TOEFL Scores :

All You Need to Know in 2020

TOEFL Scores

All You Need to Know in 2020

Whether you’ve taken the TOEFL test already or are getting ready to, your TOEFL scores are obviously on your mind..

You’re probably worrying yourself wondering :

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

Well, strap yourselves in and get ready to find answers to this and more!

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1.What is the importance of your TOEFL score?

Well, we know that the TOEFL tests you on four 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. For one thing, they assert that you are capable of communicating comfortably in their academic environment.

So the universities will know that you will be fine. Even if you go there, you will fit in perfectly. You will be able to keep up with your academic work without a problem.

And that is the reassurance that they need.

Now, another important thing is scoring really well on your TOEFL test can help you land a position as a teaching assistant at some universities, which comes with a stipend.

That will really help you pay off any student loans you have, or just give you a little extra cash to get by.

In fact, you’d be good enough to even help other students out.

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

Importance of Good TOEFL score

TOEFL iBT scores can help you land that position, So 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 the 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 idea in  the content provided, something the AI cannot do on it’s 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 really brief look at how to identify a good TOEFL score from a mediocre one. What you’re looking at below is a percentile table. This percentile table will help us understand whether or not a score is ‘good’ better than just your scaled scored alone.

TOEFL Percentiles based on Test Data from 2017:

Scale ScoreReadingListeningSpeakingWritingTotal Scale ScorePercentile Rank
17262815176823
162224**146418
1519209116014
141617685611
13131446529
121112**4487
1191033445
108822403
96611362
85511321
743**-281
6321-24-
522--20-
411--16-
311--12-
2----8-
1----4-
0----0-
Mean20.720.320.420.8Mean82
S.D6.76.74.54.8S.D20

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.

They help you understand how many other people are getting those kinds of scores and how many others are not getting those kinds of scores. That’s why we’re 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’s from the ETS website. What do we see here? Let’s assume your scaled score is somewhere in the 18 to 22 range (out of 30) in each of these sections.

Let’s say 21 in Reading.

That corresponds to the 43rd percentile. Now what does this really 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 41st percent.

Assuming your score is a 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 ScoreReadingListeningSpeakingWritingTotal Scale ScorePercentile Rank
3095959999120100
298991989711699
288385959311296
277780928910892
267174878510486
256569**7810079
24606379709671
23545766639263
22495253548855
214346**418447
20394142338040
19343631287633
18293222227228

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 are getting that right.

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

This is crazy:

So 24 is actually 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 really sets you apart from the others.

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4.How long are TOEFL scores valid?

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

And you could take the exam as many times as you like.

Of course. 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 exam.

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

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

Say you’re applying for a postgraduate course in the U.S.

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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 were tested on your English proficiency, you’re tested for overall competency and your ability to communicate in an academic environment.

So although a lot of the TOEFL exam is going to focus on the academic, you will also be tested for overall general competency across these four skills – that is 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. And each of these is 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 will be out of 120 and that will be the sum of all of the points from across the four sections.

Exam pattern of TOEFL

Scoring in TOEFL Reading Section:

The duration of the Reading Section will be anywhere from sixty to eighty minutes. You will have anywhere between 36 and 70 set of questions. You’ll get three to four TOEFL reading passages with 12 to 14 questions per passage.

You’re looking at pretty long reading comprehension sets. You will definitely have to focus and really bring a lot of energy to this.

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

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

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Scoring in TOEFL Listening Section:

Your second section is going to be the listening section, which is again 60 to 90 minutes long. You’ll have to answer anywhere between 34 and 51 questions. So to give you an idea of the break up over there, you will have to listen to anywhere between 4 and 6 lectures.

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

Then you will have to listen to two to three 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 again between zero and thirty and it’s very similar to the Reading Section in terms of low, intermediate and high levels of competency.

Competency level based on scores for each section in TOEFL

Scoring in TOEFL Speaking and Writing Sections:

Then we have the Speaking section, which is approximately 20 minutes long, with exactly six tasks.

Finally, the Writing Section is 15 minutes, along with two tasks.

Speaking and Writing are where things are a little bit different. 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.

And based on that, you will again receive a competency level for that particular skill.

So if it’s 0 to 9 you’d be considered weak. 10 to 17 would mean that you have limited competency. 18 to 25 means a fair competency, and 26 to 30 means you have good competency. Once again, you want to aim for the highest level over 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, 17 to 23 means fair, 24 to 30 means good and again you want to aim for the highest grade range over here.

Adding all of this up, 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.

Bonus TOEFL® Resources

Introduction to the TOEFL®

Types of Questions on the TOEFL® Exam.

TOEFL® Scores: Everything you need to know

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Now that you know more about TOEFL scores…

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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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