TOEFL iBT vs PBT: What is the Difference?

The TOEFL exam is one of the top language proficiency exams widely used and recognized by well-known educational institutions, immigration offices, and other notable organizations in different countries worldwide. 

The TOEFL exam is also preferred by most universities in the USA, the United Kingdom, Australia, and other English-speaking countries. It is one of the highly required academic requirements for admissions. Aside from that, this standardized language proficiency exam is also used for student visas, work requirements, and more. 

The TOEFL exam has a few different exam formats and the most common ones being:

  • TOEFL iBT
  • TOEFL PBT

The TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT are designed to measure English language communication skills, including reading, listening, speaking, and writing. And also, these two versions are known to use a formal English language in their exam contents and are considered one of the most complicated and complex types of English exams.

We must mention that test-takers no longer have the option to write the TOELF PBT test format. As of April 11, 2021, the TOEFL exam’s PBT (or the paper-delivered format) is no longer available. If you’ve written the PBT test before that date, your test scores are valid for two years. Aspiring test-takers must enroll and take the other version of the TOEFL test: TOEFL iBT, or TOEFL Essentials, or TOEFL ITP.

However, since there still might be students who’ve recently taken the test (before April 2021), and since there is still some interest in this topic — we’ve decided to write this as a resource for our readers to understand what is (or was) the TOEFL PBT test.

To know more about the differences between these two TOEFL exam formats, we will give a comprehensive comparison between the TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT in this article. 

What is TOEFL iBT?

The internet-based test version of the TOEFL exam is the TOEFL iBT. This version was developed during the late 1990s, and in 2005 it was introduced in the market. 

This measures the primary English language skills such as reading, writing, listening, and speaking. And also, the TOEFL iBT measures the individual’s ability to use and comprehend the English language at the university level.

It also highlights the integrated skills and generates better information about the test-takers English language skills. 

In addition, it also provides an excellent interpretation of the readiness of an individual in using the language in an academic setting and higher education level of coursework. 

The TOEFL iBT test mainly focuses on the individual’s ability to communicate and understand the English language, primarily used in educational institutions where English is the medium of instruction. 

What is TOEFL PBT?

The TOEFL PBT is the paper-based test version of the TOEFL exam. This version consists of four test sections that measure English language skills, including listening, reading, writing, and grammar. 

Note that the TOEFL PBT does not assess the English speaking skill. However, it contains a grammar section that focuses on the structure and written expressions of the English language. 

The ETS (Educational Testing Service) who created the TOEFL exam plans to discontinue the TOEFL PBT version, but it is still on hold. In connection, they want to cater to those individuals who have difficulty in accessing the TOEFL iBT. 

It remains especially in those areas where the internet connection is scarce, and the TOEFL PBT is still accessible for the sole purpose of ensuring that all test-takers can take the TOEFL exam in any situation. 


TOEFL iBT vs TOEFL PBT: Exam Fees

TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT differ in exam fees. Note that the costs of the TOEFL exams also vary in different countries worldwide. 

Generally, the TOEFL iBT is around USD 185, while the TOEFL PBT costs USD 180. There are also additional fees for the other services offered by the TOEFL exam to its test-takers. 

For example, if ever you happen to register late for the exam, you need to pay an additional USD 40 on top of the regular registration fee of the test you are to take. And if you need to reschedule the test, an additional fee of USD 50 will be charged to you. 

Below is the comparison table of exam fees between the TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT exams. 

Exam FeesTOEFL iBT FeesTOEFL PBT Fees
Registration Fees
  • TOEFL iBT Fee USD 185 to USD 300
  • TOEFL PBT USD 180
Additional Fees
  • Late Registration  USD 40
  • Rescheduling  USD 60
  • Reinstatement of Canceled Scores  USD 20 each
  • Additional Score Report  USD 20 each
  • Speaking or Writing Test Section Score Review  USD 80 each
  • Speaking and Writing Test Section Score Review USD 120 each
  • Returned Personal Check (Paper or Electronic) USD 20
  • Late Registration  USD 40
  • Rescheduling  USD 60
  • Reinstatement of Canceled Scores  USD 20 each
  • Additional Score Report  USD 20 each
  • Speaking or Writing Test Section Score Review  USD 80 each
  • Speaking and Writing Test Section Score Review USD 120 each
  • Returned Personal Check (Paper or Electronic) USD 20

TOEFL iBT vs. TOEFL PBT:  Exam Structure

The TOEFL iBT and the TOEFL PBT contain different exam structures, test administration, and test sections. In this section, we will make a comparison of these two TOEFL test formats.

