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Introducing the TOEFL® Essentials™ test

Yasemin Arsin is the TOEFL Academic Relations & English Language Teacher Coordinator at ETS, the world's largest non-profit educational assessment, research, and learning organization. She told MASTERGRADSCHOOLS about the latest addition to their portfolio of English proficiency tests: TOEFL Essentials. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the TOEFL Essentials test.

In short

What is the TOEFL® Essentials™ test?

“The TOEFL Essentials test is an affordable, convenient, and engaging English language proficiency exam that measures the four core language skills: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking,” Yasemin explains. (00:30)

The test takes around 90 minutes to complete and uses a multistage adaptive format design, which means the test questions adjust to your skill level as you go through the test.

The TOEFL Essentials test also gives students the opportunity to showcase themselves beyond the test. “For example, at the end of the test, [students] record an unscored five-minute Personal Video Statement, which allows them to introduce themselves to admissions officers by showing their unique personality,” Yasemin tells us. (00:51)

Many schools now include a video essay component in their admissions process, so the TOEFL Essentials test could give you an extra bonus to showcase your personality and motivation.

TOEFL Essentials vs. TOEFL iBT®

The TOEFL Essentials was created “to provide an option for students who prefer a different testing style but still want the quality and fairness the TOEFL brand delivers,” Yasemin says. (01:12)

While both the TOEFL iBT and the TOEFL Essentials tests measure English language communication skills and can be used independently for high-stakes admissions decisions, the differences between them allow each test to stand apart from one another and appeal to different types of students.

Here are a few differences between the TOEFL iBT and the TOEFL Essentials tests:


  • TOEFL iBT: traditionally-paced with longer tasks and a more immersive experience typical of an academic environment that can be accomplished in about three hours. 
  • TOEFL Essentials: faster-paced with shorter tasks that can be accomplished in about 1.5 hours.


  • TOEFL iBT: uses carefully pre-selected content for the best assessment of your academic English abilities.
  • TOEFL Essentials: adapts to your proficiency level which directly measures the foundational elements of English language proficiency, such as Vocabulary and Sentence Construction.


  • TOEFL iBT: 100% academic English.
  • TOEFL Essentials: 50% academic English, 50% general English.


  • TOEFL iBT: in-person in a test center or online with the TOEFL iBT Home Edition.
  • TOEFL Essentials: only online through at-home testing, monitored by a human proctor.


  • TOEFL iBT: $180-325 depending on location.
  • TOEFL Essentials: $100-120 depending on location.

Is the TOEFL Essentials test reliable?

Even though the TOEFL Essentials test does not take place in a traditional test center, ETS ensures that all of its at-home tests are reliable and secure.

One way they do this is through test security measures, which use human proctors with ProctorU®, combined with artificial intelligence and recording test sessions.

Yasemin explains, “There is a human proctor monitoring the whole process of testing and at the same time, ETS uses artificial intelligence technology so that testing security can be maintained – because it is a reliable and worldwide recognized testing and assessment organization, test security is one of the core values for [ETS]…At the same time, test sessions are recorded from beginning to end. This is how it works.” (04:58)

In addition, ETS utilizes this combination of human-led, AI-supported processes from test design and development (where human assessment experts create items that are then tested with real people in the field), all the way through scoring (where trained human raters score Speaking and Writing section responses due to their complexity), to ensure validity and reliability of the tests.

Which TOEFL test should you take?

Both the TOEFL iBT and the TOEFL Essentials test provide unique benefits for students. Each test will “not only help students achieve their academic goals, but also show admissions officers a student’s ability to succeed in their programs,” Yasemin states. “TOEFL has provided high-quality English language assessments for nearly 60 years and is trusted by admissions officers worldwide.” (06:47)

The test you choose depends on your testing style and preferences. If you prefer a more affordable, faster-paced, shorter test that you can do from home and you’d like to showcase your personality through the personal video statement, Yasemin suggests choosing the TOEFL Essentials test.

If you prefer a more immersive experience, want to showcase your academic English proficiency skills and you’d like the option to choose between taking the test at home or at a test center, then the TOEFL iBT or the TOEFL iBT Home Edition might be better options for you.

Just make sure to double-check your prospective university’s admission requirements and if they require a specific test. In any case, “ETS is a worldwide known testing and assessment organization. That is why a lot of institutions across the world trust the tests by ETS,” Yasemin says. (06:21)

Why the TOEFL Essentials test is… essential

“English opens doors to global opportunities and our tests are part of that journey,” Yasemin tells us. (10:33)

The TOEFL Essentials test is an exciting new addition to the portfolio of accepted English proficiency tests. As Yasemin says, “The TOEFL Essentials test combines all the essential ingredients: quality, convenience, simplicity, flexibility, credibility, and affordability. TOEFL Essentials is just what students need to help them get to where they want to go.” (10:41)

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