Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Scoring Systems of TOEFL PBT and IBT

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is a standardized language exam for non-native speakers. More than 9,000 educational institutions and organizations in 130 countries acknowledge it as an accurate measure of an individual’s English proficiency. Though TOEFL was initially a requirement for academic settings, many agencies also recognize its test results for professional licensure, overseas employment and immigration purposes.

Examinees can prepare for the test by enrolling in a TOEFL review center or by self-studying. The latter method is recommended since exam specialists can provide valuable insights and reliable language assessments.  In the Philippines, there are competitive TOEFL review centers in Makati, Manila, Cebu and Davao.

toefl review center

There are two kinds of TOEFL exam. Most examinees nowadays take the Internet-based test (iBT). Meanwhile, examinees who reside in areas where the IBT is unavailable may take the paper-based test (PBT) instead. Given that they differ in administrative arrangements, the former relies on the Internet while the latter uses the traditional paper-delivered approach, each type follows a particular scoring method.  All exam scores are valid for two years.

To help examinees distinguish grading differences, here are iBT’s and PBT’s scoring systems for each exam component:

TOEFL iBT Score Sheet

The iBT evaluates a test taker’s proficiency based on the four language skills: reading, listening, speaking and writing. First conducted in 2005, its overall grade results range from 0 to 120. Each component has its particular score scale.

Number of Questions: 36 to 56
Score Range: 0 to 30
Level Equivalent:
•    High  – 22 to 30
•    Intermediate – 15 to 21
•    Low – 0 to 14

Number of Questions: 34 to 51
Score Range: 0 to 30
Level Equivalent:
•    High  – 22 to 30
•    Intermediate – 15 to 21
•    Low – 0 to 14


Number of Tasks: 6
Score Range: 0 to 30
Level Equivalent:
•    Good – 26 to 30
•    Fair – 18 to 25
•    Limited – 10 to 17
•    Weak – 0 to 9


Number of Tasks: 2
Score Range: 0 to 30
Level Equivalent:
•    Good – 24 to 30
•    Fair – 17 to 23
•    Limited – 1 to 16

In TOEFL iBT, examinees can cancel their test results. Once revoked, the scores would not be included in his/her permanent records. The cancellation of the test is nonrefundable. If the test taker changes his/her mind, the iBT can be reinstated provided that he/she submits the requirements no later than 60 days after the exam date. Revoked scores by the English Testing System (ETS) facilitator, however, cannot be re-established. 

TOEFL PBT Score Sheet
The PBT has Listening, Reading and Writing components like its online-based counterpart.
However, instead of a Speaking assessment, it administers the Test of Written English (TWE), which focuses on a test taker’s grammar skills. The exam’s overall score for the three main sections ranges from 310 to 677. TOEFL PBT takes approximately four hours to accomplish.

Listening Comprehension Component  
Number of Questions: 50
Score Range: 31 to 68

Structure and Written Expression Component
Number of Questions: 40
Score Range: 31 to 68

Reading Comprehension Component
Number of Questions: 50
Score Range: 31 to 67

TWE exam
Number of Questions: 1
Score Range: 1 to 6

The TWE adheres to a different grading method compared to the other three parts. The examinee’s essay undergoes assessment via a measuring scale of one to six. The results are kept separate from the TOEFL score. 

In TOEFL PBT, the test taker reserves the right to cancel his/her score, which will render the whole exam results invalid. Unlike the iBT, the score cannot be reinstated after cancellation. Removed scores are not refundable and will not reflect on his/her record. For up to three months after the test date, the examinee can have his/her grades reviewed for a fee. 

Preparing for the exam with a TOEFL review center is highly recommended. The test specialists of the TOEFL review center in Makati, Manila, Cebu and Davao can walk students through the entire test process.

Examinees should be aware of which TOEFL exam suits their purpose best. Remember that different institutions require different PBT or iBT scores. Most agencies prefer the iBT since it evaluates the four primary language skills. Meanwhile, some organizations prefer the grammar-centered assessment that the PBT administers. Ultimately, no matter which exam is required, preparation is always the key to TOEFL success. 


"The TOEFL® Test." ETS®. Accessed November 28, 2016.

"TOEFL® PBT Scores." ETS®. Accessed November 28, 2016.

"TOEFL IBT® Test Scores." ETS®. Accessed November 28, 2016.

Hardin, Kate. "How Is the TOEFL Scored?" Magoosh TOEFL Blog. January 09, 2014. Accessed November 28, 2016.

"Understanding Your TOEFL IBT® Test Scores." ETS®. Accessed November 28, 2016.

"Scoring Services." ETS®. Accessed November 28, 2016.


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