TOEFL iBT Or TOEFL Essentials: Difference Between TOEFL iBT & Essentials

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TOEFL, or the Test of English as a Foreign Language, is an English proficiency test that assesses a person’s English reading, listening, and speaking abilities. Natives of non-English speaking countries like India, Sweden, and Singapore have to give TOEFL or IELTS if they want to study abroad at universities in English-speaking countries like USA and Canada. It is also mandatory for people from non-English speaking countries to give TOEFL or any other English language proficiency test if they want to work in or immigrate to an English-speaking country.

There are three types of TOEFL tests, TOEFL iBT (Internet-based test), TOEFL PBT (Paper-based test), and TOEFL ITP (Institutional Testing Program). The main difference between TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT is the mode of taking the test. TOEFL iBT is an online test, whereas TOEFL PBT is handwritten.  TOEFL Essentials test allows academic programs to understand the English skills of the test-taker. This blog explains TOEFL iBT and TOEFL Essentials and the difference between the two.


TOEFL iBT is the flagship TOEFL program of ETS that assesses English academic skills. More than 11,500 universities in over 160 English-speaking countries like the USA, Canada, UK, New Zealand, Australia, and many other countries in Europe accept TOEFL iBT scores. The test assesses the overall English skills of the test-takers like listening, reading, writing, and speaking. The score range for TOEFL iBT is 0-120. Each section is 30 points. The test includes the following four sections:

  • Reading– This is the first and the most challenging section of the TOEFL English test. There are several reading passages in this section and 30-40 questions based on the passage. The test takers have to read the passages carefully and answer the questions. It takes around 50-70 minutes to complete the reading section.
  • Listening– In this section, the test-takers will have to listen to a few recordings and answer the questions based on those recordings. There are around 30-40 questions in this section which can be completed in 41-57 minutes.
  • Speaking– The test-takers get a 10-minute break after the listening section, after which they have to give the speaking test. In this section, test takers have to answer six questions. Two of these questions are related to personal ideas, opinions, and experiences. The test takers have to use speaking, reading, and listening skills in the remaining four questions. This section takes around 20 minutes.
  • Writing– This section has two tasks: first, test takers must read a short paragraph and listen to a recording. Secondly, they have to express their thoughts about the paragraph by writing. This section takes 50 minutes.
  • TOEFL iBT at Test Center– The majority of the students opt for giving TOEFL iBT at their nearest test centres. The test takers have to take TOEFL online on the computers provided at the centre.
  • TOEFL iBT Home Edition– The TOEFL iBT home edition must be given on a computer the same way as the test centre. However, the only difference is that test takers have the facility to take TOEFL iBT at home, and a human proctor will monitor the test throughout. Test takers have to arrange for all the technical requirements and equipment at their homes.
  • TOEFL iBT Paper Edition– Test takers who are more comfortable giving the TOEFL iBT exam on paper can opt for the TOEFL iBT paper edition. In this case, the first three sections of the test – reading, listening, and writing are to be attempted at the test centre. The speaking section is attempted at home through proctored mode three days after giving the test at the centre.

Test-takers can give TOEFL iBT by anyone out of the following three options: One of the most significant advantages of attempting TOEFL iBT is that the majority of foreign institutions accept the score. People who score well on the test become eligible to apply to the hundreds of best universities in the world.

  • In the US, 9 out of 10 universities accept TOEFL iBT scores.
  • TOEFL iBT score is also accepted by all the universities in the UK, including those falling under the prestigious Russell Group.
  • Even in Austria and New Zealand, all the universities accept TOEFL iBT scores.
  • In Canada, 80% of the graduation programs accept TOEFL iBT scores.

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TOEFL iBT Or TOEFL Essentials: Difference Between TOEFL iBT & Essentials

TOEFL Essentials

TOEFL Essentials is a test that can be taken in addition to the other TOEFL tests. The TOEFL Essentials test aims to provide a more relaxed and flexible environment for test takers. This test assesses the test takers’ English speaking, writing, reading and listening skills in other than academic environments. This test provides more accurate TOEFL test results so that institutions can correctly determine the abilities of the candidates. One of the most interesting features of TOEFL Essentials is the adaptive format of the test. The test delivery adjusts as per the skill level of the test taker. Also, the TOEFL Essentials tests are of shorter duration and more friendly for test-takers who perform well in a fast-paced environment. Moreover, the Essential test provides a global feel to the test takers by incorporating a variety of accents in the test. The format of the TOEFL Essential Test is the same as TOEFL iBT. It also includes four sections that assess the core English skills of test-takers – reading, writing, speaking and listening. The TOEFL Essentials also tests foundational English skills like sentence construction and vocabulary.

