The TOEFL Essentials Test

Big news from ETS. There is a new TOEFL test, and it is very, very different than the TOEFL iBT. It’s called the TOEFL Essentials Test, and it’s going to be available starting in August of this year 2021.

And you might be wondering, how does this affect me? Why do I care? Well, basically, if you have to take the TOEFL before August 2021, then this doesn’t apply to you. Just focus on the IBT like you’ve normally been doing.

But if you’re gonna take the TOEFL after August, then you want to listen closely because you might be able to take this test “The TOEFL Essentials test”.

It’s completely difficult. Pretty different from TOEFL iBT, and I think it’s easier as well.

And you have to know that the registration of The TOEFL Essentials is in May 2021 and it is limited registration, but the test won’t be started until August 2021.

TOEFL® Essentials and TOEFL iBT Comparison:

Let’s talk about the similarities and differences between the TOEFL IBT and this new test, TOEFL Essentials.
This is a handy chart from ETS, telling us about the main differences between the tests.

TOEFL Essentials TestTOEFL iBT Test
What it MeasuresFoundational elements of English proficiency in both academic and non-academic contextsApplied English communication in an academic context
Who’s likely to take itStudents looking for a test that blends quality and convenience with an engaging formatAspiring students looking to stand out
Content50% academic English and 50% general English100% academic English
EmphasisBreadth with shorter, faster-paced tasksDepth with longer, interconnected tasks
Length1-1/2 hours3 hours
Format4 sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, Speaking
5-minute personal video statement (not scored)
4 sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, Speaking
Main Test Design PrincipleDesigned to be a highly efficient, adaptive test that measures the full spectrum of English proficiency (CEFR A1 to C2) accurately with fewer test items and in just 1-1/2 hoursDesigned to be the most effective assessment of applied English communication in academic contexts, with a range corresponding to CEFR B1 to C2.
Presentation of Test ItemsAdjust to the test taker’s skill level in an adaptive formatCarefully selected and matched in coherent, integrated sets simulating actual communication
DeliveryAt home, using the same platform, technology, and security as the TOEFL iBT® Home EditionAt a test center, or at home with the TOEFL iBT Home Edition

Let’s talk more about the differences between the TOEFL IBT and this new test, TOEFL Essentials.

The Measures

The Essentials Test measures foundational elements of English proficiency in both academic and non-academic. while the TOEFL iBT Test is only in an academic context.

So that’s a huge difference. Basically, the TOEFL iBT is a test to see if your English is good enough to go to University in the States. So a lot of the material. Well, almost all the material is academic, but now it’s a mix. It’s academic and general English.

Who’s likely to take it

Mostly to students, students who want quality and convenience, and aspiring students.


Again, 50% academic, 50% general. So this is very different right now from the TOEFL iBT test.

Emphasis & Length

It’s going to be shorter, faster-paced tasks. So in the TOEFL iBT now you have these very long reading passages right.

There are 700 words you have to answer like 10 questions about them now. But in this version, there are shorter text, shorter questions. It’s much faster-paced.

The length, it’s half the time. It’s an hour to an hour and a half, instead of the three-hours IBT.


There are four sections, listening, reading, writing, and speaking. And TOEFL iBT as well as the same.

But they also have this five-minute personal video statement. And that’s not scored. So this is something new where basically the camera will be on you and you maybe answer a general question about yourself or something like that, and you talk about yourself for five minutes.

I would want to talk about myself for five minutes. But anyway, so that’s something that you have to do, but it’s not scored. So that’s a good thing.

I think that’s because some universities want to get to know you a bit better. Besides just a test score, of course.

Main Test Design Principle 

This is an efficient adaptive test. I want you to pay attention to the word adaptive. That’s the biggest difference between these two.

So what does that mean? Adaptive? It means that the test changes based on your level. So the TOEFL Essentials Test will change based on how well you’re doing actually. In theory adaptive means it adapts to you.

In the TOEFL iBT test right now, the test is already made. They give it to you. And it doesn’t matter if you’re at a very high proficiency, very low proficiency. You still have to answer the same questions.

This is different. They change the questions based on your abilities. So that’s new. Very different.

Presentation of Test Items &  Delivery

Again, the test taker skill level is an adaptive format. And it looks like the essentials test won’t be in a test Center. It’s only at home. Whereas the TOEFL iBT test is at a test Center or at home.

So as you can see, these are huge differences. Right? So it’s adaptive. It’s half the time.


How much will The TOEFL Essentials Test cost?

Well, it’ll be between 100 to 120 dollars, according to ETS, much cheaper than the 200 dollars, 220 dollars price you pay right now. So that’s great news.

Will your University accept The TOEFL Essentials Test?

I don’t know. Of course, you should contact your University, but if your University accepts TOEFL, it sounds like they’re probably going to accept this new test.

According to ETS, they took a survey of a bunch of administrators, and most of the administrators say Yes, they’ll take it. They like the idea.

So I think your University will probably take it. But of course, check with them first.


Will your licensing board accept The TOEFL Essentials Test?

So this is for pharmacist nurses, dentists who need a TOEFL to become licensed pharmacists or dentists. And for this probably not, it’s just a guess.

Of course, you should contact your board, your pharmacy board, your Dentistry board and ask them if they take it.

But I’m going to say that they’re probably not because they haven’t taken newer tests in the past. They don’t take the best test score, so probably not. But maybe, but I don’t think so.

Will you have to take both tests?

No, definitely not. Ask which one you should take and take the one that they want you to take. That’s about it.

How can I find example questions?

Well, there are none right now. I would love some example questions. I can’t wait to start researching about this and making some materials for this, but right now there are none. Probably not until April or May we see some examples of this test.

Why do they make The TOEFL Essentials Test?

Well, the TOEFL is an old test. It hasn’t been updated in quite a bit of time. They did a newer version in 2019, but they just cut a couple of questions, but It pretty much stayed the same.

So this is very different. And the other thing, too, is that I think TOEFL or ETS doesn’t like Duolingo very much. The Duolingo English test is becoming more popular, and it’s pretty clear that this is a response to the Duolingo English test.

I think I am done talking about the TOEFL Essentials Test. I hope this article was helpful for you. If you are looking for more information about the TOEFL Essentials Test you can visit the ETS website.