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Should You Take the TOEFL iBT or PBT?

Differences When You Take the TOEFL Internet-Based Test and Paper-Based Test

The TOEFL Internet-based test, or iBT, is becoming more and more common around the world. In fact, the Paper-Based Test, or PBT, is being phased out. However, you can still take the TOEFL paper-based test, or PBT, in cities in several countries where testing via the internet is not available.

However, you might not have a choice. Some places offer only the iBT.

Even if you do have a choice, the iBT is probably your best option if you need to take the TOEFL as soon as possible. Why? The iBT is offered 30 to 40 times a year. You can take the TOEFL PBT on only two dates.

Take the TOEFL: What the Tests Include

Both the TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT examine your knowledge of English in an academic setting. However, they have different formats.

Internet-based TOEFL

  • Reading: 36-70 questions, 60-100 minutes
  • Listening: 34-51 questions, 60-90 minutes
  • 10-minute break
  • Speaking: 6 tasks, 20 minutes
  • Writing: 2 tasks, 60 minutes

Paper-based TOEFL

  • Listening Comprehension: 50 questions, 30-40 minutes
  • Structure and Written Expression: 40 questions, 25 minutes
  • Reading Comprehension: 50 questions, 55 minutes
  • Writing (Test of Written English): 1 topic, 30 minutes

As you can see, the iBT includes a speaking section, but the PBT does not. Your comfort in speaking English might affect which TOEFL test you choose to take. However, universities prefer the iBT because it measures all of your communication skills.

TOEFL Test Lengths, Prices and Scores

The iBT takes about 4½ hours to complete. The TOEFL PBT clocks in at about 3½ hours.

The cost of the PBT is US $160. However, the price to take the TOEFL iBT varies by country, between US $160 and $250.

Students who take the TOEFL iBT will receive a score from 0 to 120 points. Their TOEFL score is mailed 15 business days after the test.

PBT scores are between 310 and 677 points, and students receive a separate score for their Test of Written English. These scores are mailed five weeks after the test.

The Internet-based and paper-based tests are similar in many ways. The scores of both tests are valid for two years and accepted by thousands of institutions in the US and other countries. Both tests will send your score to four institutions for free, and more if you pay a fee.

Make sure you know whether you are taking the Internet-based or paper-based TOEFL before you arrive at your testing location. The type you take will influence how you prepare for the TOEFL so you can get your very best score!