TOEFL Scoring System: Complete Guide

In this article, we’ll take a close look at the TOEFL scoring system. We’ll discuss how the scores are calculated for each four sections – reading, listening, writing, and speaking. We’ll also give you some practical tips on how to improve your TOEFL score. 

What Is the TOEFL Exam?

TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language. ETS, an American-based assessment organization, administers it. 

TOEFL is one of the most popular English language proficiency tests globally. Every year, thousands of people take the TOEFL to assess their English skills accurately. They use this assessment to get into universities, apply for jobs, and show that they have the English skills it takes to succeed in an English-speaking environment. 

How Is the TOEFL Exam Scored?

It’s not possible to pass or fail TOEFL. Each institution that accepts TOEFL scores sets its own score requirements. 

TOEFL scores are given on a scale of 0 – 120. Each of the four sections of the exam is worth 30 points. 

After you take the test, you will receive four scaled section scores. These scores are then added together to form your overall score. 

For example, if you score 26 in reading, 25 in listening, 28 in speaking, and 25 in writing, your total score would be 26 + 25 + 28 + 25 = 104. 

Accessing Your TOEFL Scores

After taking the test, you will receive an email when your TOEFL scores are ready.

You will be able to access them online via your ETS account approximately 6 days after your test date.

You will be able to download a PDF of your score report 8 days after your test date, although keep in mind that the PDF is not an official copy of your score report. 

Availability of TOEFL Official Score Reports

The official version of your TOEFL results is called a score report. You will need to send this to the organization(s) that requires proof of your English skills.

Before taking the TOEFL, you can add up to 4 receiving organizations (i.e., universities, employers, immigration authorities) where you would like an official copy of your score report to be sent.

This service is free of charge. However, if you would like additional score reports to be sent, each one will cost approximately USD 20.

Steps in Viewing Your TOEFL Scores

Once you’ve received an email letting you know that your TOEFL scores are ready, you can simply log in to your ETS account and follow the instructions to view your scores.

You can also view them on your smartphone using the official TOEFL app.

A paper copy of your score report will be mailed out within 11 days of your test date, but only if you requested a paper copy before you took the test. 

TOEFL Score Validity

Your TOEFL scores will remain valid for 2 years from your test date.

Your scores only remain valid for 2 years because they are meant to reflect your current English level. Because your English skills are likely to change and evolve, you’ll need to retake the test if you want to use your scores again after 2 years. 

Raw vs. Scaled TOEFL Scores

You may have heard about your “raw score” vs. your “scaled score.” What does this mean?

Keep in mind that you will receive a separate score for each of the four sections – reading, listening, speaking, and writing.

Your raw score is simply the number of correct answers you have on any given section. Since each section of the TOEFL contains a different number of questions at a different difficulty level, the raw score for each section must be converted into a scaled score.

Your scaled score is simply your score on the 0 – 30 point scoring system that TOEFL uses to mark your results on the score report card.

This means that when you calculate your scaled score, you have to keep in mind that it’s a close approximation to what your final TOEFL score would be, rather than an exact science. 

How to Predict Your TOEFL Score for Each Test Section?

That being said, if you’d like to predict your TOEFL score, you can get pretty close.

First, you should take several practice tests that cover all four exam sections. You can find official TOEFL practice exams online.

You take four practice tests, and your total scores are 26, 23, 25, and 26.

Add these scores together to get 100 and then divide by 4.

Your average score is 25.

If your target score is higher than this, it’s a good idea to do more practice tests and spend additional time studying and improving your weakest areas.

Let’s take a closer look at how you can predict your score in each individual section of the exam. 

TOEFL Reading 

First: Count the total number of raw points.

The TOEFL Reading section usually has three reading passages with ten questions each, making 30 questions.

The 10th question for each passage has more than one correct answer and is worth two points.

This means that there is a total of 33 raw points.

Second: Count the number of points you answered correctly.

Let’s say you miss three answers.

