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How Do I Interpret TOEFL® Results?

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  • Written By: Judith Smith Sullivan
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2016
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To interpret your TOEFL® results, you need to compare your actual scores with the highest possible scores and the scores required by the educational institution, company, or government agency which requires your scores. There are four sections on the TOEFL®, each worth up to 30 points, and the combined amounts make up the total score. There are no "pass" or "fail" scores, but you have to complete at least one question or essay out of each section to receive official TOEFL® results.

The first scores on your TOEFL® results are from the reading section of the test. This section has 36 to 70 tasks and questions, consisting of reading texts and answering the questions. The listening section is similar and requires you to listen and respond to questions. Both reading and listening usually have academic topics as the subject matter, such as selections from a textbook or classroom lectures.

Your raw score in each of these sections is the number of questions answered correctly. The raw score is converted to a 30 point scale. A score of 22 to 30 is considered a high score; 15 to 21 is intermediate; anything below 15 is low. A free service is offered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to match your reading score to a Lexile® measure. A Lexile® measure indicates the skill or level of your reading abilities and can help you choose appropriate reading material in the future.

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The speaking section contains six tasks, each of which receives a raw score of 0 to 4. Responses that are clear, have few pronunciation errors, are highly intelligible, and are spoken without excessive pauses or other vocal fillers typically receive a score of 3 or 4. The combined raw scores of the six sections are converted to a 30 point scale. A score of 26 to 30 is considered good, 18 to 25 fair, 10 to 17 limited, and 0 to 9 weak.

On the writing section there are two essays which are scored from 0 to 5 points. The raw scores are combined and converted to a 0 to 30 point scale to make up the score on the TOEFL® results. Much like the speaking portion, a score of 4 or 5 on the writing portion will be free, or almost free, of grammatical errors, highly intelligible, and well organized. A response which receives a 0 or 1 will be almost unintelligible or completely off topic.

In order to completely understand your scores, look at the scores in each individual section. You may find that you have good or excellent scores in most sections but are weak in another that effects your total score. Many institutions simply require a score higher than some cut-off point, like a score of 100 or more. Others may require specific scores on each section.

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