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:
- 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: