TOEFL iBT® Paper Edition: Your Top 10 Questions Answered by ETS®

Registration has already begun for the brand new TOEFL iBT Paper Edition test, with the first tests scheduled to be administered in Colombia, Mexico, the United States, and India in December 2021.

Wait, wait, wait… what?

A TOEFL iBT Paper Edition? I thought you had to take the TOEFL iBT on a computer.

That’s what I thought too, until I sat down with the Executive Director of the TOEFL Program at ETS, Srikant Gopal, to discuss this new addition to the TOEFL Portfolio.

You can visit ETS’ website to learn more about test registration here.

You can also try a free TOEFL iBT Paper Edition practice test here.

TOEFL iBT® Paper Edition – Everything You Need to Know

Here are the notes to our interview about the TOEFL iBT® Paper Edition:

Introduction of Josh MacPherson and Srikant Gopal, Executive Director of the TOEFL Program

Josh: Hello everybody, and welcome to the channel. Here we are talking with Srikant Gopal from ETS. He is the executive director of the TOEFL program, and he is here today to talk about a new test basically called the TOEFL iBT paper-based test. I guess it’s not a new test but the paper-based test, and he’s here to share some information about it and answer your questions. So Srikant, thank you so much for coming. I appreciate it.

Srikant: Thank you, Josh, and it’s a pleasure to talk to you again and to your audience; and I look forward to sharing some information and answering some questions today.

Josh: Great, so yeah, I think this is you know, been here a couple of times already, so I think you know probably most people know who you are but just in case just, of course, I introduced you already but please tell us a little bit about your role at ETS and what you do.

Why has the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition been released now?

Srikant: Yeah, I’m the executive director of the TOEFL program at ETS. I’m based in Princeton, New Jersey office in the US, and I basically oversee all our work on TOEFL on a global basis.

Josh: Okay, and so under your management some you know there’s been a lot, quite a few changes comparatively to the last few decades for TOEFL there’s been, you know a shorter version of the TOEFL iBT there’s been a TOEFL Essentials test, there’s been the Home Edition in response to Covid, and now there is a paper-based version of the test. Is that it? Did I hit everything?

Srikant: Yes, yes, so let me just maybe back up a little bit. Yes, we have seen a lot of innovation and improvements to our TOEFL offerings in the last two or three years in particular. The reason we’ve done that is simply to make sure that our customers, whether they be test-takers institutions around the world, as well as our key influencers and stakeholders like yourselves, are all well served with the products that we offer.

We felt that we needed to make a lot of improvements as well as serve some unmet needs through some new products, and that’s exactly what we’ve been doing so at a very high level; here’s how the portfolio now looks. So think about it as TOEFL having two broad product offerings, so we’ve got TOEFL iBT at the top end, and then, of course, we have TOEFL Essentials that we launched back in August this year in the middle of the category, but the TOEFL iBT itself can now be taken in three distinct ways.

So there’s the traditional TOEFL iBT that you go to a test center and take on a computer then there’s the TOEFL iBT Home Edition which I think many of your viewers will be very familiar with we’ve had it since March 2020 which you can take at home and then of course now the product we’re talking about today which is the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition which is simply the TOEFL iBT that you can take on paper and pencil for three sections and then the fourth speaking section can be taken very conveniently at home following the exact same model as the speaking section on the TOEFL iBT Home Edition.

Josh: Great so the TOEFL portfolio, so to speak, has been, there’s been some updates in the recent years to try to make sure that it serves as many people as possible and, you know, respond to everybody’s needs, and so this is the next step in that I guess is the paper-based version.

Srikant: Absolutely, yeah, and this is how we had envisioned our portfolio when we set out to make these changes. Because let’s say when you think about the TOEFL iBT, which is, of course, the gold standard English language test accepted by 11.500 institutions in over 160 countries around the world, we wanted to make sure that we serve different test-taker needs. I mean, we know, for example, that there are test takers who would always prefer to take the TOEFL iBT in a traditional test center on the computer as it’s been offered pretty much since 2005, but we also know that so many of our students around the world really prefer taking it at home. In fact, we’ve seen probably over 50% of our test-takers actually prefer the Home Edition versus going to a test center and taking it.

But we also know that a lot of test-takers around the world really would prefer to take a high stakes test such as a TOEFL on paper and pencil as opposed to a computer and as we all know you know IELTS has a paper-based option and something like eight or nine out of every ten IELTS tests conducted around the world are still taken on paper and pencil. So it’s a very popular format and what we wanted to do was to have our paper and pencil version for TOEFL iBT that actually offers a more comfortable and convenient experience compared to options like IELTS on paper that exist out there, and I’ll be happy to explain how exactly it’s a better paper option for people who prefer paper.

How is the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition administered?

Josh: Sure yeah, so I guess it’d be great, I’ll just segue right into that, so I guess I have two questions. One question is why now? You know, since the TOEFL’s been around since 2005, you know the iBT version, so why release a paper-based version now? And then the second part of the question is, you know, people want to know how the Speaking is scored basically and, you know, how it’s administered and how that works?

Srikant: Yeah, let me answer the first part of your question, so when you go back to the late 1990s until about 1998, the TOEFL was actually offered only on paper and pencil. Of course, at the time, it was a two-skill test, Reading, and Listening. So people could take the Reading and Listening TOEFL test on paper and pencil and then if they needed they could always take, for example, a test of written English or a test of spoken English. So we had it was set up like that.

From that time on, we moved to computer-based tests, the so-called cBT if you like, in 1998, and then in 2005, we moved to what we now know as the TOEFL iBT. When we added the Speaking section into the format. So ETS and TOEFL have always been pioneers in terms of leading the category and embracing computer-based and internet-based testing before many of our competitors did. So we’ve always had paper as part of our heritage, but of course, we’ve not really had it since 1998 and what we found over all these years was that the format doesn’t go away, you know.

We might be in an internet digital world, and you know with smartphones and instant information on demand, but when it comes to high-stakes testing, a lot of students around the world prefer a format that they feel more comfortable with for various reasons, and we felt that we were not serving those students adequately with the formats we had and we want TOEFL and TOEFL iBT to be a complete portfolio that serves everybody’s needs because it is a gold standard test and we want to be broad-based in how we serve our constituents, so that’s why we’re offering it now. Before I go on to the second part of the question, I want to see if you have any follow-ups on that.

How is the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition scheduled?

Josh: Well, I’m just curious why not 10 years ago or you know something like that, like why not have both at the same time?

Srikant: I mean, there’s no answer for that. I guess we were focused on other things, but I would say it’s better late than never.

Josh: That’s right, okay, so yeah, and so people have questions about how it’s administered. I actually have quite a few questions about how it kind of looks in the test center, but I guess we should start with the format of how it’s administered, the three sections compared to the Speaking section.

Srikant: Absolutely, yeah.

Josh: So let’s start, the general…

Srikant: Yeah, let me give a broad framework so first of all, we are launching the TOEFL iBT preparation initially in four countries, so that’s India, the United States, Mexico, and Colombia in phase one, and then of course, over time, we will roll it out to other markets around the world. But we’ve chosen these four countries in the beginning.

So registration has opened already, so as of October 12th, registration is open, and people can go to the same place that they go for TOEFL iBT or TOEFL iBT Home Edition, which is learn more about the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition and then follow through with registration just as they always do so not, so nothing has changed there. The first administration is actually on December 11th this year. Then January will have two more administration dates, January 8th, and January 22nd. We typically will offer it once every two weeks in the beginning and then increase that frequency. As you know, the test gets more established, so that’s at a very high level in terms of who can access the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition and when and where.

Now let me spend a few minutes on exactly how it works. So first of all, the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition is the TOEFL iBT, so it’s exactly the same test, just as TOEFL iBT Home Edition is the same thing. It’s the same TOEFL iBT test that can be now taken in three different ways, as I mentioned Home Edition and Paper Edition. So what that means is the scores are exactly the same; scoring is the same. People can send scores to institutions in the same way scores can be accepted and used by institutions the same way think about it is no different from say IELTS has IELTS paper and IELTS computer and people take both formats, and both formats are widely accepted and used almost agnostic of the format.

So the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition is exactly the same approach. Now, because it’s a four-skills test, three of those skills: Reading, Listening, and Writing, are taken in a traditional ETS-authorized test center, and the Speaking section cannot be taken on that test center for the Speaking section we actually have provided for people to take it at home in the comfort and convenience of their home following the same remote-proctored model as in the TOEFL iBT Home Edition. So the test is administered in two parts which is exactly how IELTS, for example, administers its IELTS on paper, it’s always two sections, and typically the second section is done at a different time because, you know, in IELTS’s case, you have to go for an interview with a speaking examiner.

When everything is back to normal, will the special home edition still be used?

Srikant: So it’s no different in that it’s split into two parts, but here’s where ours is different. So once you go to a test center and take the first three sections, you don’t have to go back to the test center again. You can just take the speaking section at home, so it’s a lot more convenient from that standpoint. So let me provide a few other operational details here. When people go register for the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition.

