TOEFL Exam 2021

Update by: on Feb. 23, 2021, 8:45 a.m.

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What is the TOEFL?

Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL, is a test of the English proficiency of a student in the four basic communication skills — Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing. TOEFL is 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 non-native English speaking students for the purpose of admissions or immigration. TOEFL must be taken by a non-native English speaker who wants to take admission at an educational institution in an English-speaking nation.

TOEFL is the most widely accepted entrance exam in the world. TOEFL is considered 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 of international education aspirants. TOEFL is 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

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.

A Brief History of TOEFL

The early 1960s - More than thirty educational institutions come together and 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 develops the ‘Test of English as a Foreign Language™’, which is now 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 and 

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 of the TOEFL exam can be found in the table below:

Name of Exam


Full Name

Test of English as a Foreign Language

Year of Development


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


Exam Sections





Exam time

3 hours

Number of Accepting Institutions


Number of Accepting Countries


Test Date

60+ test dates every year

Types of TOEFL

There are two versions of the TOEFL exams —

  • TOEFL iBT (Internet-Based Test)

  • TOEFL PBT (Paper-Based Test)

TOEFL iBT - TOEFL iBT is, simply speaking, the 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 the better version of the two.

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

TOEFL PBT -  TOEFL PBT, or paper-based test, is just as its name suggests. It is the version of the TOEFL exam delivered and taken via a pen and paper. However, TOEFL PBT is not the normally 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 in the exam.

TOEFL PBT is conducted four times a year. Only a handful of TOEFL exam centres conduct the PBT version of TOEFL. There are no TOEFL PBT exam centres available in India.


Candidates do not have a free hand in choosing which version of the TOEFL they take. TOEFL PBT can only be taken at selected test centres in a number of countries and it is being phased out with time.

However, if an option is available, it is better to go for the TOEFL iBT version as it is given a higher preference by universities. The predominant reason for this is that due to the absence of the Speaking section from TOEFL PBT, it is considered to give 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 TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT:




Means of Delivery



No. of Exam Sections



Exam Sections

Reading, Listening, Speaking Writing

Reading, Listening, Writing

Exam Duration

3 hours

2.5 hours

Score Range

0 - 120

310 - 677

No. of Dates



Availability of Centres


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 the most popular English proficiency exam conducted to analyse the proficiency of a student. TOEFL Scorecard is used by universities and institutions around the world to test the English proficiency skills of non-native English speaking students 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)

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

Candidates must note that TOEFL iBT is widely conducted at designated centres in different countries. TOEFL PBT can only be taken at selected test centres. One can check the availability and appear in either of the two tests. 

4. Why should I take the TOEFL exam?

If you are planning to study abroad then the English language test score is needed to prove proficiency in the language. TOEFL scores are quite widely accepted by universities that give admission to international students. Check the entry requirements of the university you are applying to and then appear for the test. 

5. Who is a suitable candidate for TOEFL?

TOEFL can be taken by any candidate. TOEFL score can be 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 is developed by the National Council on the Testing of English as a Foreign Language and is conducted by Educational Testing Service (ETS), a  non-profit educational testing organization.

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