Educational Testing Service (ETS) quietly announced a new version of the TOEFL called TOEFL Essentials. Students can register for this new TOEFL starting in May 2021 for test dates administered in August 2021.
This is big news for students taking the TOEFL. In this article, I’ll provide information about the new test, how it’s different from the TOEFL iBT, and whether you should consider taking this new version of the test.
Format, Design, and Scores
The TOEFL Essentials consists of 4 sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking with the addition of a non-scored 5-minute personal video statement.
The test is one hour and 30 minutes long with an emphasis on shorter, more fast-paced tasks. The content will include 50% general English and 50% academic English. This means the test will test English that is used in non-academic situations.
You will find a variety of accents on the test to better represent English speaking around the world.
Since the test is shorter—only 90 minutes long—there will not be a break during the test. There is an exception, though, for students who qualify for special accommodations.
TOEFL Essentials will be scored on a scale of 1 to 12. Each section will receive a score and a total score will be based on the average of all four sections. In addition this new band scoring, the TOEFL Essentials will have a new type of scoring called Foundational Skills Scores. They will report percentile rankings on Vocabulary Knowledge and Sentence Construction.
ETS released three practice tests in May 2021. These are your best chance to learn about the test and get practice with the new format.
New Virtual Interview for Speaking
The Speaking section will have test takers participate in a simulated conversation with a pre-recorded interviewer. We don’t know more about this content yet and will know more in May.
What’s the difference between TOEFL iBT and TOEFL Essentials?
For the best information on the differences, I recommend reading the table that ETS provides about the two tests. Here’s the important information from what they’ve shared so far:
|TOEFL® Essentials™||TOEFL® iBT|
|Length||1.5 hours||3 hours|
|Price*||$100–$120 USD||$170–$245 USD|
|Content||50% non-academic English and 50% academic English||100% academic English|
|Score||Scaled band score of 1 to 12 for each section and for a total score.||Each section is scored 0 to 30. Sum of all sections gives the total score of 0 to 120|
|Format||Multistage adaptive||4 non-adaptive sections|
|Delivery||At home.||At home or in a test center|
* Cost changes from one country to the next
Frequently Asked Questions about the TOEFL Essentials
Can I take the TOEFL Essentials any time I want at home?
No. TOEFL Essentials will only be offered 1 day a week when it launches in August. After that, they will slowly start to open up more days of the week with a goal of offering the test 3 days a week.
Is the TOEFL iBT going away?
According to ETS, no. The TOEFL iBT will still be an option for students and colleges in the future.
When do I record the personal video statement?
At the end of the test. Since it’s not scored, ETS decided to put it at the end so that students can use their initial time and energy on the scored section of the test.
Will there be Disability Accommodations when TOEFL Essential launches?
Yes, students will have guidelines to follow in May to register with ETS and receive accommodations.
When will score reports be available
Official score reports will be available 6 days after the test.
What does it mean that the test will be “multi-stage adaptive?”
Based on a conversation with ETS, they provided this information about the the adaptive nature of the test: “In general, in an adaptive test, when the test taker answers a question correctly, they will be given a more difficult question. If they answer a question incorrectly, they will be given a less difficult question. The adaptation methodology is similar to what is used in the GRE.”
Should I Take the TOEFL Essentials?
If you are going to take the TOEFL before August 2021, you should not plan to take the TOEFL Essentials.
If you plan to take the TOEFL after August 2021, it’s a little more complicated, but I’d probably advise you not to take the test. Even so, you may still be interested in taking the test. If so, you need to find out if the institutions you plan to apply to will accept the TOEFL Essentials. ETS asked 250 institutions if they’d accept the new TOEFL and 90% said they’d likely accept TOEFL Essentials scores for classes enrolling in 2022. That’s not this year. So, it may take some time before your schools accept the TOEFL Essentials.
Ultimately, for 2021, I recommend that you focus on the TOEFL iBT. If anything, the TOEFL Essentials is a distraction for you and your plans. I wouldn’t waste a lot of time or energy trying to find out this information from the programs you are applying to. Put that time into studying for the TOEFL iBT.