Lots of TOEFL prep services — including Magoosh — offer some sort of score guarantee. But how do these work? Can you trust a TOEFL score guarantee?
Why Test Prep Companies Guarantee Your TOEFL Score
The most obvious reason that test prep companies guarantee your TOEFL scores is sales. A TOEFL score guarantee encourages you to buy a TOEFL book, subscribe to TOEFL lessons, or hire a specific TOEFL tutoring service.
But it’s not just about getting your money. Another reason that test prep companies guarantee scores is ethics. Companies want to treat their customers fairly. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s also good business. If customers start to feel cheated by a TOEFL prep service, they’ll stop using that service.
A score guarantee can give a clear cut, fair way to resolve disputes between test prep companies and their students. When a score guarantee is well-designed, students who worked hard but still didn’t get their money’s worth have a way to get their money back.
How to Know if a TOEFL Score Guarantee is Useful
The emphasis here is that a score guarantee has to be well-designed. If someone “guarantees” a certain TOEFL score to their students, you need to check and see what will happen if students don’t reach the guaranteed score. In other words, you need to ask yourself — and the company — “A guaranteed score… or what?” If the company doesn’t actually promise a refund or some other kind of compensation in their guarantee policy, then the guarantee isn’t very useful to you as a student. Instead, it’s purely a sales gimmick, useful only to the test prep company.
How to Know if a TOEFL Score Guarantee is Reliable
If a TOEFL score promise comes with a money-back guarantee, it’s useful to you financially, or course. But is the score guarantee truly reliable? If a test prep company promises you a certain TOEFL score, how likely are you to get that score if you use their service?
Here again, the design of the guarantee is important. Guarantees of specific high scores are not necessarily reliable. Suppose a test prep company guarantees its students a score of at least 26 in TOEFL Writing? This just might be a realistic guarantee for students who were already scoring at 22 or higher before they came to the company for help. But students who are at a really low level of writing may not make a 26 just by going through the company’s TOEFL course.
For the company making the promise, this just might be good business. Maybe most of the company’s students are already scoring at 22+ on TOEFL Writing when they begin to study. And for students, there’s no financial risk to paying such a company for help. All students can expect to either pass or get a refund… but some students will inevitably fail. The score guarantee is a financial agreement, not a certainty.
Other TOEFL prep companies make a more modest guarantee. Instead of guaranteeing that students will get a specific score, they guarantee that if students are retaking the test, they will see improvement. The Magoosh TOEFL score guarantee says that if you need to retake the TOEFL, we promise you a 4-point score increase if you study with us. ….Or, we promise you a refund. This promise, though, is only valid if you meet certain study requirements. This brings me to the next section of this article….
How to Know if You Can Meet the Requirements for a TOEFL Score Guarantee or a Refund
Test prep companies know that student effort is key to a good TOEFL score. It’s even more important than simply choosing the right TOEFL books or TOEFL prep service. So TOEFL score guarantees usually require the student to do specific things. In Magoosh’s case, we ask our subscribers to watch all of our premium TOEFL video lessons, go through all of our practice TOEFL questions, and watch the video explanations for any questions they get wrong.
These kinds of score guarantee requirements are fairly typical. And the clearer the requirements are, the more reliable the score guarantee is, generally. Still, even the most reliable score guarantees are not 100% reliable. You could start from an unusually low level of English, feel sick on test day, or fail to raise your score for other unpredictable reasons. Still, a score guarantee with reasonable conditions shows you what you can do to have a pretty good chance — statistically speaking — of improving a certain amount on the TOEFL.