The test is always administered on a Saturday, so they pick the date on a Saturday to register based on a test center that’s hopefully convenient for them. But, they are also given the option to pick a Speaking date at the same time. Before they leave the registration session, they will have confirmed appointments for the test center section portion, which is the three sections, and then also the Speaking section, so they’re not left with any uncertainty about when are they when is ETS going to assign me a Speaking section. So we understand that’s what happens in many IELTS administrations around the world where people go register for the test center thing, and then they’re waiting to hear back when they’ll be called in for Speaking later on. With our TOEFL iBT Paper Edition, you get to know everything, and you choose.

So the as I mentioned, the test center appointment is always on a Saturday, and the Speaking appointment will be offered within three days after the Saturday. But here’s the beauty right because the Speaking section is like the Home Edition Speaking section. You can actually pick a number of appointments to suit your schedule. So let’s say your test appointment is on a Saturday morning; you can pick your Speaking appointments on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, for example, but on each of those days, it’s 24 hours. So you can literally pick the half-hour test appointment slot that works for you as opposed to being summoned for a speaking interview at 4 PM on a different day. So, that’s how it works, but because it’s a paper and pencil test, scores are available 11 to 13 days after the completion of the full test, which is the Speaking section which is very similar to what IELTS also offers.

But, here’s another big advantage that we’re also offering, which is that you can register for the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition as late as two days before the actual administration yourself on a self-service basis using a computer-based registration system.

So identical to TOEFL iBT and TOEFL iBT Home Edition. Normally, for paper-based tests, there’s a much longer lead time. You might know other paper tests will say, oh, you’ve got to register several weeks before because they have to plan out the materials they need to send to the test center. We have provided for exactly the same convenience that people experience on the TOEFL iBT or the TOEFL iBT Home Edition, so that’s a very rough framework in terms of how it works. There’s a lot of detail there, so let me turn it over to you for any questions.

Josh: So I’ll just kind of rehash just a couple of things that you said. So one thing that makes it pretty convenient compared to maybe IELTS, for example, is that you take the three sections: Reading, Listening and Writing at the test center, always on a Saturday, and then you schedule when you’re going to take the Speaking section within the three days after. So if you take it on Saturday, you could take it on Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday, and you can pick any time within a 24-hour window that works for you.

Srikant: Correct.

Josh: Now, when they pick that time, do they pick it before they take the paper-based test on Saturday, or do they pick that time after?

Srikant: No, they pick it at the same time that they’re completing registration.

How will proctoring work during the TOEFL iBT Paper Test?

Josh: Okay, so they do it…

Srikant: All the three sections, yes. So it’s the same test, so we want to make sure that before they walk out of the registration session, they know exactly what their plan is.

Josh: Right, okay, got it, and so that makes sense to me for pretty much everything you said, I think, I think is pretty clear. My next question, you know, it’s kind of about the experience of taking a paper-based test in the center.

So, you know, one thing that I, you know, one aspect of the TOEFL iBT is that you really can’t skip around. You have to kind of have to go in order of the questions and when they’re presented and all that kind of stuff.

So I’m kind of curious of how the paper-based test is actually proctored and how they ensure that people are not kind of breaking the rules, you know, so to speak, like going to the Writing section or, you know, skipping around.

Srikant: Yeah, so again, this is an ETS TOEFL administered test in an authorized test center, so test-takers should expect the same rigorous security procedures that they’re familiar with from the TOEFL iBT. So there will be a test center administrator, there is a proctor, and you know everyone is expected to follow the rules. The rules are slightly different, as you can imagine in this case. So here’s a key difference as well from the regular TOEFL iBT in a test center.

All sections are done by everybody in the room at the same time. So as you know, in the TOEFL iBT, people start the test at different times, so it’s you know in a test center, for example, somebody may be on the Listening section where somebody else might be on the Speaking section and some people have found issues with that because there’s a little confusion and noise and so on.

But in here, everybody starts every section at the same time and ends every section at the same time. So when they go in there, typically they get, you know, they get instructions both on the test booklet that they’re given as well as through the common sound system that’s in the room, so instructions are provided in both ways. Then the instructions are literally like, you know, open up the booklet now begin the Reading section. Then there is a warning ten minutes before the section ends. When you’re doing the Reading section, you cannot move on to the Listening section. Once you finish the reading section and you’ve moved on to the Listening section, you cannot get back to the Reading section.

Yeah, sure, I mean, it’s there in the same booklet, but proctors will be checking to see if people are, you know, going back, and they’re not supposed to do that, so that’s very similar to all the other tests as well.

