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TOEFL IBT Vs TOEFL Essentials 2023: Which is the better choice?

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The TOEFL iBT is part of the Educational Testing Service’s (ETS) portfolio of language assessment exams and accurately measures English proficiency. It is one of the most commonly used English proficiency tests.

The TOEFL Essentials test is the newest addition to ETS’ TOEFL suite of exams and measures the core elements of English proficiency in both general and academic contexts. This exam has short, fast-paced questions and tasks that measure basic grammar and vocabulary.

TOEFL iBT VS TOEFL Essentials is a much-debated topic. There is often confusion surrounding the differences and similarities between the two tests.

Here is an in-depth comparison between TOEFL iBT VS TOEFL Essentials to clarify your queries. Read on!

toefl ibt vs toefl essentials

Which is Better – TOEFL iBT Vs TOEFL Essentials

The table below represents some major differences between TOEFL iBT Vs TOEFL essentials.

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TOEFL IBT Vs TOEFL Essentials 2023: Which is the better choice?
ParticularsTOEFL iBTTOEFL Essentials Test
What it MeasuresMeasures communicative language ability in an academic settingMeasures the fundamental skills needed to understand and use English in academic and non-academic contexts
Language Domain100% academic English setting50% general English and 50% academic English setting
EmphasisDepth with interconnected, longer tasks for a greater experienceBreadth with shorter and faster-paced tasks provides a more energetic experience.
Format4 sections: Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing4 sections: Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking and a 5-minute video for a personal video statement 
Presentation of Test ItemsThe selected and matched words are coherent and integrated to simulate actual communication.Adaptive tests adjust to the skill level of each test taker.
Who’s likely to take itAspiring students looking to stand outStudents willing to take a test that blends convenience and quality with an engaging format
ContentCarefully curated tasks that represent what students should do in an academic environment, requiring integration of all language skillsTasks designed to efficiently measure proficiency, tailored to the test taker’s ability level using a multistage adaptive methodology
LengthAbout 3 hoursAbout 1 and a half hours
Main Test Design PrincipleDesigned to be the most effective assessment of applied English communication in academic contexts, with a range corresponding to CEFR B1 to C2.Designed to be a highly efficient, multistage adaptive test that measures the full spectrum of English proficiency (CEFR A1 to C2) accurately with fewer test items and in just 1-1/2 hours
DeliveryAt a test centre or home with the TOEFL iBT Home EditionAt home, using the same platform, technology and security as the TOEFL iBT Home Edition
Cost $ 180 – $ 270$ 100 – $ 120
Score Reports and Additional CostFree, unlimited score reports can be sent to institutions4 score reports can be sent for free. An additional charge of $20 is charged for sending each score report.
Scale Score0 – 120 (sum of reading, writing, listening and speaking scores)1 to 12 (average of reading, writing, listening and speaking rounded to nearest half-band)

TOEFL iBT Vs TOEFL Essentials: Differences

The common TOEFL iBT and TOEFL differences are as follows –

TOEFL iBT Vs TOEFL Essentials: Time Duration

The total test duration of TOEFL iBT is 3 hours, while TOEFL essentials last only 1 and a half hours. Further, duration details regarding each section are represented in the table below.

SectionTOEFL iBT  (Number of Questions and Time Allotted)TOEFL Essentials (Number of Questions and Time Allotted)
Reading30 to 40 questions 54, 72 mins30 to 45 questions 22, 33 mins
Listening 18 to 24 questions 41, 57 mins30 to 45 questions 21, 34 mins
BreakNot applicable10 mins
Speaking4 questions 17 mins3 tasks, including 19 responses, 13 mins
Writing2 questions 50 mins15 to 19 questions with 2 tasks, 24-30 mins
Personal Video MessageOne video of 5 mins Not applicable

TOEFL iBT Vs TOEFL Essentials: Exam Fee

The TOEFL iBT costs US$190 in India, while the TOEFL Essentials test costs US$100 in India.

TOEFL iBT Vs TOEFL Essentials: Scoring

The scoring system for the TOEFL Essentials is identical to that of the IELTS in that you are scored on a band of 1-12. This is nice because it is simpler. However, the scores for each section are reported according to the nearest full band.

On the TOEFL iBT, an individual gets a score on a scale of 1 – 120. Each section is scored on a scale of 1 – 30. The overall score is the sum of all four scores. Because there is no rounding, it’s easier to make progress on the TOEFL iBT than on the TOEFL essentials.

