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TOEFL SCORE Guide | TOEFL score validity, importance, good scores and score charts, score calculations and requirements
TOEFL Scores :

All You Need to Know in 2023

If you have already taken your TOEFL test or if you are planning to take it up, you are probably ruminating about the TOEFL scores, wondering:

‘What is a good TOEFL Score?’, ‘How much do I need to score in each of the sections?’, ‘What is the score validity?’ and ‘Why is this important?’

Get ready to find answers to all these questions and more! Everything is explained in detail with score charts and percentiles!

Table of Contents

1. Importance of your TOEFL score

The TOEFL tests you on the receptive and productive skills – Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. Universities look at these four areas of English language competency, but what do they do with them?

Good TOEFL scores can help you with two things. First, they assert that you are capable of communicating fluently and comfortably in an academic environment.

So the universities will know that you can easily adapt to their academic and living surroundings. You will be able to keep up with your academic work without a problem. This assures the university that you will fit in perfectly once you go there. 

Next, scoring well on your TOEFL test can help you land a position as a teaching assistant at some universities, which comes with a stipend.

This will help you in paying off any student loans you have or just give you a little extra cash to get by. 

In fact, you could even help other students out.

If your overall TOEFL score is good, your peers will know that they can rely on you to help them with various classroom tasks and work.

Importance of Good TOEFL score | Help gets TA and other scholarship opportunities

Take your total score seriously, do your best, and try to get the highest TOEFL score range possible.

As with any other standardized (or non-standardized) test, take as many TOEFL practice tests as possible to get closer to achieving your target score.

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How is TOEFL scored?

Wondering who evaluates your scores? Who decides how much your responses are worth?  Well – Your TOEFL scores are evaluated by both human raters and AI as designed by the ETS.

Even though there are advantages that come with AI rating, it doesn’t measure content appropriateness and language effectiveness. Also, the AI TOEFL scoring is used to complement the human scoring, it’s not supposed to be a replacement. The human raters are required to evaluate the quality of ideas in the content provided, something the AI cannot do on its own.

When it comes to writing tasks, your samples from the tests are distributed to trained raters who evaluate and give you a score out of 5 which is supposed to represent the quality of the task. The collective adjacent score will be taken as the final score of that task. When there are no adjacent scores the task will be assigned to the other human rater and the score adjacent to the previously evaluated score will be considered the final score. Find out more about the evaluation of the e-rater scoring engine for the TOEFL Independent and Integrated Prompts here.

2.What are TOEFL Percentiles?

Let’s take a brief look at how to identify a good TOEFL score from a mediocre one. You can see the percentile table below. This percentile table will help us understand whether or not a score is ‘good’ and how better you have performed than the others.

TOEFL Percentiles based on Test Data :

Scale Score Reading Listening Speaking Writing Total Scale Score Percentile Rank
17 26 28 15 17 68 23
16 22 24 ** 14 64 18
15 19 20 9 11 60 14
14 16 17 6 8 56 11
13 13 14 4 6 52 9
12 11 12 ** 4 48 7
11 9 10 3 3 44 5
10 8 8 2 2 40 3
9 6 6 1 1 36 2
8 5 5 1 1 32 1
7 4 3 ** - 28 1
6 3 2 1 - 24 -
5 2 2 - - 20 -
4 1 1 - - 16 -
3 1 1 - - 12 -
2 - - - - 8 -
1 - - - - 4 -
0 - - - - 0 -
Mean 20.7 20.3 20.4 20.8 Mean 82
S.D 6.7 6.7 4.5 4.8 S.D 20

You may be wondering – ‘OK, so I got a score of 25 in each of my skills.

How good is that?’

It sounds good, but you don’t really know how good something is until you know your competition.

And that is where percentile tables really help.

The table helps you understand the number of people who are getting the same range of scores. That is why we are going to take a brief look at this table.

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3.What is a Good TOEFL Score?

The data in the table is from 2017. It is from the ETS website. What do we see here? Let us assume your scaled score is somewhere in the range between 18 and 22 (out of 30) in each of these sections.

Let’s say 21 in Reading.

That corresponds to the 43rd percentile. Now, what does this mean? It means that you have done better than 43 percent of the people who have attempted this section on the test.

Similarly, for listening, this score corresponds to the 46th percentile. For writing, you can see it’s 41 percent.

Assuming your score is 21 in each of the four sections, the total scaled score would be somewhere around 84. And the total percentile rank would be somewhere around 47.

TOEFL iBT scores to Percentile:

Scale Score Reading Listening Speaking Writing Total Scale Score Percentile Rank
30 95 95 99 99 120 100
29 89 91 98 97 116 99
28 83 85 95 93 112 96
27 77 80 92 89 108 92
26 71 74 87 85 104 86
25 65 69 ** 78 100 79
24 60 63 79 70 96 71
23 54 57 66 63 92 63
22 49 52 53 54 88 55
21 43 46 ** 41 84 47
20 39 41 42 33 80 40
19 34 36 31 28 76 33
18 29 32 22 22 72 28

Now that this puts you at a really average kind of place, right? 50 percent of the people are scoring that much, so you can see the test takers usually have a harder time with speaking and writing.

Also, you could notice from the table that the score of 20-23 across the sections would be an average TOEFL score.

When we move up the scale, say to 24 – we see that earning 24 is not such a big deal in the Reading section, because a lot of people score that.

Whereas a 24 in the Writing section suddenly bumps you up to the 70th percentile, which means there’s only 30 percent of people doing better than you.

So 24 is a pretty good score in writing, but not such a great score in reading. A scaled score of 30 in Reading means only five percent of the people are scoring thirty or above.

What you want to aim for is twenty-five or above – that sets you apart from the others.

4.How long are TOEFL scores valid?