The TOEFL iBT is a computer-delivered test of the TOEFL exam. While the TOEFL PBT is the paper-based test version of the TOEFL exam, it is strictly needed to use paper and pencil to answer it. 

In addition, the duration of the TOEFL iBT is longer compared to the TOEFL PBT as it tests all four language skills. The TOEFL iBT contains reading, listening, speaking, and writing test sections. 

The TOEFL PBT also has different test contents than the TOEFL iBT, and it does not assess the speaking skill of an individual. 

For example, the Speaking test section in the TOEFL iBT is substituted with the Structure and Written Expression or the Grammar test section in the TOEFL PBT. Note that the Grammar section is not the equivalent of the TOEFL iBT speaking test section. 

The following test sections for the TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT and the corresponding number of test questions under each section. 

TOEFL iBT Test Sections: 

  • Reading Test Section: 30 to 40 test questions
  • Listening Test Section: 28 to 39 test questions
  • Speaking Test Section : 4 tasks
  • Writing Test Section: 2 tasks

TOEFL PBT Test Sections: 

  • Reading Test Section: 30 test question
  • Listening Test Section: 28 test questions
  • Writing Test Section: 2 tasks
  • Structure and Written Expression Test Section: 40 test questions

In comparison, the TOEFL iBT is consists of four tests section, including a Speaking section with four tasks. On the other hand, the TOEFL PBT consists of four test sections, including the Structure and Written Expressions test section, containing 40 test questions. 

Below is the table of exam structure comparison for the TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBTexams. 

Exam StructureTOEFL iBT Exam TOEFL PBT Exam
Test Duration
  • 3 to 4 hours
  • Additional 30 minutes check-in period
  • 2.5 hours
  • Additional 30 minutes check-in period
Test Delivery Mode
  • Internet-based Test
  • Paper-based Test
English Skills that are assessed / Test StructureTOEFL iBT Test Sections:
  • Reading
  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Writing
TOEFL PBT Test Sections:
  • Listening
  • Structure and Written Expression (Grammar)
  • Reading
  • Writing
Test Scores Validity Two yearsTwo years 

TOEFL iBT vs. TOEFL PBT:  Exam Frequency

There are 190 countries worldwide wherein both the TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT are available. And the TOEFL iBT offers  60 pre-scheduled test dates in a year for its test-takers, while the TOEFL PBT is only scheduled four times in the test centers annually. 

Note that the TOEFL testing centers in those countries with high cases of COVID-19 are still not accepting walk-in test-takers. However, some testing centers are still open and functioning only in those locations where the COVID-19 cases are low.

There are only limited testing centers that only offer the TOEFL PBT in some countries worldwide. It includes the following countries such as Angola, Barbados, the Central African Republic, Iraq, Fiji, Syria, and more. 

In comparison, the TOEFL iBT is far more accessible than the TOEFL PBT. Plus, the TOEFL iBT has many pre-scheduled test dates annually compared to the other TOEFL exam. 

Below is the table comparison in terms of exam frequency between the TOEFL IBT and TOEFL PBT exams. 

Exam FrequencyTOEFL iBTTOEFL iBT
Test days per year604
Testing Centers (worldwide)450035 to 40
Countries where the test is available190190

TOEFL iBT vs. TOEFL PBT:  Scoring Difference

The TOEFL exam uses a centralized scoring network for both the TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT. The scoring difference for the TOEFL iBT, the highest overall score for all test sections, ranges from 120 to 0 points. 

The overall scoring range of the TOEFL PBT test scores ranges from 310 to 677 points. Note that the writing and speaking test sections of the TOEFL iBT and PBT are scored using the automated AI scoring and highly-trained TOEFL professional raters. 

It gives an assurance of reliable and accurate rating of your English language proficiency level. 

In addition, the AI and centralized scoring network feature of the TOEFL exam helps avoid biases when giving the scoring for each test section.  

Consequently, it helps ensure the highest quality and consistency of test scores interpretation. There is no passing or failing scores in either of the TOEFL iBT or PBT exams. 

However, some educational institutions require a specific score range as a requirement for their admission. Therefore, it is best to contact ahead of time your desired institution regarding their TOEFL score requirements. 

Below is a comparison table of exam scoring for the TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT exams. 