Two of them are normal one-point questions, and the third one is a two-point question.

This means that you missed a total of 4 raw points.

Therefore you have earned 29 points out of a total of 33 possible points.

Third: Divide the correct number of points by total possible points to get a percentage.

You need to divide 29 by 33 (29/33), which comes to 0.88, or 88%.

Fourth: Convert your percentage into a scaled score on the 0 – 30 score range.

Remember, the goal is to determine how many points you would get on TOEFL’s 0-30 scoring scale.

To predict your reading score, you need to know what 88% of 30 is.

You can do this by multiplying 0.88 x 30, which is 26.4.

Round it down to 26, and you have your estimated TOEFL reading score. 

TOEFL Listening

You can follow the same steps to calculate your TOEFL listening score as you did to calculate your reading score.

The Listening section of a TOEFL exam contains two conversations about school life and three university lectures.

There’s usually at least one monologue (only one person speaks) and one discussion (with two or more speakers).

All of the questions are multiple-choice, and usually, all of these questions are worth 1 point and have just one correct answer.

So when you’re predicting your listening score, you can assume that each question is worth 1 point. 

TOEFL Speaking

First: Get someone to score your speaking responses.

The Speaking section is less straightforward than the reading and listening sections.

There are no specific right answers; instead, when you take the TOEFL exam, a certified ETS examiner will grade your speaking responses based on a rubric.

While it’s possible to grade your responses based on this rubric, the best thing to do is to have a tutor or someone familiar with TOEFL objectively evaluate your speaking responses.

Second: Find the average of your scores from each of the four tasks. 

Each of the four sections of the speaking exam is worth an equal number of points.

Each task is worth a maximum of 4 points.

To find the average, simply add the four scores together and divide them by 4.

Let’s say you get the following unofficial scores for each of the four tasks: 3.5 + 3 + 3 + 4 = 13.5 13.5/ 4 = 3.38.

Third: Convert the average of your scores into a percentage.

You need to divide your average score (correctly answered points) by the total number of possible points.

In this case, the total number of possible points is 4. So we divide 3.38 by 4 to get 0.85, or 85%.

Fourth: Convert your percentage into a scaled score. 

We’ll follow the same steps as before to calculate 85% of 30.

We multiply 0.85 x 30 to get 25.5, which we can round up to an approximate scaled score of 26 for TOEFL speaking.

TOEFL Writing

First: Get someone to score your writing responses.

The TOEFL Writing test has two writing tasks. Like the speaking section of the exam, there are no specific right or wrong answers. Your responses will be graded according to a rubric, which you can view online here. While scoring your responses based on this rubric is possible, you will get a more accurate assessment if you have a TOEFL tutor or someone very familiar with the exam grade your responses.

Second: Find the average of your scores from each of the tasks. 

The two writing tasks are each worth 50% of the final score.

Each task is worth a total of 5 points.

Let’s say you get an unofficial score of 4 on one writing task and 3.5 on the other. 4 + 3.5 = 7.5. 7.5/2 = 3.75.

Third: Convert the average of your scores into a percentage.

Once again, you need to divide your average score by the total number of points to get a percentage.

As the total number of points for each writing task is 5, we’ll divide 3.75/5 to get 0.75, or 75%.

Fourth: Convert your percentage into a scaled score.

By now, you’ll know that you need to multiply your percentage by 30 to find out what your scaled score would be. 0.75 x 30 = 22.5, which we can round up to 23 for your estimated writing score. 

Why Are These Calculations Important?

Knowing how to calculate your unofficial TOEFL score is a useful tool when it comes to predicting how well you’ll perform on the actual test.

If there is a target score that you need to reach to get into a university program, doing practice tests and predicting your score will soon show you if you’re consistently reaching your target score or not.

Also, doing lots of practice tests is the best way to prepare yourself for the real thing. You’ll know what to expect on test day, which will help you stay calm and focused when you sit the test. 

