The Test of English as a Foreign Language, better known as TOEFL, is a standardized test that is commonly required by over 10,000 universities and colleges in the US and other English-speaking schools, for the admittance of foreign non-native English speaking students. It measures the student’s ability to understand and use English at a level sufficient for university-level education.
The question which many students ask themselves is, what is a good TOEFL score?
Unfortunately, there is no single definitive answer to this question. A good TOEFL score depends on a variety of factors. What is a good score for you or for getting accepted by a college may be considered a low or, on the contrary, a very high score for others.
Read on to find out more about how to determine what is a good TOEFL score, more about scoring the TOEFL, how to set your target TOEFL good score, and ways to ensure that you achieve a TOEFL score good enough to get you accepted in the college or university of your dreams.
What does TOEFL include?
The standardized test for English as a second language is a four-hour internet-based test (iBT), which tests the ability of the students to understand and communicate in English. It is divided into four different sections, including reading, listening, speaking, and writing.
The reading section includes 3-4 academic level passages and about 35 questions about them.
The listening section includes 6-9 audio passages, and from 34 to 51 questions about them.
The speaking section includes 6 tasks, and the student is asked for opinions, read passages, listen to them, and to display an understanding of the information and the ability to communicate properly.
The writing section of the TOEFL consists of two parts, the first which is known as the Integrated Writing section, consists of writing a summary of a specific discussion. The second one, called the Independent Writing Section, consists of writing an essay with the student’s opinion on a particular subject.
The TOEFL score report is received about 10 days after taking the test. You will need to log into your EMS account to access your TOEFL scores. The ESL can send your TOEFL scores free of charge to up to 5 colleges or universities of your choice. If you want to send them to more schools, you will need to pay an additional fee.
The TOEFL results are valid for up to 2 years after the test date and will be sent to the schools of your choice from 2 to 6 weeks after your TOEFL test date. This is why you must plan your TOEFL test early on before the college application deadlines.
How is the TOEFL actually scored?
The TOEFL is scored based on the sum of subscores from the different sections reading, listening, writing and speaking, as follows:
- Reading Section – automatically scored from 0 to 45 raw points, transformed into a scale of 0 to 30 points
- Listening Section – automatically scored from 0 to 34 raw points, transformed into a scale of 0 to 30 points
- Writing Section – scored personally from 0 to 24 raw points, transformed into a scale of 0 to 30 points
- Speaking Section – scored personally from 0 to 10 raw points, transformed into a scale of 0 to 30 points
- The total TOEFL score has a range of 0 to 120 points
- The section scores are converted from raw point scores into a 0-30 score scale. There are no points taken away for wrong answers, which is why students are advised to answer each question, no matter whether they are sure about the answer or not for a better chance for a higher TOEFL total score.
The scaled scores have a purpose of standardizing all the different TOEFL tests taken around the world, in order to give all students a fair and equal chance at college admission and to an unbiased TOEFL scoring.
What is considered a good TOEFL score?
What TOEFL score is good depends on the selectivity, ranking, and TOEFL score range requirements of the university or college you are applying to.
The minimum TOEFL scores accepted by most colleges are from 60-110 points.
The average TOEFL scores range for the different educational facilities, according to US News & World Report, is as follows:
- Ranked National US Universities – 78.1 points
- Ranked National Liberal Arts Colleges – 82.5 points
- Highly selective universities – 100 points
- Top-ranked MBA programs – 100-110 points
Students should know that some colleges and universities have minimum score requirements for certain sections of the test as well.
In order to find out what your good score in TOEFL is, check the admissions offices of the schools you are applying to for what’s a good TOEFL score for applicants.
The information regarding the requirements for scoring TOEFL should be available on their websites. You can also perform an Internet search with the name of the college and keywords like “what are TOEFL scores,” “TOEFL average score,” “TOEFL iBT score range” and so on.
After you find the results for the different schools, make sure you write each TOEFL score average down, and after that, choose the highest TOEFL score on the list and set it as a TOEFL maximum score goal for you. If there is a minimum required section score – set that subscore as a mini-target for the TOEFL grade as well.
In order to find out how the ETS ranks the TOEFL scores from the reading and listening, speaking and writing sections (skills) of the TOEFL iBT, there is a table provided by the Educational Testing Service, as follows:
Below low-intermediate (0–3)
Below low (0–8)
Below Basic (0–9)
Below basic (0–6)
What are the TOEFL score percentiles?
As with the other standardized tests, the TOEFL is scored in accordance with the performance of all test-takers. Your TOEFL score percentile will show you how well you scored compared to the other high school students, two-year college students, undergraduate level, or graduate level test-takers who took the same test.
