TOEFL 2020: PBT, Exam Pattern, Section Wise Details, Preparation Tips

    Sayantani Barman Sayantani Barman
    Study Abroad Expert

    TOEFL or Test of English as a Foreign Language is one of the language proficiency exams taken by those test takers who want to migrate or pursue higher education in English speaking nations. TOEFL is mainly of two kinds- TOEFL iBT (internet based test) and TOEFL PBT (paper based test). From the available data it is seen that more than 98% test takers prefer TOEFL iBT for its easy accessibility. Registration for TOEFL for these two patterns are different. 

    TOEFL PBT is for those test takers who are unable to access internet at preferred locations. ETS is the main organizing body of this exam. It designed a paper based TOEFL exam in a close alignment with TOEFL iBT. Like internet based TOEFL, this exam also measures listening, reading, and writing skills of the test taker. Due to unavailability of technological requirements, TOEFL PBT doesn’t have any speaking section. Regardless of TOEFL exam pattern, test score will be valid for 2 years. Total duration for TOEFL PBT is 2hrs 25 minutes. 

    TOEFL PBT: Exam Format

    Reading30 MCQ54 minutes
    Listening28 MCQApprox. 41 minutes
    Writing2 responses50 minutes
    Total78 questions2hrs 25 minutes


    Both TOEFL iBT and TOEFL PBT are different in many ways. In 2005, ETS introduced TOEFL iBT format to make the exam accessible to the test takers. Test takers who are not comfortable in writing over computer prefer to take TOEFL on paper. Score of TOEFL PBT varies between 310 and 677. Most test takers are measured on the skills of listening, reading, structure and written expression and writing. Structure and Written expression is the section included only in TOEFL PBT pattern.

    Reading12-14 questions each section30 questions
    Listening5-6 questions each section28 questions
    Speaking6 questionsNil
    Writing2 questions2 tasks
    Structure and Written ExpressionNil40 questions
    Total Time DurationAround 4hrs2hrs 25 minutes
    TOEFL PBT: Reading

    TOEFL PBT: Reading

    TOEFL is an exam taken mostly by those test takers who aim to excel in academic fields. Most of the questions in TOEFL are of higher vocabulary standard. Reading section in TOEFL PBT examines how well an individual understands academic texts in English studied at university level. Most excerpts for reading passages are taken from university textbooks. 

    • Reading sections consists of 3 passages 
    • Test takers have to answer 10 question each from all these 3 passages 
    • Questions with 4 answer options with a single correct answer 
    • “Insert a sentence” with a correct answer choose from 4 answer choices given 
    • “Reading to Learn” section with more than 4 options and to choose more than 1 correct answer 
    • Test takers have to answer 50 MCQ in 55 minutes 
    TOEFL PBT: Listening

    TOEFL PBT: Listening

    Listening section in TOEFL PBT tests the ability to listen to each English word spoken in an academic environment. Like TOEFL iBT, this section is also designed with lectures and conversations taken from an academic setting. One can write in bullets to note down important topics from listening. 

    • In this section 2 conversations and 3 lectures will be played once for test takers 
    • Total 28 questions to be answered from this section 
    • Multiple choice questions will be there to choose one correct answer out of 4 options 
    • Multiple choice questions with two correct answers out of 4 options 
    • Test takers have to attempt 50 questions in 30-40 minutes 
    TOEFL PBT: Writing

    TOEFL PBT: Writing

    In this section, examiners measure the writing ability skills of the test takers in an academic setting. In most universities, students have to articulate logic and pragmatic statements in coherence. Examiners measure how well test takers maintain coherence and fluency within the written essay. Writing section of PBT consists of 2 sections- 1 Integrated Task and 1 Independent Task. 

    • In the Integrated task, test takers have to read a passage and listen to the audio given to find out information required for writing essay 
    • One needs to cite every information from the source material accurately along with paraphrasing and summarizing 
    • One has to depict and relate information in writing the way one reads the information from source material 
    • For independent task, test taker has to write an opinionated essay stating an argument on a common topic and substantiate the stand with reliable examples and reason 
    • 50 minutes is allotted to attempt writing section of TOEFL PBT 
    • Test takers are measured on the scale of 0-6 in this section 

    TOEFL PBT: Structure and Written Expression

    This section is quite important for test takers attempting paper based test for TOEFL. Examiners measure how well a test taker uses vocabulary as required. Unlike other language proficiency tests, structure and written expression is incorporated in TOEFL PBT in place of speaking section. Examiners test the strength of vocabulary usage of the test taker in this section. 

    • Test takers have to attempt 40 questions in 25 minutes 
    • One type of questions in this section is where the test taker has to complete a particular section with best word choice 
    • In another section, test taker has to change a word or phrase with the best answer choice to make the sentence sound correct 
    TOEFL PBT: Score Scale

    TOEFL PBT: Score Scale

    As compared to TOEFL iBT, paper delivered TOEFL is scored differently. Test takers get a score on a scale of 310-677. For the scoring, examiners include listening, structure and written expression and reading section. Each correct answer carries 1 raw point. There is no penalty for incorrect answers. All these three sections are equally distributed in TOEFL PBT. ETS calculates total TOEFL PBT score by adding the number scored by the test taker in each section and then multiply the total sum by 10 and then divide the total result by 3. 

    Example: If a test taker gets 50 in each section of listening, reading and structure and written expression. Therefore total score is (50+50+50) = 150*10=1500/3=500. Therefore the test taker scores 500. 

    TOEFL PBT: Test Centers

    In India, TOEFL iBT occurs in 59 cities across the nation. TOEFL PBT happens only 4 times a year. Every test center is not open for offline test patterns. 

    TOEFL PBT: Additional Services

    • ETS allows the test takers to get additional charge to mail score reports as required 
    • Within registration fee, test takers can add 4 institutions to send score reports directly but with additional charges one can add more institutions 
    • If a test taker wants to reassess scoring pattern for TOEFL PBT or written section can request for it 
    • Within 3 months of publication of result, test takers can apply for re-assessment of TOEFL score 
    • Test taker can request for rescoring only for once per administration 
    TOEFL PBT: Preparation Tips

    TOEFL PBT: Preparation Tips

    Test takers who have no access to internet so easily can opt for the TOEFL PBT. In comparison to TOEFL iBT, this pattern is quite different in terms of score and pattern. Few preparation tips for TOEFL PBT are as follows 

    • Use English as mode of interaction in every possible way 
    • Try to communicate through speaking, writing, reading and listening through English 
    • Make a proper note for new English words to strengthen vocabulary 
    • Try to focus on sentence structure for making it easily comprehensible 
    • Practice listening to radio, TV or English movies to understand English accent easily 
    • One should read English daily, magazines, websites regularly to cope up with new words 
    • Always follow academic journals to understand language used at university level 
    • Always read questions properly before attempting

    *The article might have information for the previous academic years, which will be updated soon subject to the notification issued by the University/College


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