TOEFL iBT Test Overview

by Blake Huggins
• 5 min read
TheBestSchools.org

Earning a strong score on the TOEFL iBT test demonstrates your English language skills and opens opportunities to enroll in colleges and universities in over 150 countries.

The TOEFL iBT test measures communication skills used in English language classrooms, and it is one of the most widely accepted assessments of its kind. Many English as a second language (ESL) students take the TOEFL iBT as a part of the admissions process for English-language universities, as the score is seen as an indicator of future academic performance.

This page provides an overview of the test, including its structure, format, and scoring method.

What Is the TOEFL iBT Test?

TOEFL stands for "Test of English as a Foreign Language." The test is administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS), a worldwide leader in knowledge and skill assessment, and it's designed to evaluate English language proficiency. It focuses on comprehension skills necessary for academic success in institutions where English is the primary instruction language.

The TOEFL test was a pen-and-paper English language assessment exam. The TOEFL iBT is its digital counterpart. The classic TOEFL is being phased out, and soon the TOEFL iBT will be the only option for English-language tests administered by ETS.

Most English-language colleges and universities require TOEFL iBT scores from ESL applicants. The exam is primarily internet-based, lasts for three hours, and assesses language skills in reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

Test-takers can sit for the TOEFL iBT at authorized testing centers throughout the world. Students seeking disability accommodations or other health-related needs must submit a request with ETS before scheduling the test.

How Much Does the TOEFL iBT Test Cost?

Where Do I Take the TOEFL iBT Test?

You may take the test at any authorized test center around the world or, if there is not a center near you, at home.

When Do I Take the TOEFL iBT Test?

Consider taking the test at least 2-3 months before submitting college applications. That allows time for score reports to come in and give your extra time in case you need to re-test.

How Do I Register for the TOEFL iBT Test?

Candidates can register on the official ETS TOEFL iBT website.

How Do I Send My TOEFL iBT Test Scores?

  • Before you take the test, ETS allows you to choose four educational institutions where you can send score reports for free.
  • After taking the test, you can send your score to your prospective schools through fax, mail, or your ETS account.

How Long Are Test Scores Good For?

After taking the test, your score remains valid for two years.

How Long Does the TOEFL iBT Test Take?

Students receive three hours, plus a short break, to complete the exam. It's best to arrive half an hour early for check-in.

Can I Cancel My TOEFL iBT Test Score?

Yes. However, keep in mind that you can't cancel individual sections and you won't receive a refund for a canceled test score.

TOEFL iBT Test Section Breakdown

The test consists of 58-79 varied questions, including several communication-related tasks. Find out more about each section of the TOEFL iBT below.

  • Test-takers read 3-4 700-word passages, then answer 10 questions per passage.
  • Test-takers listen to 3-4 short lectures and answer six relevant questions for each lecture.
  • Test-takers receive 2-3 recorded conversations, each a few minutes long, and answer five questions about each conversation.
  • Test-takers complete an "independent speaking task," with 15-30 seconds to prepare a response and 45-60 seconds to speak that response into a microphone.
  • Questions 2-4 are "integrated speaking tasks," which require test-takers to listen, read, and speak. For each question, test-takers have 15-30 seconds to prepare a response and 45-60 seconds to speak their response into a microphone.
  • Test-taker have 20 minutes to read a short passage, listen to a recording, and write a response.
  • Test-takers have 30 minutes to answer an essay prompt about their opinion or personal experience with a topic.

How Is the TOEFL iBT Test Scored?

Test-takers receive scaled scores for each section and a final total score, which is the sum of all the sections. Total scores fall in the 0-120 range, and individual section scores range from 0-30.

Students can combine individual section scores from different test sessions to generate a total score reflective of their best performance. This practice, sometimes called "superscoring," can help test-takers meet score requirements by focusing on one section at a time. All section scores must be from tests taken within 2 years.

Score requirements for admission vary among institutions. Some colleges and universities do not specify minimums, while others have a recommended score. According to U.S. News & World Report, the average TOEFL iBT score minimum is 74.4.

Studying for the TOEFL iBT Test

Set yourself up for success by studying for the TOEFL iBT well before test day. The best way to prepare is to regularly exercise your English language skills and challenge your proficiency level. Chat with native English speakers or immerse yourself in English language literature, television, or movies.

If you're looking for more structured prep material, check to see if your school offers English-language courses or tutoring services. ETS also offers practice resources on its website, including TOEFL iBT courses, books and guides, practice tests for each section, and webinars. Mobile users can also download an official app to study for the TOEFL iBT test.

Frequently Asked Questions

true What Is a Good TOEFL iBT Score?

Each school has its own admission requirements for minimum TOEFL iBT scores, but most fall in the 60-90 range. The average minimum required score is 74.4.

true What Is the Format of the TOEFL Exam?

The TOEFL iBT comprises four different sections: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Each section uses a combination of written questions and speaking tasks to assess English skills.

true What Is the TOEFL Exam Used For?

Admissions officers and other staff at English-language institutions use TOEFL iBT scores to measure applicants' potential for academic success. The test evaluates language proficiency and is a standard requirement for non-native English speakers.

true What Is the Difference Between TOEFL iBT and TOEFL?

The TOEFL was the pen-and-paper version of ETS's English-language test, while the TOEFL iBT is the more modern counterpart. The TOEFL iBT test is also shorter and provides official scores faster. Unlike the TOEFL, the TOEFL iBT also evaluates oral language skills.

true Should I Take the TOEFL iBT or PBT Exam?

Test-takers with strong typing skills may find the TOEFL iBT format more accommodating. Those who desire a more traditional testing environment may benefit from the paper-based exam, although that format is being phased out and may not be available for long.

true How Is TOEFL Different From IELTS?

Both tests measure language competency. However, IELTS covers broad communication skills and is often used by employers, while the TOEFL iBT focuses on academic proficiency. TOEFL is also a computer-based assessment, unlike the IELTS.

Blake Huggins is a Boston-based writer and researcher with roots in north Texas and southern Oklahoma. He holds degrees in religion and philosophy and writes widely on higher education, healthcare, and the humanities broadly conceived. He earned a PhD from Boston University and has taught college courses in philosophy, writing, and composition.

Header Image Credit: SeventyFour | Getty Images

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