TOEFL iBT
Overall Score
Conversion
TOEFL PBT
Overall Score
Conversion
111 to 120640 to 677
96 to 110590 to 639
75 to 95550 to 589
65 to 78513 to 549
53 to 64477 to 512
41 to 52437 to 476
30 to 40397 to 436 
19 to 29347 to 396
6 to 18311 to 346
0 to 5310

TOEFL iBT vs. TOEFL PBT: Eligibility Requirements Comparison

There are no significant differences in eligibility requirements in the TOEFL iBT and the PBT since these two English language proficiency tests are under the TOEFL test. 

However, the only difference between these two is the registration for the TOEFL PBT, which is completed through making an ETS online account on their official website. Or you may also register for the test via phone or by mail. 

Below is the comparison table in terms of test requirements between the TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT exams.

Test RequirementsTOEFL iBT TOEFL PBT
Minimum Age
  • No age requirement for test-takers. 
  • However, the ETS recommends ages 17 or those in 11th grade to take the TOEFL exam.
  • For those test-takers who are 15 years old and younger, it is advised to be accompanied by an adult or guardian to sign the release form. 
  • No age requirement for test-takers. 
  • However, the ETS recommends ages 17 or those in 11th grade to take the TOEFL exam. 
  • For those test-takers who are 15 years old and younger, it is advised to be accompanied by an adult or guardian to sign the release form. 
Profession
  • Any profession
  • Any profession
Things needed to register
  • A valid passport
  • Any national ID with name, photograph, and signature
  • Any Government-issued driver’s license
  • Any national/state/province identity card
  • A valid passport
  • Any national ID with name, photograph, and signature
  • Any Government-issued driver’s license
  • Any national/state/province identity card
Where to register
  • You can register for the TOEFL iBT by walk-in at their official testing centers. 
  • Or you may register online through their official website by creating an ETS account. 
  • You may also register by phone and by mail

TOEFL iBT vs. TOEFL PBT: Practice Tests Offers

The TOEFL exam offers many practice materials on its official website. You can freely choose what to avail of. 

Either their free online test prep courses or purchase their TOEFL test practice products, including different practice test materials per TOEFL test sections. 

You can use these practice test materials for review for both the TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT. Since these review materials offer different courses depending on the specific test section, you want to review. 

Below is the comparison table of the practice test offered by the TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT to its test-takers. 

Available ResourcesTOEFL iBTTOEFL PBT
Free Sample Practice Tests
  • Offers free online test prep courses wherein you can easily access through the TOEFL website
TOEFL free practice tests: 

TOEFL iBT Free Practice Sets:

TOEFL Test Practice Products:
  • TOEFL Value Pack Prep Plus
  • TOEFL Value Pack Prep
  • TOEFL Practice Online – Complete Practice Tests
  • TOEFL Practice Online Speaking Series
  • TOEFL Practice Online Speaking and Writing Test
  • TOEFL Practice Online Reading and Listening Test

TOEFL Preparation Books: 
  • The Official TOEFL Test Savings Bundle
Additional Resources (Free and Paid)
TOEFL Test Practice Products:
  • TOEFL Value Pack Prep Plus
  • TOEFL Value Pack Prep
  • TOEFL Practice Online – Complete Practice Tests
  • TOEFL Practice Online Speaking Series
  • TOEFL Practice Online Speaking and Writing Test
  • TOEFL Practice Online Reading and Listening Test

TOEFL Preparation Books: 
  • The Official TOEFL Test Savings Bundle
  • The Ultimate TOEFL iBT Test Prep Savings Bundle

Which Is Easier, the TOEFL iBT or the TOEFL PBT Exam?

Generally, these two language proficiency exams under the TOEFL have their distinct difficulty level to deliver the precise evaluation of your English language proficiency level. 

Both the TOEFL iBT and PBT assess the English language skills of a non-native English speaker. And it also has the objective to provide the most accurate and reliable assessment of your English language proficiency level. 

Most test-takers prefer the TOEFL iBT compared to the TOEFL PBT test version. And it also has a 97% of the total accumulated number of tests taken in contrast to the TOEFL PBT, which only has 3% of tests taken in general.

Most test-takers find the TOEFL PBT easier compared to the TOEFL iBT. However, the PBT is shorter in exam duration than the iBT, which takes about three to four hours. Hence, it is one of the factors why most people find the PBT exam easier. 

In addition, the TOEFL iBT is more complex and contains more challenging questions than the PBT since this version of the TOEFL assesses all the primary English language skills. While the TOEFL PBT assesses the English language skills except for the speaking skills. 

