TOEFL 2021

Updated by: Cyril Zachariah on April 21, 2021, 4:53 p.m.

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What is the TOEFL?

Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL, is a test to evaluate the English proficiency of a student in the four basic communication skills — Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing. TOEFL is one of the most popular English proficiency exam in the world.

TOEFL is used by universities and other institutions around the world to test the English proficiency skills of all non-native English speaking students for the purpose of admissions or immigration. TOEFL must be taken by any non-native English speaker who wants to take admission at an educational institution in an English-speaking nation.

TOEFL is one of the most widely accepted entrance exam in the world. TOEFL is also considered as a gateway to international education in foreign universities in many countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France and many others. Hence, it is quite a popular choice among international education aspirants. Being such a widely accepted test, TOEFL is also one of the most widely-taken exams in the world.

TOEFL Conducting Body

TOEFL is conducted by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the largest global non-profit educational testing organization. Headquartered in New Jersey, the organisation administers a number of standardized tests majorly for students seeking admission to US universities.

The Educational Testing Services or ETS was created in 1947, which currently delivers research and learning solutions apart from developing and conducting tests such as TOEFL, GRE, TOEIC and Praxis tests in over 180 countries at more than 9,000 locations across the globe.

A Brief History of TOEFL

The early 1960s - More than thirty educational institutions come together to form the National Council on the Testing of English as a Foreign Language. The council consists of educators and government officials who were charged with the responsibility of developing an exam to test the English competency. The council developed the ‘Test of English as a Foreign Language™’, which is now popularly known as TOEFL.

1964 - TOEFL is delivered for the first time in a paper-based format. However, the test is nothing like its present-day version.

1965 - CollegeBoard and Educational Testing Services (ETS) take over the administration of the TOEFL exam.

1973 - TOEFL Board forms to advise ETS on the policies governing TOEFL.

1998 - TOEFL CBT (computer-based test) is conducted for the first time.

2005 - TOEFL iBT is conducted for the first time.

2006 - TOEFL CBT discontinued and replaced by TOEFL iBT.

2019 - TOEFL iBT is introduced in a new, streamlined format.

Key Highlights of the TOEFL Exam

An overview of the key highlights and important details pertaining to TOEFL exam can be found in the table below:

Name of Exam

TOEFL

Full Name

Test of English as a Foreign Language

Year of Development

1964

Developed By

National Council on the Testing of English as a Foreign Language

Developed In

The United States of America

Overseeing Body

Educational Testing Services (ETS)

Eligibility Criteria

None

Exam Sections

Reading

Listening

Speaking

Writing

Exam time

3 hours

Number of Accepting Institutions

10,000+

Number of Accepting Countries

150+

Test Date

60+ test dates every year

Types of TOEFL

Currently, for students across the globe aspiring to studying in one of the top study abroad destinations, there are two versions of the TOEFL exams that they can attempt: —

  • TOEFL iBT (Internet-Based Test)

  • TOEFL PBT (Paper-Based Test)

TOEFL iBT - TOEFL iBT is, simply speaking, a version of the test, delivered and taken over the internet. Almost all of the candidates appearing for the TOEFL exam appear for the iBT version of the test which replaced the TOEFL CBT (computer-based test). Since the exam is delivered via a computer, it is much more interactive in nature and considered to be a better version of the two.

TOEFL iBT scores are given preference over the TOEFL PBT scores at almost all of the universities that accept international applications.

TOEFL PBT -  TOEFL PBT, or paper-based test, is just as the name suggests. It is the version of the TOEFL exam delivered and taken via a pen and paper. However, the TOEFL PBT is not the commonly available version of the two. It is only available at TOEFL exam centres where internet connectivity is not available.

TOEFL PBT does not contain the ‘Speaking’ section of the exam since there is limited availability of equipment during the exam. TOEFL PBT is conducted four times a year and only a handful of TOEFL exam centres conduct the PBT version of TOEFL. Currently, there are no TOEFL PBT exam centres available in India.

TOEFL iBT vs TOEFL PBT

When choosing between the two TOEFL tests, i.e. TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT, the candidates do not have a free hand in choosing which version of the test they can attempt. Due to the limitation of the TOEFL PBT that limits it to be taken at limited number of test centres, this option is being phased out with time.

However, if an option is available in a country, it is better to go for the TOEFL iBT version as it is given a higher preference by universities across the globe. The predominant reason for this is the absence of the Speaking section under the TOEFL PBT option, which many consider to be an incomplete assessment of a candidate’s English language skills, as compared to the TOEFL iBT exam.

The following table provides a quick comparison of and difference betweent the TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT tests:

Exam

TOEFL iBT

TOEFL PBT

Means of Delivery

Internet

Paper

No. of Exam Sections

4

3

Exam Sections

Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing

Reading, Listening and Writing

Exam Duration

3 hours

2.5 hours

Score Range

0 - 120

310 - 677

No. of Dates

50+

4

Availability of Centres

Widespread

Very Limited

Acceptance Rate

All universities accepting TOEFL accept TOEFL iBT scores

Some universities do not accept TOEFL PBT

FAQs about TOEFL

1. What is TOEFL?

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is one of the most popular English proficiency exams conducted across the globe to analyse the proficiency of a student. A TOEFL scorecard is accepted by universities and institutions around the world to gauge the English proficiency of a non-native English speaking student for the purpose of admissions or immigration.

2. What are the types of TOEFL?

There are two versions of the TOEFL exams -TOEFL iBT (Internet-Based Test) and TOEFL PBT (Paper-Based Test) that students across the globe can currently attempt.

3. Should I take the TOEFL iBT or TOEFL PBT?

In the present day and age, TOEFL iBT is widely conducted at designated centres in different countries and is preferred by universities abroad. TOEFL PBT can only be taken at selected test centres, is slowly being phased out as an option with time.

4. Why should I take the TOEFL exam?

If you are planning to study abroad then an English language test score is needed to prove your proficiency in the language. TOEFL scores are widely accepted by universities abroad when offering admissions to international students. Check the entry requirements of the university you are applying to and then decide to appear for the test.

5. Who is a suitable candidate for TOEFL?

TOEFL can be taken by any candidate. However, a TOEFL score is commonly used to apply for admissions at universities abroad. The test taker must have good command in basic communication skill Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing in English.

6. Who conducts TOEFL?

TOEFL was developed by the National Council on the Testing of English as a Foreign Language and is now conducted by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), a non-profit educational testing organization.

7. Is TOEFL a Paper-Based Exam?

TOEFL is conducted in both online and offline format. The paper-based TOEFL test is referred to as the TOEFL Paper Based Test (PBT), but is available in limited numbers at limited locations only.

8. Is there any break between each section of TOEFL?

A 10-minute break is provided after the Reading and Listening Section after which a candidate can attempt the Speaking and Writing Sectio. 

9. Is TOEFL conducted in online mode?

A popular choice among non-English speaking students, a TOEFL test is commonly conducted in online mode, known as TOEFL iBT, which had replaced TOEFL CBT a few decades ago.

10. What is the difference between TOEFL iBT and the TOEFL PBT Test?

 A TOEFL iBT is a computer-based test conducted, which allows candidates to appear for the test in online mode whereas a TOEFL PBT is a paper-based test, which requires candidates to appear for the test at specific locations at specific times.

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