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TOEFL Tuesday: What’s a good TOEFL score for you?

Happy Tuesday! Enjoy this week’s video post. 🙂

What’s a good TOEFL score?

This question is both very common and very difficult to answer simply. But let’s consider it anyway!

The short answer is, “It varies.” The scores you need depend heavily on which schools you are applying to. That means you’ll have to do some research on the schools you’re interested in and find out what they recommend or require (most programs advertise this on their admissions websites). The most commonly required scores for graduate school are 80+, 90+, and 100+ out of the possible 120-point maximum. But there are also sub-section requirements at many schools: a school might require, for example, a 23 (out of 30) in the reading, a 24 in the listening, etc. So a lopsided score of 100 that includes a 30 on the reading and a 19 on the listening might not be a good score, because the listening might be below the requirement.

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That’s especially true of the speaking section. Even if admissions does not depend on an extremely high speaking score, many schools require that applicants for a teaching assistantship (TA) position have a speaking section of 25+, 26+, or even 28+. So be careful when looking at the requirements to find if there’s any reason you need to hit a specific speaking score!

But there is one important caveat to all of this. At some programs, you might be offered conditional acceptance even with a TOEFL score that’s lower than the recommendation. “Conditional acceptance” means that the school accepts you with the condition that you take extra English classes, pass another English test by a certain date, or possible prove your English skills in a different way. This is not extremely common, but it does happen, so investigate the possibility if your TOEFL scores are lower than what’s required.

If the school you’d like to attend doesn’t offer conditional acceptance, and your TOEFL scores don’t meet the school’s requirements, you should consider taking the test again. This article can help you decide whether it’s worth it for you to retake the TOEFL. If you do decide to take it again, make sure you do a lot of TOEFL practice before you take it!

And on one final note, if you have already scored above the required or recommended scores for the programs that you’re applying to, then don’t worry about getting a still higher score! There are more important parts of your application. A higher TOEFL score can help you, but mostly, schools just want to know that you’re capable enough of communicating. Once you pass the minimum scores, you’ll need to prove yourself with the other parts of your application, such as GRE/GMAT/SAT scores, academic history, letters of recommendation, statement of purpose, etc. That said, a higher TOEFL score is always a benefit. But you have to decide what part of your application is more important.

Happy Tuesday!


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12 Responses to TOEFL Tuesday: What’s a good TOEFL score for you?

  1. Kris February 19, 2015 at 9:53 am #

    I’ve found the information in your website to be very helpful!
    I have a question: For 2015, are there any significant changes to the exam? Thanks!

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas February 19, 2015 at 11:41 am #

      Well, that one is easy to answer. 🙂 There will be no significant changes. In fact, there are very, very rarely changes to the test, because scores each year must be comparable to scores from previous years. The most recent change was adding some British and Australian accents to the listening exercises (that was last year), but the accents are rare and not very strong; they had almost no impact. Any other changes that might happen without warning would be of a similar scope.

  2. William February 27, 2016 at 1:21 am #

    i have a 61 in the tofel exam is it good enough

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 1, 2016 at 9:00 pm #

      As Lucas said, it depends on where you want to apply. 61 is on the low side, but may be acceptable for admission at some US and Canadian graduate programs. Frag programs actually tend to accept lower TOEFL scores than Bachelor’s programs. (This may sound strange at first, but what grad programs are really looking for is content expertise, more than just general abilities in English study.) And of course conditional acceptance is always a possibility with a TOEFL score of 61.

  3. Sharmila Gurung April 29, 2016 at 10:29 pm #

    i scored 92 in that good score? should i retake toefl test?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 30, 2016 at 9:14 am #

      As Lucas mentioned, how good your TOEFL score is depends on where your score is in relation to the minimum requirements of the universities you are applying to. In simplest terms, if you’re applying to a program that requires a score of— say — 70 or 80, then 92 is a good score. If your school requires a 90, then 92 would be a good enough score, but maybe not an excellent score.

      If you haven’t applied to any schools yet and are just wondering how good a 92 on the TOEFL is in general, I would say it’s a good score, relative to the average standards of North American universities.

      A 92 on the TOEFL will meet the requirements of many US university programs, maybe the majority of them. But it’s a little on the low side for the very top schools. A 92 on the TOEFL will get you not a number of top programs, but your score will also put you just at the minimum– or below the minimum– for some top university programs. Rita wrote a good post on this here.

  4. ARUNA October 2, 2016 at 11:36 am #

    Hello ! I am planning to apply to Ivy League universities for my Masters degree. I got a score of 117. I got 29 in speaking and 28 in writing. I was aiming for a perfect score. I definitely did not expect to lose points in the writing section. I got a score of 4.5 in the GRE writing section. Are these scores good enough for Ivy League schools? I of course understand that my application will be reviewed holistically. But I was wondering if the admitted students have scores in this range.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 3, 2016 at 4:18 am #

      Hi Aruna,

      You should definitely be able to attain admission based on these scores–of course the rest of the profile matters. The weakest part is your AWA on the GRE, but in many cases writing ability is assessed based on essays or writing samples submitted to the university instead of the GRE’s essay.

      Things are looking good! 🙂

  5. Shreyas February 10, 2017 at 6:14 am #

    I am applying for Master’s program in Electrical Engineering and my TOEFL score is 90 (R:24, L:20, S:23, W:23). Also, my verbal and AWA scores are 150 and 3 respectively. The university that I am applying to requires minimum TOEFL score of 80 and the school of electrical engineering requires 90 without any sectional cut off mentioned on the website. I am not applying to any of the top 50 engineering schools. Will the admission committee consider my score enough for admission? Or should I retake TOEFL and try to score more than 90?
    Thank you.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 10, 2017 at 12:17 pm #

      Hi Shreyas,

      I’m afraid that I don’t have a good answer for you. I know how frustrating it is to try to guess the intent of each school and understand what they are looking for. Each school treats the standardized tests differently, and the importance of the test really varies from school to school. It’s possible that your score of 90 is perfectly OK, or that the school would look favorably on a higher score and that would make you a more competitive applicant. I suggest that you directly contact the admissions department of the school and ask them. They might give you some guidance that can help you make a decision! Sorry I can’t be of more help, but best of luck 🙂

  6. Natasha July 1, 2018 at 2:25 am #

    hi I’m an Indian student I will be studying in Netherlands. I have already taken my test and I’m awaiting my result , however I did not enter the details of the university I want to apply at. My result will be out on 3rd July . So can toefl test takers issue my result to the university ? If yes then should an afoot I also cost pe paid before the result is out or after ?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 4, 2018 at 1:07 pm #

      Hi Natasha,

      This blog post has all of the information you need:

      If you want to send your scores after the test, you can log in to your ETS account and send them. Keep in mind that there is a $19 fee for each test that you send after the score date!

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