Toefl – Cbt vs iBT

Since my Toefl is coming up and when I booked it, I could not get a slot for the CBT but only for the iBT. Hence I set about finding out the differences between the two versions of the test.

The main reason why I could not locate a CBT slot was because it has been discontinued since the introduction of the iBT which will happen from the coming July. Now on to the main differences.

The single biggest difference is the introduction of the new Speaking section which will test a candidates English speaking ability and hence moot the requirement for taking the TSE. This section consists of 3 parts in which,

  • The candidate has to speak based on a topic which he is familiar with.
  • Read a short passage and listen a talk related to the passage. Based on them, the candidate must answer questions.
  • Listen to a short lecture/conversation and summarize the key points of the audio.

Besides this, the TOEFL now consists of two essays instead of the earlier one. The scoring is also now on a scale of 0 to 120. I’m not sure of the earlier, but I believe it was a maximum of 300.

For score comparisons, ETS has released a score comparison table (Warning: PDF link)

Due to the addition of the essay and the speaking section, the TOEFL iBT is now four hours longs :O
That is one hell of a long test :(


  1. M K September 15, 2006

    Hey, Im supposed to do the TOEFL in the next 1-2 months and I wasn’t exactly aware of the differences between the CBT and iBT, or that I can’t do the CBT any more. I just wanted to ask, and i’m assuming you’re done with the TOEFL, does it require studying or practice if i’ve already sort of practiced for the CBT? Is it a lot harder and more challenging than the previous version? I’d really appreciate it if you’d reply to me ASAP because im really only familiar with the CBT TOEFL and the iBT only just started in my country. Anyways, Thank you for posting this.

    -M K

  2. AJ September 15, 2006

    Hi M K..
    Yes, you will have to study for the iBT since it has sections which are not there in the CBT. For example, the speaking section was not a part of TOEFL and used to a seperate test known as TSE(Test for Spoken English).

    But the new Toefl is not very challenging. If you have good conversational skills in english, can understand “american” spoken english, you should be able to do just fine. I studied for a total of 7 days for the Toefl and I managed to score a 114 out of 120. And my english is not worth nuts ;)

    The section which is most challenging in my opinion is the speaking section because a student gets like 20 seconds to prepare his/her response and speak for 45 – 60 seconds. And sometimes the time for speaking is not sufficient either.. So just practice the sections with a friend for a few days and you will do great. Since you have a couple of months, you can prepare very well and give the test quite easily..

    Let me know if you have more questions. You can mail me or leave a comment :)

    Best of luck

  3. M K September 15, 2006

    Hey, thank you for answering so quickly..I’m feeling a little less worried about it, but i still have a couple of questions to ask, if you don’t mind…

    Alright so, about the speaking section, what kind of questions do they ask you, generally speaking? And how can I prepare for that section? Did you purchase any TOEFL books to study from? And during the test, do they take marks off for, going”umm” and going silent for like, half a second? and saying “like” every once in a while? Do I have to speak formally? :P

    Concerning the writing section, how long is the essay supposed to be? and im talking.. less or more than 250 words? Is it true you have to summarize something? How long should that be?

    Sorry im bombarding you with all these questions, but i can’t seem to stop worrying about this. I’d really be thankful, big time, if you answer those.. thanks again.


  4. AJ September 15, 2006

    Hey M K.. Do not worry. I am glad to answer any and all questions you might have. I can understand the situation since I found it a bit difficult to gather the information as well..

    Well for speaking, they can ask from a pool of 6 question types. While I could elaborate on all of them here, I’ll give you a link to their description on the toefl site where you can read more about it. If you still have questions, please do ask me about them.

    Toefl Site

    To prepare, I suggest you purchase books,, either Toefl Official guide or Longman’s Toefl guide. With those books, practice all speaking sectional tests using a computer and a mike or even a normal recorder. Try to practice with a friend.
    And yes, while you do require formal speech, small pauses or “um”s will not harm your section. Infact, sometimes they are good for added effect ;)

    In the essay section, there are two essays. One is the summary section which is about 250 words. The other is a topic which requires an essay of atleast 300 words (by the way, I exceeded the recommended word count for both, and my score in the writing section was 29 on 30. So it’s just a recommendation. But then, also make sure you do not exceed the original matter for the summary essay :P )

    Do not worry about more questions you have. Feel free to ask me. But yes, if possible, please switch to email. My email address is available in the contact me page in the pull tab :)

  5. sandeep jagatap October 14, 2006

    if i will give the toefl-iBT will the score will be valid for the university which still require for the toefl-cBT.pls do reply me at ur earliest.

  6. AJ October 14, 2006

    Hi Sandeep.
    From what I know, yes the university should accept the iBT scores. The iBT is to replace all other forms of the Toefl eventually.

    But it would be wise to check the website of the college you plan to apply to. They will have definitely mentioned it.

  7. MubeenaThabassum October 19, 2006

    need cbt information

  8. Cong Doan January 3, 2007

    helpful comparisons between CBT and iBT TOEFLs

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