Interpreting Your TOEFL Score

Comparing your scores against university requirements and the scores of other students can help you see where you stand.
TOEFL has also broken down the scores for each section. Determining where your scores fall on this scale can help you to interpret whether your score is weak, fair, or strong.

SkillScaled Score Interpretation 
Reading0 – 14
15 – 21
22 – 30
Listening0 – 14
15 – 21
22 – 30
Speaking0 – 9
10 – 17
18 – 25
26 – 30 
Writing1 – 16
17 – 23
24 – 30 

TOEFL Score Percentiles

Your score percentile is the best way to know how your score compares to other test-takers.

The higher your TOEFL score percentile is, the more test takers you have outperformed! Some schools and programs might have a percentile requirement.

That is, they might only accept students who have scored in the 80th percentile or higher (scoring in the 80th percentile means that you have outperformed 80% of test-takers).

You can compare your score with the chart below to determine which percentile you fall under.

TOEFL Score Percentile

What is the Average TOEFL Score?

By looking at TOEFL’s test and score data summary from 2020, we can get a good understanding of the average TOEFL score across a variety of sectors.

We can also see that the average TOEFL score last year (2020) for all test takers was 87

Group ReadingListeningSpeakingWritingTotal Scaled Score
High School Level Students 20.320.920.720.682
Two Year College Students 18.819.619.619.477
Undergraduate Level Students21.521.921.221.486
Graduate Level Students23.223.121.622.190
All groups

TOEFL Requirements for Graduate School Admissions

ETS doesn’t set a passing score for the TOEFL, which leaves each institution free to create its requirements. If you want to know about the total score requirements for a particular university or graduate school program, you should contact the school or program directly and ask. This is the only way to be 100% sure.

The minimum score requirement for a given university might be 90. Still, then a particular department or program within that same university might set their own, higher sectional and total score requirements. They might even set a percentile requirement. That’s why it’s important to get in touch with the specific school or department where you are applying to study. 

Most selective universities require a score of at least 100, but it’s also possible to find universities that accept total scores as low as 60. The best advice is also the simplest – you need to immerse yourself in English.

How to Improve Your TOEFL Reading Score?

Read in English as often as you can. Read about things you’re interested in. Read about academic topics. Write down every new word you come across to continue expanding your vocabulary. Study how articles and texts are structured so that you can quickly identify the main idea of a text and the supporting details, and the connecting words that link them.

How to Improve your TOEFL Listening Score?

Listen to something in English every day and gradually increase the time you spend listening to English daily. Listen to different things. Find an English podcast on a subject that interests you. Find an English YouTube channel that makes you laugh. Listen to the radio in English online. Listen to university professors and TV shows, and music. Practice listening actively. You want to identify who, what, where, when, why, and how.

How to Improve your TOEFL Speaking Score?

Find people who want to speak English with you. If you can’t find a native speaker, commit to speaking English with someone else who wants to improve their English skills. If you live in a city, use social media to find an English-speaking group that likes to meet up. There’s usually a group of ex-pats who enjoy meeting up and speaking in English. If you don’t have a group like this where you live, you can start one. Record yourself speaking in English and then transcribe what you said, and review your mistakes. Practice speaking spontaneously for a set amount of time on different topics, such as family, school, hobbies, your city, etc. You can also watch YouTube videos, TV shows, and movies and practice shadowing, a practice in which you listen to someone speaking and then repeat what they said in real-time. 

How to Improve your TOEFL Writing Score?

Read and listen to academic articles and lectures in English and take notes. Summarize the main points using complete sentences. If you’re not used to typing on a QWERTY (standard English) keyboard, practice. Study expressions used to compare and contrast ideas, such as however, although, and on the other hand. Read one long article in English every day and write a summary of it. Ask a teacher or a friend with really excellent English to review your writing and point out mistakes. Keep a journal in English. Study how to organize paragraphs and essays.

We hope these tips have given you some ideas on how you can improve your TOEFL score. You can visit ETS’s website for a complete list of great tips and new study ideas.