What Is a Good TOEFL Score?

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Different universities and colleges have very different requirements, so the answer to your question of “what is a good TOEFL score?” varies depending on the university you wish to attend. According to a Study International report, the range is typically between 60 and 90, and international undergraduate applicants in this study had an average TOEFL score of 78.1.

When admissions officers review applications from international students, TOEFL scores carry a lot of weight. These international applicants may have excellent grades, glowing letters of recommendation, and impressive credentials. Nevertheless, test scores that measure English proficiency will determine the likelihood that each student is accepted or rejected from a university.

Based on my experience, you have your sights set on a liberal arts college, you will need to get a score of 82 or more. On the other hand, if you’re applying to Ivy League schools or other very selective institutions, you will have to score a minimum of 100.

How to Get a Good TOEFL Score

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is one of the two major English-language tests in the world. If you plan to come to the United States (U.S.) to study or work, chances are you will be asked to take the TOEFL internet-based test (IBT), which requires strategic preparation.

Depending on your prospects as an international student or a professional within an industry, the definition of a “good” TOEFL score varies. The TOEFL has no passing or failing grade. However, if you want to study at a specific institution, you will need to know what score it requires for you to be an eligible candidate.

The subsequent sections will cover the scores you should aim for, depending on your target university or college. In addition, I will share stories from my experience teaching the TOEFL exam to foreign students who speak one or more other languages.  

Preparation Is Key for a Good TOEFL Score

The TOEFL evaluates four skills: reading, listening, speaking, and writing. The format of the test will likely feel very different from other tests you may have taken. One essential strategy is to familiarize yourself with the format of the test. In addition, taking practice tests and learning time management are both vital to help you complete all four sections in the allotted amount of time. In other words, practicing by taking the test with time constraints will improve your performance.

Does practice make perfect? The answer is yes—with the right kind of practice. It is not enough to take the reading, listening, speaking, and writing sections over and over again, and you do not need to have extensive knowledge about all the different academic topics. Instead, you need to educate yourself on each of the four sections and what they require you to do, so you can apply specific strategies to answer the questions. However, you also need to be able to function in an English-speaking environment and have proficiency in the language.

Knowing the answers to the questions is one thing, but understanding the types of questions you’ll see on the TOEFL is a totally different story. Each section will require you to perform tasks that combine the different English communication skills: you will have to read, listen, and then speak in response to different questions. Also, you will have to listen to a lecture or a conversation, then respond to the situation presented in it. Finally, you’ll read, listen and then write a response to a question.

The Reading Section: Types of Questions

In the reading section, you will read three to four passages from academic texts. Then you’ll answer the following types of questions:

  • Detail/fact
  • Negative/fact
  • Inference/implication
  • Vocabulary
  • Author purpose
  • Reference questions
  • Insert sentence to the passage

The Listening Section: Question Types

The listening section includes conversations between people, academic discussions, and lectures. You’ll need to answer these specific question types:

  • Understanding the gist
  • Detail
  • Understanding attitude
  • Understanding function
  • Organization
  • Making connections

All of these types of questions ask you to identify the main idea of a topic. You could be asked what the speakers are talking about, what one person says about this or that, or how a professor or student feels, etc.

You will not need to memorize dates, names, or facts, and you don’t need to provide your personal feelings or knowledge about any of the material. Instead, you must process what the test is asking you to do: just focus on the question and find the evidence to support your answer.

The Speaking Section: Explain Your Reasoning

In the speaking section, you will be asked six questions. The first two questions are about familiar topics. For instance, one of them might ask you to think about how your life will look after retirement, or another might ask whether you prefer to study in a classroom or learn online. In a nutshell, you have to choose a position and then share your reasons to support it.  

Next, you’ll read a short passage and listen to a short talk on the same topic. Then you’ll answer two questions about them. Take notes while you read and listen. You are allowed to take notes throughout the entire test, so you do not have to remember every single detail.

The final two questions require you to listen to a conversation and a lecture. Then, you’ll provide your answers based on those sources.

The Writing Section: Tying It All Together

The final section of the TOEFL is writing, and it is divided into two parts:

Integrated Writing

The integrated writing task has two parts. First, you will read a passage, and then you’ll listen to a lecture about the same topic.

This format might sound familiar: the speaking task asked you to read a passage and then listen to a related conversation about the same topic, and then provide answers verbally. In this part of the writing section, you will do the same thing, except you’ll write out your answer in the form of a college essay.

Independent Writing

The independent writing task is the last section of the TOEFL. After all of that hard work on other sections, now you get to write about common experiences. You will be asked about a given topic without any prior knowledge, and you’ll need to share your opinion and your reasons that support it.

For example, some people think it’s better to live with a roommate, while others prefer to live alone. Which do you prefer? Take a position on the question, and then justify your opinion by sharing evidence based on your own experience.

Takeaways: How to Get a Good Score on the TOEFL

The TOEFL requires you to be motivated and to be comfortable using the English language in an academic setting. In this overview, we discussed the types of questions you’ll see on the TOEFL and the strategies you could use to succeed in answering them.

So, what is a good TOEFL score? As I said, it depends what university or college you want to apply to. The best advice I can give you is to register for a TOEFL course and take the necessary time to prepare for the test.

To really boost your English skills, watch movies or TV shows. Read in small increments every day, and listen to music. Look for cultural groups and events hosted at universities. Make friends who only speak English, which will force you to practice a lot of speaking. Finally, take risks and make your language learning experiences enjoyable.