Now here’s the one advantage in this format is that within the same section, as long as you’re on a section, you can go change your answers to some you know a different choice that you made on a previous question you can do that to some degree on a computer format, but this is a little bit easier because it’s literally a question of just turning the page and doing that versus in a computer format where it may be a little more challenging if the computer doesn’t offer you the option for example. So there’s some small advantages like that, but fundamentally you have to think about it as a very structured, regulated test where people move from one section to another in a linear fashion.

Josh, one big advantage that we are offering our test-takers in the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition is that after the first two sections Reading and Listening, we actually provide a 10-minute break identical to what they experience on the iBT, even though there’s only one more section to be done. Now IELTS does not do that, as I understand. With IELTS, you have to go through Reading, Listening, and Writing in one shot without a break. We felt it was important to provide a break after about 110 minutes of going through Reading and Listening, so we’ve got the same exact break 10 minutes, and it’s a great mental reset because people can take 10 minutes to recharge themselves and come back in for the all-important writing section which is where their creativity has to come into play.

Josh: So yeah, so I have some follow-up questions about writing, but you know. Still, I want to kind of go back to the first part, reading and listening so they have a booklet, of course, it’ll say things like warning don’t go to the next page you know that kind of thing like yeah like like any kind of paper-based test you have now.

You answered one question I had about the Listening, so there’s a system in the room. Everyone’s listening at the same time to the passages. You know, one thing you mentioned is that they can go back or maybe they’re not supposed to, but they can because as of right now in the Listening section, you can’t go back to every question, it’s kind of on one screen you can’t go back in the Listening to change your answers the Reading you can it’s a little tricky you can but the Listening you can’t so on the paper-based version you might be able to or you can, or you’re not saying…

Srikant: No, you’re still on the Listening section, yeah, so I mean if you’ve if you answered a question on you know, maybe a previous page when you’re on the Listening section. So you can move between questions on the Listening section; you cannot go back to a previous section that’s been closed now.

Josh: Okay.

Srikant: Most people would not because you know it’s time-sensitive, right? I mean, you want to jump from question to question. Hopefully, you’re thinking through the answer carefully. Still, it’s just a slight advantage we will prefer that from, and this is one of the reasons people prefer paper, honestly.

Josh: Right, okay yeah, I mean that is definitely an advantage. The Writing section, would it be the same in the sense that people could jump around between question one and question two? They could do question two first, or you know, did they have to go? Is that more strict?

Srikant: No, it’s actually each section you know you have to take each question and then move on to the next one, so in a sense, you cannot go back between the two questions, so in that sense, yes.

Josh: Cause question one, you know it’s they read and listen to an academic passage, so everyone will have to listen to it, and then they have 20 minutes. So would they basically have to wait for the 20 minutes to be up before going to the next Writing question where they have to wait for everybody? Or would they be able to control that more? They could just go to the next question whenever they want because right now they can decide if they want to use all their time or not.

Srikant: Right now, it’s student-driven, but in the Paper Edition, it’s more everybody does the same thing at the same time.

How will the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition be scored?

Srikant: Right, so and so exactly that’s the difference there. So as I said, each format has its advantages and disadvantages, so it’s really based on student preference.

But you’re right. I mean, it is a structured flow as opposed to more freewheeling, which is the case on the TOEFL iBT.

Josh: Right, okay, and let me just, before I finish up with proctoring, let me just see if there’s any other question. So I guess it’s the same amount of proctors and the same kind of like the same type of room you know about. I guess every test center is different but in my experience, about you know 10-15 people in a room.

Srikant: Yeah it’s yes it’s the same exact thing it’ll be very similar to TOEFL iBT, yeah I mean you might find more test-takers in a room it really depends on the venue right so sometimes you know iBT computer labs can be as few as 15-20 people some of them are larger like 30-40. Typically paper centers can accommodate more test takers but we will make sure that we always have the right number of proctors based on the number of people in the room.

When will the score report be available and what information will it include?

Josh: And then everybody in the room, you kind of answered this already, but everyone’s going to be taking the paper-based test. It’s not going to be a mix of iBT and PBT everybody’s taking the PBT.

Srikant: Right, absolutely.

Josh: iBT paper.

Srikant: Yeah, absolutely.

Josh: Okay, so that’s sort of. That’s pretty much my questions about proctoring. I wanted to go into scoring a little bit. So I guess you know the scoring with the speaking would I imagine would probably be similar you know how it is already.

But with Writing, it’s a little different, so you know that there’s no will the scores be run through. I don’t know why then the name is escaping me. But, a bit of software like e-rater would the writing go through an e-rater or would just be totally human-based scoring for the Writing.

Srikant: It’ll be totally human-based.

