TOEFL Format

It is important that you know that the exam is offered in 2 formats – on the computer and on paper. Depending on whether or not your local testing facility has internet access, you can take the Internet-based Test (iBT) or the Paper-Based test (PBT) Although the computer format is called The Internet-based test, don’t let it confuse you — it cannot be taken on the internet from your home, only at an authorized testing facility.

Since you might not have a choice, being that some testing facilities offer one or the other, then you should be prepared for what each is like. In the case that you do have a choice, it’s still important to know the key differences and choose the format that makes you feel most comfortable. For example, a very important difference for someone who has the choice to take either is that the Internet-Based Test is offered 30 to 40 times a year, whereas the Paper-based Test is only offered on six dates.

The Internet-Based Test (iBT)

The iBT takes four to four and a half hours to complete and is distributed into four sections that each focus on evaluating your English proficiency skills.

The sections are broken down as follows:

The TOEFL Reading section consists of 3-5 passages, each 12-14 questions. The passages are about 700 words in length and are usually on an academic related subject. The questions will make you answer and think of cause/effect, main idea, vocabulary, etc.
Duration: 60-100 minutes

The Listening section of the TOEFL consists of 6-9 passages, each 5-6 questions. The audio passages are 3-5 minutes in length and include 2 conversations and 4 academic lectures. For the conversations, you will be hearing 2 people speaking and will answer questions about what they were speaking about – main idea, details, any conflict, and resolution. For the lectures, you will also answer questions measuring how well you understood what was being discussed. The audio will play only once, which might be a little scary but don’t worry: you are allowed to take notes as you listen to help you answer the questions.
Duration: 60-90 minutes

10-minute break (relax, stretch.)

The Speaking section consists of 6 tasks and 6 questions. Tasks are basically questions that will prompt you to answer out loud. The task questions will vary in subject – from a student-to-student conversation to a professor lecture. The point is to get you answering opinion questions that test your ability to speak spontaneously and clearly.
Duration: 20 minutes

The TOEFL writing section consists of 2 tasks and 2 questions. In one of the tasks, you will read a passage and then listen to a speaker discuss it. Then, you will be asked to write a summary about what you read and heard by pointing out key terms and main ideas. For the second task, you will be asked to write an essay fully explaining and supporting your opinion on a certain topic.
Duration 55 minutes

The score system for the iBT is from a scale of 0 to 120 points and the results are mailed to your home 15 business days after you take the test.

The Paper-Based Test (PBT)

The PBT takes three hours to complete and is also distributed into four sections that each focus on evaluating your English proficiency skills.

The sections are broken down as follows:

Listening Comprehension
The Listening Comprehension section of the TOEFL consists of 50 questions, 3 parts. The first part will ask you 30 questions based on short conversations. The second part will ask you 8 questions based on longer conversations. The last part will ask you 12 questions about lectures or talks.
Duration: 30-40 minutes

Structure and Written Expression
The TOEFL Structure and Written Expression section consists 40 questions, 15 exercises that prompt you to complete sentences correctly and 25 exercises that ask you to identify errors in sentences.
Duration: 25 minutes

Reading Comprehension
Reading Comprehension consists of 50 questions based off reading passages.
Duration: 55 minutes

Writing (Test of Written English):
You will be asked to write 1 essay around 250-300 words for the writing section.
Duration: 30 minutes

The score system for the PBT ranges between 310 and 677. This is based on three subscores: Listening (31–68), Structure (31–68), and Reading (31–67).

IBT and PBT Similarities

The scores of both tests are valid for two years and accepted by thousands of institutions in the US and other countries. Both tests will send your TOEFL exam score to four institutions for free, and more if you pay a fee.