Unlike most other tests we take, you can’t pass or fail the TOEFL. No score can really be said to be “good” or “bad”, just as no level of English is inherently “good” or “bad”—it all depends on what kind of language you use and what you need it for. Fortunately, most universities take the guesswork out by stating exactly what score you need to qualify for their programs. (Go to our TOEFL Scores Infographic to see the required scores for many top US schools.) Evaluate the score you need, then take a TOEFL practice test to see where you currently are.
There’s a huge range here: some schools require a score as low as 70 points, and others as high as 110. From a practical standpoint, the score required by the school you’re interested in should be considered a “good” score.
If you’re taking the SAT or GRE, you may have noticed the culture of scraping up as many points as possible; it’s not uncommon for people to spend months and months studying and then take the test multiple times over a period of six months or a year. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, since even a fairly small increase in score can give you the competitive edge that gets you admitted or wins the scholarship that allows you to attend the school of your dreams.
The TOEFL, however, is a little different. If a school states a score, then the office of admissions has determined that that score is what’s necessary to perform well in that school’s curriculum. So as long as you meet the requirement, your score probably won’t play much of a role in your admission or rejection. Let’s say you were sick the day of your test, and you didn’t perform your best. You scored a 90, but you think you should have scored a 100. If your program only requires an 80, then it’s probably not worth taking the test again. Instead, focus on other parts of your application that the admissions department is more interested in, like your essays, interviews, and portfolios.
Of course, this is different at every school in every program. If you are trying for admission to a top graduate school, the minimum score might be 90, for example, but in order to get a TA (a teaching assistantship), your minimum speaking score might be 26. Research your schools well to find exactly what they want from you.
When you get your TOEFL scores, they will be accompanied by a document called “performance feedback.” This document will contain a summary of your general level, including strengths and weaknesses. It breaks the score into 3 levels, so you can use that information to figure out how good your score is in a very general sense.
Here is a summary of the different levels for each section:
|Reading or Listening||High||22-30|