Everything you need to know about the TOEFL iBT® 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 TOEFL iBT test, the world’s most accepted English language test for study, work, and immigration.

In short

What is the TOEFL iBT test?

The TOEFL iBT test is “the premier test of academic English communication offered at test centers worldwide,” Yasemin begins. “It helps candidates stand out to admissions officers and show that they do have the English skills to succeed in an academic environment.” (00:21)

Yasemin adds, “It is the world’s most accepted English language test for study, work, and immigration. More than 11,500 institutions in more than 160 countries trust TOEFL iBT scores when making admissions decisions.” (01:13)

With four sections – Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing – the TOEFL iBT test takes around three hours to complete. Test-takers also have the option to take the test at a test center or at home. As Yasemin says, “The convenience of the TOEFL iBT test helps the candidates to benefit from the test-taking experience.” (02:20)

How has the TOEFL iBT test changed since its inception?

Since it was launched in 2005, the TOEFL iBT has experienced some changes. While the overall structure and content of the test is the same, Yasemin tells us “ETS has made several significant improvements to the test in the last few years.” (04:06)

The biggest change might be the introduction of the TOEFL iBT Home Edition and Paper Edition. In the TOEFL iBT Home Edition, test-takers can complete the test in the privacy of their own home. They are monitored online by a human proctor. In the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition, test-takers take three sections of the test on paper and complete the Speaking section at home. These new formats allow students to choose the test that is more convenient for them and that best matches their preferred style.

Other changes to the TOEFL iBT include:

  • Shorter completion time by 30 minutes.
  • Instant scoring of the Reading and Listening sections. Test-takers can view these unofficial scores at the end of the test.
  • Faster score reporting. Test-takers will receive their official scores in as little as six days.
  • The introduction of MyBest Scores, which allows test-takers to show their best overall performance across multiple tests.
  • Extended online registration. Test-takers can register for the test just two days before a test date.
  • Reduced waiting time between tests to just three days.

How to prepare for the TOEFL iBT test

As the creator of the test, ETS highly recommends that test-takers use the test prep resources developed by ETS.

Yasemin lists several preparation resources offered by ETS, including:

  • The Official Guide to the TOEFL iBT test, featuring four full-length practice tests plus valuable tips.
  • Official TOEFL iBT Tests, Volumes 1 and 2. This includes 10, full-length TOEFL iBT tests with previously administered content.
  • TOEFL iBT Practice Sets. With this resource, test-takers can practice each section of the test with free sets of TOEFL iBT questions from previous tests.
  • TOEFL Test Preparation: The Insider’s Guide, a free interactive course that uses videos, short quizzes, and discussion boards to help you prepare for the test.

What are you waiting for? Take advantage of these test prep resources to ensure your success!

How does ETS ensure test security and prevent fraud?

As with any academic test, there is always a risk of fraud. ETS takes test security very seriously.

“ETS has long been at the forefront of combating test security concerns, with more than $60 million invested in state-of-the-art security annually,” Yasemin explains. “The TOEFL test offers the best security of any English language assessment.” (08:40)

ETS implements test-day security procedures, such as biometric voice identification, facial recognition, and the use of electronic bonding at test centers. For the TOEFL iBT Home Edition, “ETS employs both live human proctors and the use of artificial intelligence technology to prevent and detect suspicious activity, Yasemin tells us. (09:19)

TOEFL Essentials

ETS recently launched the TOEFL Essentials test, a 90-minute, multistage adaptive format test that combines all the essential ingredients of the TOEFL iBT test (quality, convenience, simplicity, flexibility, credibility, affordability). The TOEFL Essentials test also contains an unscored five-minute Personal Video Statement, allowing test-takers to introduce themselves to admissions officers and showcase their personalities.

To get a more comprehensive understanding of the differences between the TOEFL Essentials and the TOEFL iBT, read this article.

So, how do you decide which test to take?

Yasemin suggests, “The best way to choose which test is best for [you] is to think about [your] goals and what [you’re] trying to accomplish.” (12:57) It’s important to do your research and check directly with the institution you’re applying to in order to find out their admissions requirements.

In any case, “both the TOEFL Essentials test and TOEFL iBT test will not only help students achieve their academic goals, but also show admissions officers students’ ability to succeed in their programs,” Yasemin states. “TOEFL has provided high-quality English language assessments for over 70 years and is trusted by admissions officers worldwide.” (13:37)

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