39 questions 

4. Talks = 30 questions 

Technique: Delete all answers that are definately incorrect

This tip works really well for all types of questions in the Listening Section.

Delete what is definitely incorrect. Get the correct answer by elimination.

The reason why this tip works is sometimes there is no perfect answer from a), b), c), or d). 

So, as you hear answer a), ask yourself “is it possible? or delete?”. 

Also, this technique is excellent for focus. It frees up your brain and makes it easier and quicker to choose the correct answer. 

Tip: practice focus for the Listening section.

Listening = Focus

The Listening section is 45 minutes and you have 100 questions. After 15 minutes all the questions start to sound the same and your concentration can fail. In the next paragraphs, you can start learning other tips to help you focus. 

1. Photographs

Play the video. There are 5 questions but just 3 answers are provided here. 


  1. Generate keywords by asking who, what, where, when, etc. 

2. Descriptions are usually in the present continuous or present simple, for example “the men are digging a hole”

3. Pay attention to details in the background

Next, as you listen to the options a), b), c) d), delete what is definitely incorrect

2. Question & Response

For some people, this type of question is the most difficult. There are no photographs or written questions to help you with context. However, I have some great tips to help you get a top score for the Questions & Response part of the exam. 


1. Focus on the question words.

Focus on the first word you hear: who, what, where, how long, etc. If the question starts with “where” you have to choose the only answer that tells us a location

2. Match the grammar in the question with the grammar in the answer.

For example, the following question is in the past simple tense. “How did the meeting go yesterday?”, The answer should match the past simple tense, such as “In the end, I didn’t go

3. Pay attention to who the question is for, or the pronouns used. 

Example 1:

Q: When did he leave?

A: He left 1 hour ago 

Example 2:

Q: What do you think about the recent changes in the company?

A: I think it’s going to be very interesting

4. Always identify the subject of the question

5. Recognise question tags like “didn’t he”? 

6. If you do 5 questions, 4 will be in question form, 1 will be a statement. 

Question form = Where will you go on holiday?

Statement form = The recent economic recession has increased unemployment


3. Conversations

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4. Talks

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  • Understand the Format and Structure of the Listening Section
  • Listen for the Main Idea and Details
  • Use Note-taking and Diagramming Techniques
  • Pay Attention to Key Words and Phrases
  • Improve your Listening Skills with Authentic Materials
  • Practice Listening to a Variety of English Accents

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4. How to Prepare for the TOEIC Exam

  • Set a Realistic Goal and Schedule
  • Choose the Right Study Materials and Resources
  • Join a TOEIC Preparation Course or Study Group
  • Practice Regularly with Sample Questions and Tests
  • Improve Your English Language Skills in Real-Life Situations

5. Frequently Asked Questions about the TOEIC Exam

  • What is the TOEIC Bridge Exam?
  • What is the Difference between the TOEIC and TOEFL Exams?
  • How Many Times Can I Take the TOEIC Exam?
  • How Long is the TOEIC Exam Valid?
  • Can I Use a Dictionary during the TOEIC Exam?

6. Conclusion

Passing the TOEIC exam requires not only knowledge of English but also familiarity with the exam format and strategies. By understanding the structure of the exam and following the tips and strategies we shared in this article, you can increase your chances of success in the TOEIC exam. Remember to practice regularly, set realistic goals, and choose the right study materials that suit your learning style and needs.

Good luck and I wish you all the best in your TOEIC exam journey!


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