A TOEFL score total that is above the 50th percentile is considered above average, and one which is lower is below average. In other words, the higher your percentile is, the better for you.
The ETS has provided detailed percentile ranks in its annual TOEFL iBT Test and Score Data Summary for the different demographics and groups of people who took the TOEFL iBT test in the past year, which you can refer to if you want to check your percentile and score ranking as compared to the others.
Overall, for the total group who took the test last year, the middle 50% or average score was between 85 and 87 total scale scores. These scores are in the 50th percentile.
For high school students who took the test, the average score was 80 points. The scores by graduate-level students in the 50th percentile are 10 or more points higher.
A score of 96 points is in the 70th percentile, which means that the people who got a 96 total score at the TOEFL scored better than 70% of all of the test-takers.
What is the average TOEFL score?
The good news is that thanks to the annual statistical data, you can compare your good TOEFL score to that of your competitors from the same country, with the same educational level, and so on.
This will give you a better idea of where you stand when it comes to being accepted in the college or university of your choice. You can also check what the maximum score on TOEFL and the minimum TOEFL score for your demographic is.
Also, if you come from a larger country, TOEFL scores ranked among the higher percentiles in your country also counts as a plus and might be considered an advantage when you apply for college.
So, this publicly available document by ETS is something you may want to save and use as a reference when you receive your TOEFL scores.
You can easily check whether you are above average your demographic group by comparing your score to that of the other test-takers with your educational level, from the same country and with the same interest in applying for a school, job, license, or other.
How to reach your target TOEFL score?
Once you have set your good TOEFL score goal, it is time to work on prepping for the test. Here are some tips on the best steps for test prep for the TOEFL iBT:
- Take a practice diagnostic TOEFL test – this will help you determine your level, your strengths and weaknesses, and where you stand as compared to your score goal.
- Create a study schedule – this will help you stay organized and will enable you to prepare for the TOEFL properly without rushing or having to cram the content in the final days before the exam.
- Work on building your vocabulary – whenever possible, try to learn new words and their meanings in English. This is essential for better performance in the reading and listening, speaking and writing sections of the TOEFL, as well as for your final score.
- Enroll in a TOEFL prep course – there are various prep courses for TOEFL, which can help you prepare properly for the test. Many courses offer either self-paced or instructor-led courses, various practice lessons and questions, strategies for score improvement, full-length practice tests, and more. And the majority of the test prep companies offer a money-back guarantee for the fees you pay if you don’t get a better TOEFL score.
I received a low TOEFL score – now what?
If your TOEFL score is not as high as the goal you set, don’t worry, it is not the end of the world. There are still ways to handle the situation and continue on with your plans for the future. Here are some strategies to try if your TOEFL score is low:
Leave it as is
You can leave the score as it is and use it for your application for a university, college, or other institution. This strategy might work out, as long as your score is not lower than the minimum TOEFL score required or accepted.
Even if it happens to be lower than the minimum score requirements, you may ask the admissions office to be accepted conditionally with a lower score, if the rest of your admissions package and credentials are strong enough. Some schools will accept students with a minimum TOEFL score conditionally but may require that they take certain ESL classes before proceeding with the regular classes.
Check whether you can eliminate the score from your application
In some cases, you may be able to convince the admissions office of your English proficiency by providing other proof, such as a high school diploma from an English speaking school, a certificate for another English language test, your score from your SAT or ACT, or another standardized test which has an English language section and is in English.
Adjust your dream college and university list
If there is no time to retake the TOEFL, you can reevaluate your list of dream schools and opt for one of the safety schools, which are less selective colleges and universities with lower TOEFLs score minimum requirements.
Ask the college about applying with an IELTS score instead
If you find the format of the TOEFL too difficult to tackle, you may opt for a less popular standardized test instead. The IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System and is also developed to test the person’s ability to write, read, and understand the English language.
Of course, you should research the test beforehand and also ask the schools of your choice whether they would accept an IELTS score instead of a TOEFL score.
You can retake the TOEFL
If you have the time and resources to prepare for another TOEFL, then the best way to correct your low score is to retake the exam and opt for a higher TOEFL max score.
You can retake the TOEFL every 12 days, but it makes sense to prepare for the second test and work on your weaknesses and mistakes from the first one if you want to see better TOEFL high scores the second time around. If you have the time, it is recommended that you sign up for a TOEFL test prep course, which can help you improve your TOEFL scores. Most test preparation services offer a score improvement guarantee, so they will do their best to ensure that you will get a higher scoring in TOEFL, or otherwise will need to refund your money.
