Choosing the Right TOEFL Exam: Options for Academic and Professional Needs

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Types of TOEFL Exam: The TOEFL exam is a powerful stepping stone for study-abroad aspirants, unlocking doors to world-class universities and making their dream of international education a reality. This crucial test assesses your English communication skills and serves as a testament to your proficiency in the English language. 


This guide will equip you with the knowledge you need to navigate the different types of TOEFL exams, ensuring you choose the right path to academic success. By understanding the various test formats and their strengths, you’ll be well-positioned to showcase your English language skills and unlock the doors to your dream university. That said, read the complete blog to learn more about the different types of TOEFL exams. 

Understanding Each Type of TOEFL Exam: An Overview

The TOEFL exam is a crucial step for many students aiming to study abroad at English-speaking universities. But did you know there’s more than one type of TOEFL exam? This guide will provide a clear overview of the four main TOEFL formats:

  • TOEFL iBT (Internet-Based Test): The most popular and widely accepted version, the TOEFL iBT is a computer-delivered test that assesses all four key English language skills: reading, listening, speaking, and writing. Imagine yourself in a university classroom setting – the TOEFL iBT simulates that environment by testing your ability to understand academic lectures and textbooks, participate in discussions, and express yourself clearly in writing. This test typically takes around 3 hours to complete.
  • TOEFL PBT (Paper-based Test): The TOEFL PBT (Paper-based Test) is no longer offered as of April 2021. It was an older version of the TOEFL with limited availability compared to the internet-based TOEFL iBT. This discontinued test focused on three key areas: reading comprehension, listening comprehension, and written English structure. It did not include a speaking section and had a shorter overall testing time than the iBT. The scoring system also differed, with a total score ranging from 310 to 677 and a separate writing score from 0 to 6.
  • TOEFL CBT (Computer-Based Test):  The TOEFL CBT (Computer-Based Test) is a discontinued testing format phased out in September 2006. It served as a stepping stone between the paper-based TOEFL (PBT) and the current internet-based TOEFL iBT. Similar to the iBT, the CBT was computer-delivered, but with potentially less advanced testing functionalities compared to the iBT. It assessed the same core skills of reading, listening, writing, and speaking as the iBT, though the speaking section format might have differed. The TOEFL CBT also likely had a similar testing duration (around 3.5 hours) to the discontinued PBT, which is longer than the current iBT.
  • TOEFL Essentials: Launched in 2021, the TOEFL Essentials is a faster and more focused alternative. This internet-based exam takes approximately 90 minutes and evaluates your general English proficiency in both academic and everyday contexts. Unlike the TOEFL iBT’s strictly academic focus, the Essentials test gives you a chance to showcase your ability to handle English in various situations, both on campus and beyond.

TOEFL iBT vs PBT vs CBT: What are the Major Differences? 

TOEFL iBT is the only rendition of the proficiency test that is currently conducted across the globe. Refer to the table below to go through the major differences between each type of the TOEFL exam. Going through these differences will give you a solid understanding of each type of the TOEFL exam. 

Test Availability The most widely available and current format. It is conducted year-round at numerous test centres.Phased out in September 2006, replaced by the more advanced TOEFL iBT.Discontinued in April 2021 due to lower accessibility and security concerns.
Skills Tested Assesses all four key English language skills: reading, listening, speaking, and writing. Likely assessed the same core skills as the iBT (reading, listening, writing, speaking) but might have had a different speaking section format compared to the current iBT.Tested only reading comprehension, listening comprehension, and written English structure (grammar). No speaking component.
Test Length Approximately 3 hours.Potentially similar testing duration to the PBT (around 3.5 hours) but unconfirmed information.Shorter than the iBT, estimated at around 2-2.5 hours.
Scoring SystemScores range from 0-30 for each section (reading, listening, speaking, writing), with a total score of 0-120.The scoring system likely resembled the iBT. Scoring differed significantly. The total score ranged from 310 to 677, with a separate writing score from 0 to 6.
University Acceptance Widely accepted by over 11,500 institutions worldwide.Not accepted by universities since its discontinuation in 2006.
No longer accepted by universities due to its discontinuation.

TOEFL iBT Vs TOEFL Essentials: What to Choose in 2024? 

Feeling overwhelmed by the task of choosing between either TOEFL iBT or TOEFL Essentials? You’re not alone! Both tests assess English proficiency but cater to slightly different needs. Let’s delve deeper into each option to help you pick the perfect TOEFL exam for your academic aspirations.

