TOEFL iBT vs. Paper Test: Choosing the Right Format
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Comparison of TOEFL iBT vs. TOEFL Paper-based Test: Choosing the Right Format

TOEFL iBT vs. Paper Test

TOEFL iBT vs. Paper Test: Choosing the Right Format 

In the process of TOEFL exam, the crucial point one should understand is the differences between TOEFL iBT and TOEFL paper-based test. This analysis of how TOEFL iBT differs from the TOEFL paper-based test can assist you in finding the appropriate version of the test that is more preferable for you. Before we discuss what each one entails, let’s look at some of the factors that are pertinent to the tests such as the type of test, the subject and content, test scoring and whether the test is available to public or otherwise. 

TOEFL iBT vs. TOEFL Paper-based: An Overview

It is an exam that tests how well you can use the English language specifically based on your background. There are two formats: Two types of tests are available at present, namely the Internet-based Test (iBT) and the Paper-based Test (PBT). It is important to understand that both form and aim at measuring your abilities in reading, listening, speaking, and writing, yet, they have a lot of differences in terms of their approach and organization. 

What is TOEFL iBT?

Internet-based: The TOEFL iBT is conducted online at designated test centers.
Sections: It includes four sections – Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing.
Duration: The test takes about 3 hours to complete.
Skills Assessed: It evaluates integrated skills, meaning tasks often require you to use multiple language skills simultaneously.

What is TOEFL Paper-based Test?

Paper-based: The TOEFL PBT is administered on paper as well and similar to the computer-based test is administered at the test centers.
Sections: Composed of three parts these are Listening, Structure and Written Expression, and Reading. Also there is the Test of Written English (TWE).
Duration: Taking around 2. 5 hours, including an extra 0.5 hours for the TWE.
Skills Assessed: The latter applies to the individual language skills in isolation. 

TOEFL Exam Format Comparison

Understanding the TOEFL exam format comparison is essential to know what each test entails and how they differ.

Format and Structure


  • Reading: 3-4 passages with 36-56 questions. Duration: 60-80 minutes.
  • Listening: 4-6 lectures and 2-3 conversations with 34-51 questions. Duration: 60-90 minutes.
  • Speaking: 6 tasks. Duration: 20 minutes.
  • Writing: 2 tasks. Duration: 50 minutes.

TOEFL Paper-based

  • Listening: 3 parts with 50 questions. Duration: 30-40 minutes.
  • Structure and Written Expression: 40 questions. Duration: 25 minutes.
  • Reading: 50 questions. Duration: 55 minutes.
  • Test of Written English (TWE): 1 essay. Duration: 30 minutes.

Content and Skills


Integrated Tasks: Needs to use several abilities at once. For instance, listening to a lecture and then retyping a summary of the content heard.
Speaking Section: Recorded via headphones/earphones, through a microphone, and measures your fluency in English. 

TOEFL Paper-based

Separate Skills: Each section focuses on a single skill without integration.

No Speaking Section: Instead, there’s a Structure and Written Expression section that tests grammar and writing skills.

Differences TOEFL Tests: Key Points



Total Score: Ranges from 0 to 120.

Section Scores: Each section is scored from 0 to 30.

TOEFL Paper-based

  Total Score: From 310 to 677 is what it spans.
  Section Scores: Listening (31-68), Structure & Written Expression (31-68) and   Reading (31-67).
  TWE Score: Solved independently on the scale from 0 to 6.



Frequency: Available more frequently, with multiple test dates each month.

Test Centers: Widely available across the globe.

TOEFL Paper-based

Frequency: Less frequent, with fewer test dates each year.

Test Centers: Limited availability compared to the iBT.



Universities and Institutions: Widely accepted by most universities and institutions worldwide.

TOEFL Paper-based

Universities and Institutions: Accepted by fewer institutions; however, still recognized by many.

Choosing the Right Format: TOEFL iBT or Paper-based

When deciding between TOEFL iBT or paper-based, consider the following factors:

Test-taking Environment

Comfort with Technology: If it is relatively easy for you to type on a computer, you may find the TOEFL iBT to be easier.
Preference for Paper: If you prefer reading and writing on paper rather than in a computer-based format, the TOEFL PBT may be more suitable.

Skill Assessment

Integrated Skills: If you prefer tasks which involve more than one skill area select a TOEFL iBT.
Individual Skills: TOEFL PBT is the right choice to opt for in case you wish to have distinct sections for specific skills. 

Availability and Convenience

Test Dates:  TOEFL iBT has more test takers with many more available dates, as compared to TOEFL PBT.
Location:  Make sure there is a test center close to that format available in your area. 


A basic comprehension of which option is better, TOEFL iBT or TOEFL paper-based test would be helpful to choose the right format you are comfortable with. Regardless of the type of the TOEFL you prefer – TOEFL iBT or Paper-based, make sure that you follow up to revisions and go with the type that is most convenient for you and your testing mannerisms. Hope you have a good score in TOEFL preparations and all the best for your academic endeavors!

Common Questions About TOEFL Exam Formats

1: Which format is easier, TOEFL iBT or TOEFL paper-based?
Well, it depends on your capabilities or the type of tasks that are close to your interests and skills. TOEFL iBT is the test which based on computer and use the more language skills as a whole rather than each one individually, while TOEFL PBT is more familiar with paper type as well as using each language skill separately.

2: Can I switch formats after registering for a test?
Generally, you cannot switch formats after registering. Ensure you choose the correct format before registering.

3: How should I prepare differently for TOEFL iBT vs. TOEFL paper-based?
In general, when it comes to TOEFL iBT, one should take the time and practice using the keyboard as well as microphone. For TOEFL PBT, it is recommended that additional practice should be done on grammar and writing by hand.

4: Are the scores from both formats equally accepted by universities?
Most universities accept both formats, but it’s best to check with the specific institutions you’re applying to.

5: What is the cost difference between TOEFL iBT and TOEFL paper-based?
The cost is different depending on the specific country, however, as a rule, TOEFL iBT is known to be slightly more expensive in comparison to other types of TOEFL because of the technology taken.

6: Does TOEFL iBT have a higher acceptance rate than TOEFL PBT?
The iBT version of TOEFL is used more frequently around the world because of the better language abilities coverage.

7: Can I take both tests and use the better score?
Yes, you can take both tests and choose to send the better score to institutions.

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