Josh: Okay

Srikant: So what happens is, you know people are obviously writing their responses essays on paper and pencil in this case, so what we do is we scan those responses to a scanner and then send it back to the US where it’s read by the central pool of raters just as we always do because the raters don’t know the test taker.

So we maintain that equity and fairness in our scoring as we always do for all products from TOEFL. There are two Writing prompts right on the Writing section, so each question is scored by two human raters so. For the Writing section, you have a total of four different human beings that are scoring the section, so it will not be run through an e-rater, as you mentioned.

Josh: Okay, okay, so that is the difference that it goes through e-rater on the iBT, but it doesn’t on the paper-based.

Srikant: Right, I mean of course on the Speaking, but remember even when e-rater is used for TOEFL products, it’s always the human being that makes the final decision and any technology we use such as for example speech rater on the speaking section only complements and supports the primary human rater. So, it’s always the human that makes the contributory contribution. Then the AI technology is only used to provide another data point to the human being who’s doing the scoring.

Guidelines and restrictions, two checks of the test-takers equipment

Josh: Okay, I see, and I guess I just questioned. I could not, but I imagine handwriting would be an issue, things like that. I guess those are kind of internal things; I’m just kind of thinking of problems with the scoring, but I guess yeah.

Srikant: We’re not looking for people to have perfect handwriting as long as it’s legible.

Josh: I mean, of course, that it has to be legible, right, yeah. So right now, with the way the scores are set up is that people get as another new feature. They get an instant score for Reading and Listening obviously that that won’t be available for this. When can they expect to get their score reports for the paper-based test, and will it be any different?

Srikant: Correct, so the instant scores are obviously not available in the paper format but let me point out one other thing I mean, and when they finish the first three sections in the first session right reading listening break then writing, they’ll have the option to keep or cancel the scores at the very end just like they do on the TOEFL iBT today.

If they choose to cancel this course from the first three sections. That means their speaking appointment also gets canceled. Now, let’s say if they keep the appointment, I keep this course from the first three sections, and let’s say a couple of days later they finish the Speaking section at the time if they choose to cancel this score after the Speaking section, they can cancel the scores for the entire administration.

So there’s two different points at which they can sort of bail out if they feel they haven’t done a good job on any one of the sections. But of course, yes, I mean they don’t get the instant reading and listening as they do on the TOEFL iBT or the TOEFL iBT Home Edition. Now because it’s a paper and pencil format and we scan the Writing responses, and it’s centrally scored score reports are typically available in 11 to 13 days after the completion of the full test.

Which is, in this case, the Speaking section, and that is very similar to what, let’s say, IELTS does in multiple markets around the world because it does take time. I mean, this is not a digital format. It’s a paper and pencil format.

Josh: The iBT right now is seven to eight days?

Srikant: So the iBT, yeah, the traditional TOEFL iBT is six days, and the TOEFL iBT Home Edition is between six to ten days at this point, and the Paper Edition would be between 11 to 13 days.

Josh: Okay, great, so one thing that comes up for students is that you know that it does say for some people it’s important what the score report says in terms of the test center where the test was taken. So some reports will say like Home Edition if it’s taking, you know, the Home Edition or it’ll say an actual center. What would the score report say in this situation for the paper-based tests?

Srikant: So the score report will note that this is the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition, in fact on. We want to be as transparent as possible both to students. Students, of course, will know what format they’re they’ve taken hopefully but to institutions that are receiving these score reports, and that’s the approach we’ve been following consistently since we launched the TOEFL iBT Home Edition.

So all TOEFL iBT Home Edition score reports will notate it’s exactly the same score report except that it notates that this is, was the TOEFL iBT Home Edition taken in country x and the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition will be no different it will notate that, We want institutions to know, I mean the tests are all the same, right?

The scores are all comparable to each other. But, we want them to know so that in case someone makes a different choice about acceptance of a particular format that they have information to do so.

Because, remember in the TOEFL iBT Home Edition, there was a new format that we adopted back when we did it, right? It was testing at home, which was completely new. the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition is… three of the skills are paper and pencil, so Speaking is taken at home, so it incorporates an element from the Home Edition.

How the new TOEFL iBT Paper Edition is different from the TOEFL paper-delivered test?

Srikant: So, you know, some institutions might bark at that. We think most of them won’t, and in fact, our response that we’ve gotten from institutions to be announced has been super positive. Many institutions have already incorporated that information on their website and so on. That’s what we expect, but we want them to have full information, and they need to decide what’s right for them, of course.

Josh: So that’s right. The reason I ask is because most of the people that I work with are, you know, physical therapists, pharmacists, dentists; you know they need it for licensing boards. And most of these licensing boards have not taken the Home Edition, so I imagine it’s probably the same for the paper-based test as well. Do you know if these boards would accept this test, or would it be consistent with the home edition rulings?