As mentioned earlier, however, test-takers no longer can write the TOELF PBT test format. As of April 11, 2021, the TOEFL exam’s PBT (or the paper-delivered format) is no longer available. If you’ve written the PBT test before that date, your test scores are valid for two years. Aspiring test-takers must enroll and take the other version of the TOEFL test: TOEFL iBT, or TOEFL Essentials, or TOEFL ITP.


TOEFL iBT vs. TOEFL PBT Exam: Test Recognition

Most institutions worldwide highly recognize and accept both the TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT exams for language proficiency proof of non-native English speakers. 

However, some universities and colleges have stricter policies for the TOEFL PBT wherein they only accept it if the TOEFL iBT is not offered in the test-takers location. 

And also, other academic institutions have no restrictions regarding what the test taker will take, either the TOEFL iBT or the PBT. 

Both of these exams are used as a standardized English language assessment tool. In addition, it is commonly used for educational admissions, student visa applications, and immigration offices. 

And also, international companies use this exam for work requirements applications and other organizations that require a language proficiency certification. 


Summary Table of Comparison for the TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT Exams 

Below is a comprehensive comparison table for the TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT exams. 

Key FeaturesTOEFL iBT Exam TOEFL PBT Exam 
Test Fee
  • TOEFL iBT Fee USD 185
  • TOEFL PBT USD 180
Age Requirement for Test Takers
  • No age requirement for test-takers. 
  • However, the ETS recommends ages 17 or those in 11th grade to take the TOEFL exam.
  • For those test-takers who are 15 years old and younger, it is advised to be accompanied by an adult or guardian to sign the release form. 
  • No age requirement for test-takers. 
  • However, the ETS recommends ages 17 or those in 11th grade to take the TOEFL exam.
  • For those test-takers who are 15 years old and younger, it is advised to be accompanied by an adult or guardian to sign the release form. 
Who can take the test
  • Any profession 
  • Any profession 
Test Registration Requirements
  • A valid passport
  • Any national ID with name, photograph, and signature
  • Any Government-issued driver’s license
  • Any national/state/province identity card
  • A valid passport
  • Any national ID with name, photograph, and signature
  • Any Government-issued driver’s license
  • Any national/state/province identity card
Exam Frequency
  • 60 scheduled test days per year
  • 4 scheduled test days per year
Number of Testing Centers Worldwide
  • 4,500 Testing Centers
  • 35 to 40
Number of Countries Where Both Exams are Available 
  • 190 countries
  • 190 countries
Test Scores Validity 
  • Two years
  • Two years
Scoring Method
  • The TOEFL iBT uses a scoring range of 0 to 30 points for each test section.
  • A centralized scoring network does the test scoring for all TOEFL exams.
  • The TOEFL PBT uses a scoring range of  310 to 677 points in all test sections. 
  • A centralized scoring network does the test scoring for all TOEFL exams.
Test Delivery Mode
  • Internet-based Test
  • Paper-based Test
English Skills that are assessed / Test StructureTOEFL iBT Test Sections:
  • Reading
  • Listening
  • Speaking
  • Writing
TOEFL PBT Test Sections:
  • Listening
  • Structure and Written Expression (Grammar)
  • Reading
  • Writing
Test Duration
  • 3 to 4 hours
  • Additional 30 minutes check-in period
  • 3 to 4 hours
  • Additional 30 minutes check-in period

Additional FAQs: TOEFL iBT vs TOEFL PBT

Is TOEFL PBT Easier?

Yes, most test-takers find the TOEFL PBT easier compared to the TOEFL iBT. The TOEFL PBT is only a limited English language skills assessment, while the iBT measures a more extensive range and more complex language skills.  The TOEFL PBT is also shorter in exam length than the TOEFL iBT, which is why the PBT seems a lot easier to most people. 

Is TOEFL PBT still Accepted?

As of April 11, 2021, the paper-based TOEFL test is no longer provided by ETS. The test scores are valid for two years, according to their website. The TOEFL PBT scores are still accepted by most universities and colleges around the world. Most of these institutions accept either the TOEFL PBT or iBT. Consequently, they highly recognize and trust the TOEFL exam to provide an accurate and reliable language proficiency certification. 

Is TOEFL ITP Easier than iBT?

The TOEFL ITP is easier than the iBT since it tracks students’ English language proficiency and uses real-time English context in its test. It is also widely used in academic institutions for placement testing, language progression of test-takers, evaluation, exit testing, and more. 

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