The best news is that there are now various colleges and universities which have adapted a TOEFL MyBest Score policy and will combine the best subscores of all tests you have taken into a combined one. Read on to find out more about the what is TOEFL score Superscore.
TOEFL MyBest Scores – what is a TOEFL Score Superscore?
Many universities and colleges now consider the scores of all of the TOEFL tests you have taken in the last two years. In some cases, they use the maximum score of TOEFL per each reading, listening, speaking, writing section of each of the exams as a reference. This combined best overall score is often referred to as a TOEFL “Superscore.”
This fact should give those of you who are not happy with your TOEFL scores and subscores and are thinking of retaking the test more hope that you can significantly enhance your average TOEFL score range in the reading and listening, speaking and writing sections.
With proper test prep, you may not only be able to improve your total score, but you can improve the subscores of reading and listening, writing or speaking sections where you performed poorly the first time.
If the university accepts the Superscore policy, only the best results and subscores of all TOEFL exams you have taken will be considered during the admissions process.
This means that your total Superscore may very well be higher than any of the composite scores from the separate TOEFL exams you have taken.
Here is a list of the schools which accept the TOEFL Superscore, called TOEFL MyBest scores.
By signing up for a test-prep course for TOEFL, you can improve your test-taking skills, your four different reading, listening, speaking and writing skills, learn score range improvement strategies, and focus on the weaker sections and skills from the first test. This will help you improve your scores, and thus accumulate a better overall Superscore good enough to allow you to apply to one of the many colleges and universities which now accept the TOEFL MyBest Scores as official scores for assessing your English writing, reading, listening, and understanding abilities.
So, is there a good TOEFL score in general?
As we have already pointed out in this article, whether a TOEFL score is good or not depends on various factors, including your education level, your country, the school you are applying for, and more.
But then, there are some general rules which can be applied for most colleges and universities, which include:
A score of 80 or less is below average, so it is not a good TOEFL score for higher ranking or more selective colleges or disciplines. Nevertheless, some schools will accept students with such scores, often with conditional acceptance, which means that you will need to take English as a Second Language classes for one semester or more before proceeding with your studies.
A score of 80 to 90 points is an average or moderately good TOEFL score. A wider range of universities and colleges are more likely to accept non-native speakers with scores within this moderately good range. You may even be able to get into certain graduate programs that require other skills over the English abilities.
A score of 90 to 100 points is a good TOEFL score, and it is most likely sufficient to make you a competitive applicant for the majority of universities and colleges. With a score within a 90-100 range, you can also get a chance to land a GA, TA, or RA position on campus if accepted.
A score of 100 to 110 points is a very good TOEFL score and is sufficient to reach the minimal score requirements by the highest-ranking and most selective colleges and universities, including the Ivy League schools, if the rest of your application is strong.
A score of 110 to 120 point is an excellent score and should ensure that you meet the requirements of any English language university or college.
In any case, you should check the requirements of your school for any specific subscore requirements for particular sections of the TOEFL as well.
Even with a near-perfect score of 110, you may not be meeting the subscore requirements. Like if, for example, your school or major requires a minimal section score for either reading, listening, speaking, or writing, and you have a lower score at that particular skill.
How to improve your TOEFL score?
Apart from having the necessary level of knowledge and understanding of the English language, there are some other tips which you can follow if you want to get a better score on your TOEFL exam.
Here are some tips for getting a higher score at the TOEFL:
Don’t rush into retaking the test
Even if you are pretty sure of your English language skills and level, it is a good idea to study your previous test report and results and spend enough time working on the sections and skills where you scored poorly, and those which you want to improve. By practicing more, you will be able to perform better and with more significant confidence at your next TOEFL exam.
Do some practice tests
Even though you have already taken the TOEFL, it is still a good idea to complete some full-length practice tests, or if you don’t have the time, you can practice only the sections for which you want better scores on the next time.
Practice your speaking and writing with a friend proficient in English or with a tutor
Since scoring the speaking and writing parts of the TOEFL is done by real people, it makes sense to spend time practicing these skills with someone who is competent enough to evaluate your performance and point out any mistakes.
You can work with a personal instructor or sign up for a test prep course that offers such services.
Forget about the test anxiety
If you were nervous during the first TOEFL, this anxiety might have caused the lower scores at the end.
The good news is that with a lot of practice, and with the experience, chances are you will feel much less anxious when the test date comes for your retake of the TOEFL
Now that hopefully, you have a clearer idea of how the TOEFL is scored, and what kind of scores you should be aiming at, you can start prepping for your exam.
Good luck with the TOEFL, and good luck with reaching your dream score as soon as possible!