Lucas Fink

TOEFL Tuesday: The Types of TOEFL

Welcome to this week’s installment of TOEFL Tuesday! Today, you’ll learn about all the different types of TOEFL exams, and you will discover who takes each test.

Did you miss last week’s video? Don’t worry. You can see it here.


There are four different tests which get the “TOEFL” label. Two of them are very unimportant. I’ll introduce those first just to move on to the important information quickly.


Don’t confuse this with the IBT! The ITP is not a test that you take for admission to graduate school or college, generally. If you are taking the GRE, GMAT, SAT, or another test for university admissions, and they require the TOEFL, the school does not want a TOEFL ITP score.

The ITP is a test given in classes by teachers who want to evaluate the skills of their students. It is not given at a special test center, and you (the student) don’t usually choose to take it. The teacher decides, and the scores are for the teacher to use. So you can basically forget about this test, unless you have a teacher/professor who wants you to take the TOEFL ITP.

Practice for your TOEFL exam with Magoosh.


“CBT” means “computer-based test.” This test is not used today, because it has been replaced by the IBT (internet-based test). If you have material for the CBT, they won’t be useful to prepare for the IBT. And if your target university lists required CBT scores, ignore them. This test doesn’t exist today.


This is the main form of the TOEFL, the internet-based test Around 97% of TOEFL takers go for the IBT. All of Magoosh TOEFL material is about the IBT—in fact, most resources you will find anywhere are about the IBT, because it has been the standard for almost ten years. (Have you seen our free Guide to the TOEFL iBT eBook yet?)

The IBT is made of four sections: reading, listening, speaking, and writing. All four sections are completed at a computer, with a microphone—test takers do not talk to anybody during the IBT nor complete any paper exercises. There is no grammar section (although grammar is important for speaking and writing), and no vocabulary section, unlike many other English tests.

The IBT is given anywhere that ETS (the company who makes the TOEFL) has a test center with internet access. If your country or area has internet access, then you will take the IBT. Very, very few people have the choice to take the PBT (below).


The paper-based test is for students who live in areas that don’t have an internet-based test center. It still exists, but soon ETS will completely replace it with the IBT.

If your area has the PBT, then it probably does not have the IBT.

Interestingly, the PBT is a very different test from the IBT. It does not have the same four sections. Instead, there is reading, grammar/writing, listening, and a separate essay. The reading and listening sections as similar to the IBT, but not the same. For example, the listening recordings are shorter on the PBT. Meanwhile, the PBT grammar section is completely unlike anything on the IBT. The scoring is also different. Whereas the IBT is scored from 0 to 120, the PBT is scored from 310 to 677 (I know it’s a strange maximum score!).

The Main Point

You will probably not have a choice in which TOEFL type you take. Almost all students take the IBT, which is most important and easiest to find information about and practice material for. A very small number of students take the PBT. If that includes you, then be sure to practice with PBT material, because the types of questions are quite different.


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  • Lucas Fink

    Lucas is the teacher behind Magoosh TOEFL. He’s been teaching TOEFL preparation and more general English since 2009, and the SAT since 2008. Between his time at Bard College and teaching abroad, he has studied Japanese, Czech, and Korean. None of them come in handy, nowadays.

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