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What is an Average TOEFL Score?

Average TOEFL score -magoosh

You may wonder what an average TOEFL score is. How does your TOEFL score compare to the TOEFL performance of other test-takers?

ETS keeps official data on average TOEFL scores. They release a report about TOEFL averages every year. Their most recent report is the 2017 Test and Score Data Summary for the TOEFL. This report gives the average score for all TOEFL test-takers. In 2017, the overall average TOEFL score was approximately 84.

ETS’s data also includes average TOEFL scores by level of education, testing purpose, gender, native language, and country of origin. All of these different figures can help you know how you’re doing, relative to other test-takers. Below, I’ll highlight some especially useful information from ETS’s 2017 report.

Average TOEFL score by level of education and testing purpose

The level of education a TOEFL test-taker has and the purpose for taking the TOEFL are closely related. If a TOEFL test-taker is in high school, they’re probably taking the TOEFL to get into an undergrad degree program. If a test-taker has completed some of their bachelor’s degree classes, there’s a good chance they need their TOEFL score for grad school. Bachelor degree graduates usually take the TOEFL to get into a grad degree program or to gain professional certification. And so on.

With that in mind, here are ETS’s 2017 numbers for average (roughly 50th percentile) TOEFL iBT scores by level of education or reason for testing:

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  • High school students: 76
  • 2-year college students: 80
  • 4-year university students: 84
  • Graduate students: 88
  • Graduate students (business school): 88
  • Applicants to English language programs (such as intensive English programs): 82
  • People applying for professional licenses: 88
  • People applying for jobs that require a TOEFL score: 88
  • Immigration applicants: 88
  • People using the TOEFL for any other purpose: 84

Average TOEFL Score by Gender

In 2017, female test-takers averaged 82.6 on the TOEFL iBT, while males who took the TOEFL averaged at 81.5.

ETS breaks down these figures even further, showing the averages of men and women by level of education and purpose of testing.

Based on that data, it’s clear that most of the difference between male and female TOEFL score averages comes from stats for high school and undergraduate applicants. For high school and undergraduate hopefuls, male test-takers have TOEFL scores that are 3-4 points lower than females on average.

However, for graduate school, immigration, or employment, the gender gap between TOEFL scores is much smaller. In these categories, the difference between the average scores of men and women is generally one point or less, with men having a slightly average score in some cases.

To see the full details on gender, reason for test-taking, and average TOEFL scores, see ETS’s TOEFL test and score data summary, pages 11 and 12.

Average TOEFL Score by individual school

Certainly, it can be helpful to know your where your score stands compared to other broad groups of test-takers. However, there is another average TOEFL score you’ll really want to think about: the average TOEFL score for applicants to your target school.

Average TOEFL scores for applicants aren’t always published on a university’s website. But nearly every university does keep data on the average scores of students they accept. If you want to know where you might stand among other international applicants, contact the universities you’re applying to and ask. This can be very useful information, and can help you aim for a competitive TOEFL score.

Average TOEFL scores by native language and country of origin

ETS’s 2017 report also looks at average TOEFL scores by native language and home country.

This data is very interesting and it suggests a lot of things about what can make a country or language group strong or weak in the TOEFL. You can see my breakdown of this info in the next two posts in this series:

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7 Responses to What is an Average TOEFL Score?

  1. Yogesh Kohli July 22, 2016 at 9:46 pm #

    English is not my forte. I know that. I am a technical guy. I have given TOEFL twice, once in october 2014, where i scored 86 and second on 15 july 2016 where i scored 84. R: 23, L:18,S:19,W:23, i want to ask whether i should retake it ? And number of times matters to universities? as in will this affect my chances that i have taken it 2-3 times?

    • David Recine
      David Recine July 24, 2016 at 4:07 pm #

      Universities don’t care how many times you take the TOEFL. And they’ll accept your highest TOEFL score on record, even if you slip up and do worse on a retake. So you can actually use your October 2014 TOEFL score of 86 on your applications.

      The rub here is that you can only use your 10-2014 TOEFL score for admission to schools this Fall 2016. TOEFL scores expire after two years, so after this October, only your newer score of 84 will be valid. Additionally, since your higher score will be very near its 2 year expiration date by the beginning of this fall semester, some schools may ask you for a more recent score.

      So I’d advise doing a retake of the TOEFL if possible. You have nothing to lose, since you can still go with your earlier, better scores if you slip up and get a low score on your third time at the exam. And as I mentioned, universities don’t look at many times you take the exam– they just want to see your best valid, unexpired score report.

    • tirth October 5, 2019 at 10:41 am #

      i m also ….for me physics chemistry biology english…my score is about to come…my reading and listing was worse in the exam….

  2. Nerminista August 22, 2016 at 2:17 pm #

    My Toefl score came out today and I got 99, I’m such a loser, I need 100 but I fell one point short! I’m really upset, I’m really really good at English but I have a major problem with time, I usually take a lot of time answering exam questions. I’m afraid that I won’t get a better score if I retake the exam. My score is bad, isn’t it? am I not as good at English as I thought?

    • David Recine
      David Recine August 25, 2016 at 5:44 pm #

      This does sound very frustrating. But no, your’e definitely not a loser. 99 is a pretty good TOEFL score, but top schools usually ask for 100 or more. If the rest of your college application is pretty strong, you should probably contact your school and see if they can still accept you. They may or may not agree to let you in when your’e one point short, but it never hurts to ask.

      Now, let’s assume you do have to retake the TOEFL. If pacing is the main thing that’s holding your score back a little, I suggest focusing on test strategy rather than English skill. Really study the different TOEFL question types for each section of the test. And when you get a question wrong in practice really analyze why you got the question wrong, and look for the clues that lead to the right answer choice. learn how to eliminate wrong choices too. You get the idea. At you higher level of TOEFL scoring, test strategy is often the final skill you need to master.

  3. Asonya zegeye March 11, 2018 at 8:29 am #

    i want to ask a question…i take tofel exam but i did not see my result …am scared i did not do It well …so my question iz we can’t join the university if we get below 80

    • David Recine
      David Recine March 11, 2018 at 4:09 pm #

      That depends on the university you’re applying to. While 80 is a common cutoff, scores below 80, especially in the 70-19 range, are accepted by many schools. And of course, conditional acceptance for certain TOEFL scores is also a possibility at some schools.

      It definitely can be stressful to wait for that official TOEFL score to come in. But if you fall just a little shy of 80, you will still have options. 🙂

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