Srikant: I don’t know the answer to that, Josh. I mean, obviously, what we have done is we’ve communicated not only the Paper Edition but the whole portfolio. And we will continue to do that answer questions from them and so on, but it’s really up to them. I know that a number of these boards have been a little bit reluctant to take a test that’s administered at home with the Paper Edition.

Only one of the sections is administered at home. The other three are at a test center. But you know our philosophy and all the evidence from these last two years shows very clearly that regardless of the format that people take the TOEFL iBT in, the results and the scores are very comparable. And we actually compare these scores in every administration, and it’s the scores are very comparable and even identical.

So regardless of which format the test taker chooses, we have rigorous security, and it’s exactly the same test, same content so that that’s why the scores are also the more or less you know comparable to each other, and we think it’s a question of time right? I mean, there’s a lot of change that has happened not only in TOEFL but across the industry in the last two years in particular. Some institutions perhaps will take a little more time to accept some of these new formats.

So I think it’s a process. What I would advise many of your viewers who are taking exams for board certification and so on is always to check with the institution and to make sure that they can take the format that is accepted by the institution they’re interested in. With regard to universities around the world, we expect that just about everybody will accept the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition just as they’ve accepted the TOEFL iBT home edition pretty much universally around the world.

Josh: I mean, it’s pretty much the same. It’s the same test.

Will ETS provide additional practice materials for TOEFL iBT Paper Edition?

Srikant: So, it’s the same test.

Josh: Yeah, it makes sense and…

Srikant: And also think that IELTS has been doing paper and computer-based tests for the last few years. As far as I know, you know, regardless of if somebody’s accepting IELTS, they accept you know either format there’s never been an issue. So I wouldn’t expect anything different in our paper-based format as well.

Josh: And just a couple more questions, this is kind of for the ideal user for the paper-based test. So, you know we, of course, it’s from just somebody who prefers paper, but you know there was a PBT TOEFL test that was retired I think about a year ago or six months ago or something like that that was a little bit different you know it didn’t have a speaking section if I remember correctly.

From what I understood, it was used by some kind of like pockets of like university admissions there’s some people who used it. Is this mostly just, you know, for anybody who wants to take a test on paper? Is it mostly for university admissions? Is it a good substitute for what the PBT used to be, or is this just another offering for iBT for everybody pretty much the same thing as iBT? Just if you like paper, this one might be better?

Srikant: No, that’s a very good question, Josh, so this TOEFL iBT Paper Edition is a four-skills test. It’s exactly the same test as the iBT. It is you know we’re obviously offering it in four countries to begin. But, we want to expand this to more and more countries, and it should become a real option for test-takers over time anywhere in the world who wants to take the test on paper and pencil.

That’s very different from the product that you mentioned, which we used to call the Paper Delivered Test or Revised Paper Delivered Test. That’s a completely different product from the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition. so the Paper Delivered Test or the PDT was, as you said, a three-skills test only.

So, it had Reading, Listening, and Writing. It did not have speaking, and in fact, it had different content. It wasn’t the same content as the TOEFL iBT. TOEFL iBT Paper Edition has exactly the same content as other formats of the TOEFL iBT the PDT was a very specialized offering that we had really to serve a small number of students in a very small number of countries, about 10 or 15 countries around the world where people could not get access to the TOEFL iBT these were countries that had you know poor internet capabilities, for example, it was a way for us to serve students who could not be served otherwise.

And universities supported us in that mission to serve those students because many universities did accept even a three skills product even without the speaking they were willing to because those students otherwise wouldn’t have an option to apply to universities and follow their dreams and aspirations.

Now we discontinued that product since April of 2021, but of course, so in other words, the last administration offered the for the three skills PDT was April of this year. The scores are valid, of course, until April 2023, but that product has been sunsetted. But I want to again emphasize that the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition is the TOEFL iBT and does not bear a relationship with the discontinued PDT product.

Josh: Great, okay, so and so for students who want to, so the registration is open in select countries. I believe the US, India, Mexico, and Colombia and the first test will be administered in December.

Where can people find a way to practice? I guess it’s just finding iBT stuff to practice. Is there any difference in materials? Just have a printer and print it out, you know, is there a difference in the type of practice materials people can use?

Srikant: Yeah, no, it’s another good question, but you’re exactly right. I mean, because the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition is the TOEFL iBT, it’s exactly the same prep materials as TOEFL iBT or the TOEFL iBT Home Edition, for that matter. We have provided a free practice test for the Paper Edition.