You can attempt the TOEFL once in twelve days. So if you take the test and you want to retake it, for whatever reason, you can take it again after a minimum of twelve days.

You could take the test as many times as you like.

Just keep in mind that you do have this cost to pay every time you want to attempt the test, and it is a four-hour test.

Your TOEFL test score is valid for two years from the test date.

So whenever you’ve taken the test, your scores are valid until two years from that date.

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Say you’re applying for a postgraduate course in the U.S.A as you’re finishing your undergraduate course, maybe in your third year or near fourth year, that’s when you should think of taking the TOEFL.

For most of us, up until college, we’re tested on certain skills of the English language – you are tested on your English proficiency, overall competency, and your ability to communicate in an academic environment.

So although a lot of the TOEFL test is going to focus on the academic necessities, you will also be tested for overall general competency across these four skills – reading, listening, speaking, and writing.

5.How are TOEFL scores calculated in each section?

So to quickly summarize- we have four sections: reading, listening, speaking, and writing. Each of these sections is scored out of thirty points.

So depending on how you answer the questions, all of your points are scaled to these scores, and then you will be given a score range of zero to thirty for each of these sections.

That score will determine your competency level in that particular skill. The final TOEFL test score that you get out of 120 will be the sum of all of the points from across the four sections.

How are TOEFl scores evaluated | TOEFL exam syllabus/pattern | TOEFL sections

Scoring in TOEFL Reading Section:

The duration of the Reading Section will be anywhere from 54 – 72 minutes. You will have anywhere between 30 and 40 sets of questions. You’ll get three to four TOEFL reading passages with 10 questions per passage.

You will be looking at long reading comprehension sets. You definitely need to have focus and really bring a lot of energy to attempt this section.

So for the reading section, your score (anywhere between 0 to 30) would mean a particular level of competency, depending on your score range. If you only score somewhere between 0 and 14, that means your competency is quite low. If it is between fifteen and twenty-one, then your competency is intermediate.

If it is 20 – 30, then it is considered highly competent. So you are definitely aiming for this range.

Scoring in TOEFL Listening Section:

Your second section is the listening section, which is again 41 – 57 minutes long. You will have to answer anywhere between 28 and 39 questions. To give you a more clear picture, you will have to listen to 3 – 4 lectures.

For every lecture, you will get a set of six questions.

Then you will have to listen to 2 – 3 conversations, and for every conversation, you will have a set of five questions. The lectures tend to be slightly longer than the conversations and always have more questions than the conversations.

Your score for the Listening Section ranges between zero and thirty and it is very similar to the Reading Section in terms of low, intermediate, and high levels of competency.

Scoring in TOEFL listening section | Competency level based on scores for each section in TOEFL | Reading, listening, Speaking and writing sections

Scoring in TOEFL Speaking and Writing Sections:

Then we have the Speaking section, which is approximately 17 minutes long, with four tasks.

Finally, the Writing Section is for 50 minutes with two tasks.

Speaking and Writing sections are different from the other two sections as far as scoring is concerned. For every task, you will be assigned a point between zero and four. The mean of these four points will be taken and converted to the standardized 30-point scale.

Based on that, you will again receive a competency level for the particular skill.

So if it is 0 to 9 you would be considered weak. 10 to 17 would mean that you have limited competency. 18 to 25 means fair competency, and 26 to 30 means you have good competency. Again, you have to aim for the highest level here.

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Similarly, for the Writing section – You can get anywhere between 0 and 5 points for each essay and then the mean of that is taken and converted to the thirty-point score scale.

A score of 1 to 16 means limited competency, 17 to 23 means fair competency and 24 to 30 means good competency. Here also, you should aim for the highest grade range.

Adding all of this, the score that you will receive with your TOEFL score report will be out of 120 points. If you want to have a really good profile, you want to aim for a score higher than 110.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

How is TOEFL scored? 

  • Scored by both human raters and AI designed by ETS

How are TOEFL scores calculated in each section?

  •  Based on the scores you receive, it’s scaled down to 30 for each section and that determines your competency 

What is a good TOEFL score?

One has to check the TOEFL score percentile for each section to understand how better they have performed compared to the prevailing competition

Which is the hardest section in TOEFL?

The speaking section of the TOEFL test is considered the most difficult followed by the reading section which tests our vocabulary. Do a lot of practice in the listening section to master it

How long does it take to prepare for TOEFL?

It depends on the person’s needs but we need a minimum of two weeks to get accustomed to the TOEFL test pattern and go through all the lessons and start taking the practice test. But it takes a lot of practice to get the desired perfect score.

Is TOEFL harder than IELTS?

Both tests test our English language abilities but test takers have felt that the TOEFL examination is a bit harder than IELTS. So it’s important to prepare for TOEFL since the reading sections are comparatively harder.

So here’s a Quick Summary:

  • How is TOEFL scored?: Scored by both human rates and AI designed by ETS
  • What is the TOEFL percentile? It is a number that tells you how better you have done compared to others. 70 percentile means you have done better than 70% of people who attended. 
  • What is a good TOEFL score? Check the percentile chart for each section of TOEFL and plan accordingly. 
  • How long are TOEFL scores valid? They are valid for 2 years
  • How are TOEFL scores calculated in each section? Based on the scores you receive, it is scaled down to 30 for each section, and that determines your competency 
  • TOEFL Reading: 30-40 reading questions and 54 – 72 minutes
  • TOEFL Listening: 28 – 39 questions: 41 – 57 minutes
  • TOEFL Speaking: 4 Tasks, 17 minutes
  • TOEFL Writing: 2 tasks, 50 minutes 
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Now that you know more about TOEFL scores…

What score will you be targeting?

Are you aiming for a high score to improve your chances of a scholarship??

Let us know what your thoughts and goals are in a comment below!

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