What is TOEFL iBT? 

The TOEFL iBT (internet-based test) reigns supreme as the most widely accepted format. This computer-delivered exam is like a university entrance exam rolled into one. It meticulously assesses all four pillars of English language proficiency: reading, listening, speaking, and writing. Imagine yourself in a bustling university lecture hall – the iBT simulates this environment by testing your ability to grasp complex academic lectures, actively participate in discussions, and express yourself clearly in writing assignments. With a duration of roughly 3 hours, the iBT provides a comprehensive picture of your English skills, ensuring universities can confidently evaluate your readiness for academic success.

What is TOEFL Essential? 

Launched in 2021, the TOEFL Essentials test offers a fresher, faster approach. This internet-based exam condenses the testing time to a manageable 90 minutes, making it ideal for those with limited time or a strong understanding of English. Unlike the iBT’s purely academic focus, Essentials strikes a balance between assessing academic and everyday English skills. You’ll encounter tasks that reflect both classroom scenarios and real-world communication. This broader scope can be particularly appealing if you’re applying to universities with diverse programs, or if you simply want to showcase your ability to handle English in various situations beyond academics.

What to Choose: TOEFL iBT or TOEFL Essential

So, which test should you take? To help you navigate this crucial decision, consider these key factors:

  • University Acceptance: The TOEFL iBT enjoys near-universal acceptance by universities worldwide. If you’re targeting top institutions with rigorous academic programs, the iBT is the safer choice.
  • Testing Time: The faster-paced TOEFL Essentials (90 minutes) might be a better fit if time constraints are a concern. However, ensure the universities you’re applying to accept this format.
  • Focus of Study: If your academic journey leans heavily towards specialized subjects, the iBT’s in-depth academic assessment can be the best fit for you. If you’re applying to a broader range of programs, Essentials’ balance between academic and everyday English might be a good fit.
TOEFL iBT vs Essentials

How to Send TOEFL Scores to Universities in 2024? 

Study abroad aspirants must send their TOEFL score reports to their preferred university for admission purposes. You can send your TOEFL scores to your desired university by following either of the two methods mentioned below. Have a Look. 

Before Test Day

Students who opt to send their TOEFL scores to their preferred university before the test day must: 

  • Have an online TOEFL account. Test-takers can alter their choice of university until 10 p.m. before the test day. 
  • Submit their TOEFL score reports via mail. Individuals are advised to not send their scores via any electronic alternative. 
  • Individuals who send their TOEFL scores in advance have to wait 13 days after their test date for the scores to be delivered to universities. 

Post-Test Day

Individuals who wish to submit their TOEFL score reports to universities post the test day can do so by: 

  • Logging into their TOEFL accounts and selecting the option of ‘Order Score Reports’. 
  • Such a prompt will send your TOEFL score reports to your selected universities 4-5 business days after the request is made.  

How is the TOEFL Exam Scored? 

The TOEFL test, divided into 4 sections, assesses your English proficiency through a combination of automated AI scoring and human evaluation. Each section, covering Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing, is scored on a scale of 0 to 30, with a maximum total score of 120. For the Reading and Listening sections, advanced computer algorithms analyse your responses. For the Speaking and Writing sections, trained human raters assess your performance based on specific criteria. The table below indicates the general correlation between TOEFL score ranges and English proficiency levels.

Section Advanced High-IntermediateLow-IntermediateBelow-Low Intermediate
Reading 24-3018-234-170-3
Writing 24-3017-2313-167-12
Listening 22-3017-219-160-8
Speaking 25-3020-2416-1910-15

So that was all about the different types of TOEFL exam. Hope the blog has answered your queries regarding the topic. 

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Q1: Which TOEFL exam is the longest?

Ans: The TOEFL iBT is the lengthiest test, clocking in at around 3 hours.

Q2: Which TOEFL exam is more widely accepted by universities?

Ans: The TOEFL iBT is conducted across the globe today. It enjoys near-universal acceptance by universities worldwide. The PBT, however, is a discontinued format with declining acceptance.

Q3. How many types of TOEFL exams are there?

Ans. Currently, there’s only one actively offered TOEFL exam: the TOEFL iBT (internet-based test).

Visit the Leverage Live page of Leverage edu or contact our study abroad experts at 1800-57-2000 to strengthen your scores and application to secure your spot in your dream college. 

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