Though, you might recall that we have a practice test for the TOEFL iBT, but we’ve got a specific practice test for the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition. Now, of course, the content is exactly the same, but we’ve just sort of tweaked it to coincide with the launch of this new format.

So in one way, you can think about there now being two different free practice tests that people could use interchangeably across Paper Edition, Home Edition, and iBT, so there are more resources now for this one as well.

Josh: So the paper-based test will have a practice on the site. I’ll link to all this stuff in the description below as well so people can find it. But, you know anything, you know there’s no need to really have additional stuff for this because it’s the same exact test.

Srikant: It’s the same exact thing. There are a couple of I know it hasn’t come up yet there are a couple of other big advantages for students for TOEFL iBT Paper Edition compared to, let’s say, IELTS on paper.

I know I mentioned some of those, but here are two other important ones.

One is, of course, that we have my best scores. As some of our viewers will know, my best scores are a combination of the test takers’ best section scores from administrations taken in the last two years, right so if people repeat the Paper Edition, then score reports will then incorporate the highest section scores from previous Paper Edition administrations. And so that’s the same feature that we already have on TOEFL iBT, TOEFL iBT Home Edition, so we’re offering that also on TOEFL iBT Paper Edition. so that’s something that’s unique to TOEFL, so that’s one advantage.

The other advantage and I think this is a big one, is that all score reports that students will send to institutions for the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition are free, so we don’t charge any money for score reports, and they can send as many school reports as they want.

Josh: So compared to the… does IELTS make you pay for all the score reports? I’m not too familiar.

Srikant: Yes, as far as I know, IELTS policies vary by country but typically, people would be expected to pay something for additional score reports beyond a certain free number. The IELTS model is not dissimilar to what we have on TOEFL iBT and TOEFL iBT Home Edition, where we have a certain number of free school reports.

Then we charge, you know, a small amount of money for additional score reports. But on the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition, we want to make sure that people don’t have to pay anything for score reports as many as they want.

Josh: So a couple of advantages some are based on other paper-based tests that you can choose from is that get a my best test score which will take whatever score you got in the best score you got in whatever section from previous tests you can a score for this test and my best test score you can also send unlimited score reports for free and also you, to go circle back to what you said before, is that the Speaking section is much more flexible.

You can decide what time you know to take the Speaking section you’re in control and you can also take it at home, comfortable in the comfort and convenience of your own home. Yeah, and it’s a nicer experience; it’s more user-centered.

Srikant: And they get a break; they get a 10-minute break between the Reading and Listening sections and the Writing section.

Josh: Right, okay yeah, and they get a break as well.

Srikant: So we’ve provided a number of advantages for the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition compared to the dominant paper format out there, which is IELTS. We hope that test-takers will appreciate that and choose what works best for them.

Josh: Okay, great, and compared to the iBT, it’s just pretty much the exact thing. The only difference is that the experience might be a bit different. That you have to kind of go in the same, at the same time as everybody else you know that you everybody finishes the Reading the Listening and Writing at the same time. That you can’t skip ahead, but there might be a slight advantage with the Listening where maybe you could go back to questions and change them.

Srikant: As long as it’s in the same section, as long as you know, you’re on the same section, and you’re not going back, yeah, right.

Josh: But that doesn’t hold for the Writing. The Writing, everybody finishes at the same time, question one everyone does it same time question two. Okay, great, so I mean, I think that answers all my questions Srikant. Thank you always for your time; I know it’s very valuable. Is there anything you’d like to add or anything you want to say to everybody out there?

Srikant: No, I think you know we’re very happy and privileged to be able to offer a range of high-quality options from TOEFL, as I mentioned. So you know the TOEFL iBT, TOEFL iBT Home Edition, TOEFL iBT Paper Edition, three different ways to take the same gold standard or iBT test, and then, of course, we have TOEFL Essentials as a completely new innovative test that uniquely combines the quality that institutions value as well as student friendliness affordability and accessibility that I know students value.

And as always, you know we stand with our students and test-takers around the world, giving them these options so that they choose the test that works best for their needs. And in each one of these products, including the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition, we always ensure that it’s top-quality, rigorous security to make sure the tests are valid, viable, and fair for students around the world. So again, I want to thank you for the opportunity to talk about our latest offering, TOEFL iBT Paper Edition, and we wish all your viewers the very best in their journeys.

Josh: Great, thank you so much for being here. I think everybody appreciates ETS’s efforts to try to make it more student-centered and friendly and try to get a little bit of everything for everybody, so thank you, Srikant, so much, and I look forward to talking to you next time.

Srikant: Thank you, Josh!