Difference between TOEFL iBT and TOEFL Essentials

It can be confusing to understand the difference between TOEFL iBT and TOEFL Essentials. Here are some key differences between the two tests.

  • Skill Assessment– TOEFL iBT is a comprehensive test that directly measures the English communication skills of test takers for academic studies. On the other hand, TOEFL Essentials assesses foundational English skills like grammar and vocabulary for academic and non-academic purposes.
  • Test format– TOEFL iBT comprises longer questions with related questions that offer an immersive experience. TOEFL Essentials consists of fast-paced questions to give test-takers a more energetic experience.
  • Adaptive Feature- The TOEFL Essentials test has a multistage adaptive feature that measures the level of English proficiency (CEFR A1 to C2). TOEFL iBT measures English proficiency for academic purposes from the range (CEFR B1 to C2).
  • Timing– Another difference between TOEFL iBT and TOEFL Essentials is the test duration. TOEFL iBT is a three-hour long test, whereas TOEFL Essentials is a one-and-a-half-hour test.
  • Unscored personal video statement- After completing all the sections of the TOEFL Essentials test, a 5-minute video is recorded. This video allows the examiner to view the test-taker’s responses to two general questions. In TOEFL iBT, no such video is recorded at the end of the test.
  • Test Fees Affordability– Another significant difference between TOEFL iBT and TOEFL Essentials is the affordability. TOEFL Essentials has a low registration cost in comparison to TOEFL iBT. The cost of TOEFL Essentials registration is US$100–$120, whereas the registration cost of TOEFL iBT is US$190.

Both TOEFL iBT and TOEFL Essentials scores are considered to demonstrate proficiency in the English language. It allows foreign universities to assess the test taker’s English skills. However,  TOEFL iBT is the flagship TOEFL test conducted by the ETS. On the other hand, TOEFL Essentials is an additional test that people from non-native countries can take if they feel it will help them better demonstrate their English proficiency. Test takers can opt for any of the two tests to submit proof of English proficiency. However, taking both tests will make candidates eligible to apply to various academic programs at various institutions worldwide. Both TOEFL iBT and TOEFL Essentials test scores are valid for two years. Applicants usually get score reports in 2 weeks.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can the TOEFL Essentials test score be used?

TOEFL Essentials test can be used for the following three purposes:
Demonstrating English language proficiency of students who want to apply to international universities for higher education.
Helps in making decisions regarding students’ placement. TOEFL Essentials test is also beneficial in gauging students’ performance in English pathway programs or English language proficiency classes.
TOEFL Essentials test also helps demonstrate overall English language proficiency for both academic and non-academic purposes.

How to prepare for TOEFL iBT and TOEFL Essentials?

Both TOEFL iBT and TOEFL Essentials assess four core English skills like reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Therefore, the preparation strategy for both tests should be the same. Test Takers must learn about the different types of questions asked in the test and read tips on how to solve specific questions. It is also pertinent to learn how each section in TOEFL iBT and TOEFL Essentials is scored. SinceTOEFL Essentials is a shorter test with fast-paced questions; test takers must practice questions accordingly.

Which score is more relevant, TOEFL iBT or essentials?

Both TOEFL iBT and TOEFL Essentials scoring are relevant for demonstrating proof of English proficiency. However, TOEFL Essentials is a short test, and the questions have to be answered faster in comparison to TOEFL iBT. The questions are modified as per the test taker’s skills. The TOEFL Essentials test is more relevant for people who want to give TOEFL in a relaxed manner. Also, TOEFL iBT tests English skills for academic studies. Therefore, it is more relevant for students in academic contexts.

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Saket Kohli

An International Higher Ed professional with 7+ years of experience studying, working, and living across three geographies, currently on a mission to share his journey as an International Student.

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