The table below provides an example of the scoring of TOEFL essentials.

ParticularsActual ScoreOfficial Reported Score
Reading 6.46
Writing 7.37
Listening 7.78
Speaking 5.66
Comprehensive (average score of all 4 sections)6.757

TOEFL iBT Vs TOEFL Essentials: Online Vs Offline Test

A proctor will monitor students taking the TOEFL Essentials at home through the ProctorU platform. This is not available with the TOEFL iBT Home Edition. Since ETS, the makers of all TOEFL tests, want to make sure that there is a level playing field for all those taking tests at home, just as with the TOEFL iBT Home Edition, they will want to make sure that testing conditions are the same for all students and that there is no doubt that someone has an unfair advantage.

TOEFL iBT Vs TOEFL Essentials: Score Review Request

While you can request score reviews on the TOEFL iBT, you cannot do so with the TOEFL Essentials. This means that your score on the TOEFL Essentials is the final score.

TOEFL iBT Vs TOEFL Essentials: Sending Score Reports to Universities

The TOEFL iBT allows you to send your scores for free to up to five institutions until 10 p.m. the day before your test. If you want to send more than five score reports and/or decide to send score reports after 10 p.m., each report costs $ 20. There is a limit of 20 institutions per transaction with the Essentials version of the exam.

Apart from the differences, there are various points where these tests share similarities. 

TOEFL iBT Vs TOEFL Essentials: Similarities

The similarities involved with both these tests are as follows –

TOEFL Sections

Both the tests cover the same standardised four areas of English communication, Reading, Listening, Writing and Speaking. These four areas are considered the core and help institutions understand how effectively test takers are doing in all aspects of communication. For example, one may understand most things that they read. But when collaborating on an assignment with some people in class or communicating with a professor, they need to know how to speak and write.

Entry into Universities Abroad

If you take the TOEFL iBT or TOEFL Essentials, you can be assured that you will have no problem succeeding in an English-speaking university environment. The tests give universities confidence that the students attending their school will not have to deal with the academic load and language barrier when learning.

Timeframe of Score Results

In addition to having a similar format and length, the TOEFL iBT and TOEFL Essentials also share comparable timing. The unofficial results will appear on the computer screen after completing each section.

Further, official scores for all sections that make up the comprehensive score will usually be available around 6 days after the test. After 8 days, one can save a PDF copy of the results for both tests. ETS will send the scores to the selected institutions about 11 days after taking the test.

Form My Best TOEFL Scores

If an individual takes the TOEFL more than once, they can combine the best scores for each section to form MyBest scores. This way, if one doesn’t score well on one section but does well on another during a retake, they can use the better score as part of MyBest score. If an individual is unsure whether a university will accept MyBest scores, contact the admissions department to double-check.

toefl ibt vs toefl essentials


The TOEFL iBT is a three-hour, comprehensive academic English test. The tasks are longer and integrate various contexts. Academic institutions accept this test as proof of English language proficiency. The TOEFL Essentials Test is a 1.5-hour general English language test that blends academic and general contexts. Some educational institutions currently accept it, but not all. However, with changes, it may be accepted in the future. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is TOEFL essential accepted in Australia?

    If you’re applying for an Australian visa, you must take TOEFL iBT at a registered test centre. The government of Australia does not accept tests taken at home, including the TOEFL essentials.

  • Which TOEFL should I take for university?

    The TOEFL iBT test is the world’s most accepted English-language test for studying and working abroad. More universities and institutions prefer it, so you can be confident that you’ll stand out to admissions officers and employers.

  • Why do we need TOEFL essentials?

    ETS has designed TOEFL Essentials to be different from TOEFL iBT. The test provides a friendly and engaging experience for test takers, provides valid and reliable results for institutions, and measures English proficiency beyond just academic situations.

  • What is the validity of TOEFL Essential test scores?

    TOEFL Essential test scores are valid for two years from the exam date.

  • Do I have to write both TOEFL iBT and TOEFL Essentials

    No, you can take either one of the tests depending on your requirements.

  • Is TOEFL iBT better than IELTS?

    Both tests are designed to test your English language skills and are structurally similar. So, it comes down to university/country requirements.

  • Can I use TOEFL iBT materials to prepare for TOEFL Essential?

    We highly recommend using designated TOEFL Essentials materials to prepare for the exam to get better results.

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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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