Test-takers will have a 10-minute break

Josh: Something else I was going to ask. Let me see, oh, so the test is pretty long, it could be 3 – 3,5 hours. How is it dealt with … and maybe this is on a case by case basis, but you know, things happen, let’s say a student has to … maybe he gets interrupted, maybe they, you know, they have to go to the bathroom. You know, usually, there are rules at the test center and a proctor to watch, of course, and there is a proctor here as well. What are the types of ways that these unexpected things that could happen while taking the test at home will be dealt with?

Srikant: So, the basic format of the test as I mentioned is exactly the same. People will start with the Reading section followed by Listening and there is a scheduled 10-minute break just as we have in the test center version, so that doesn´t change.

Josh: So students can take a break.

Srikant: Students take a break, yeah, the one thing that is different in this version is that there are no unscheduled breaks allowed. In the test center version that´s typically allowed, but, of course, the unscheduled breaks are taken at the cost of the test time. The test doesn’t stop if someone takes a break for whatever reason. We are not able to allow that in this version because of the at-home security environment. So that’s the one notable difference from the test center version. But again, this is a restriction to ensure the security of the test and the confidence the institutions will have, of course. Otherwise, the conditions under which the test exists are very similar, and, hopefully, it works the same way for most test-takers.

Josh: I guess if you get a unique situation, probably it’s a temporary solution, how might this impact the TOEFL in the future. Some people thought that the TOEFL may become just a digital test eventually in the future. Are there any plans to kind of change the format, kind of cut the test centers out of it, do it from home, people just gonna be .. pretty much the same as usual for a while.

Srikant: Again, I should stress that you know, this special home edition of the TOEFL iBT has been designed to meet the urgent and immediate needs of the current situation. As I mentioned earlier, we should expect that the solution will be available for as long as the current situation continues. We have no plans to not do the test center version when things come back to normality. We expect that the TOEFL iBT will be tested in test centers just as always has been when things go back to normal.

Josh: Thank you, Srikant, I really appreciate you taking the time to meet with me today and share this information with everybody. I am sure you’ve answered a lot of questions that were kind of burning, at least for me, it was very helpful. I guess we should emphasize, and you probably have emphasized already that this is the same exact test, just delivered in a different format. Is there anything else you would like to add before we wrap things up?

Srikant: I just wanted to wish everybody all the best. I know the times are challenging and a lot of people, just like me and all of us, cooped up at home so I just wanted to ask everyone to stay safe, stay positive, and really take advantage of opportunities like the TOEFL iBT TOEFL Special Home Edition test, to continue with their plans as much as possible, and, most importantly, stay safe and positive through all this.

Josh: People say this a lot, this will pass eventually, and maybe this could be a good thing for some people, for people who get nervous at the test center maybe it’s a positive thing.

Thank you, thank you so much for taking the time. I really appreciate it.

Srikant: Thank you, Josh, for giving us the opportunity to share something about our new products, thank you.

Josh: Thank you, thank you so much.

This has been Srikant Gopal, the Executive Director of the TOEFL Program at ETS, who we would like to thank again for the latest news regarding the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition.

If you need help preparing for the exam, don’t forget to check out our Emergency Course for the TOEFL Test (both paper and Internet-based).

  • Which would you prefer to take: the TOEFL iBT or the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition?

Let us know in the comments below.

And we are always an email away at [email protected]


  1. Fardina Temory

    Thanks for your support

  2. Chantal

    Where is the diagnostic test located on your website?

    • Josh

      Hi Chantal and great question. We have actually suspended the Diagnostic Test because it proved to be unpopular with students. Sorry for the inconvenience.

  3. Sharmarke

    I am forced to take the TOEFL test with an 84 minimum to continue my postgraduate program. Do you have any course that can help to go through this exam?

    • Josh

      Hi there and thank you for your question. Much depends on your current ability level and how much time you have to prepare for the test. I will put a link to our Score Builder Course which includes extensive practice for all four sections of the test. This is usually the best fit for most test-takers who have at least two weeks to prepare and need to practice. If you need help with speaking and writing you might want to work with a teacher to get feedback on your responses. I hope that answers your question. Here’s the link –

  4. Amal

    Yes, I am looking for a Speaking template

    • Yara Tadros

      Please, I’m a TOEFL test taker to get my pharmacy license and I would like to know how can I register for the course with you Josh?

      • Josh

        Hi there Yara and thank you for asking! I appreciate your trust. I currently work on creating content but I have trained our teachers Todd, Katie, and Anastasia personally they can provide you with the same quality of TOEFL instruction. If you are interested, you can check out the private lessons here –


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