David Recine

What To Do If You Don’t Have Time for a TOEFL Retake

As I’ve mentioned, you should need to wait 10 days to find out if you need a TOEFL retake. And you should probably spend at least 30 days studying for your retake. Moreover, sending scores takes 3-8 weeks. Under these circumstances, you may find you don’t have enough time for a TOEFL retake. So what can you do? Let’s look at your options.

Get your TOEFL retake scores sent out faster, with ETS’s electronic score service

Can you send your TOEFL scores electronically? The answer to this question is “maybe.” Most schools only accept TOEFL scores by mail. However, some schools do accept electronic TOEFL scores, sent directly from ETS’s computer servers. If you’re applying to one of the few schools that accepts TOEFL scores electronically, the “send time” is a lot shorter.

So how much shorter is the send time? Well, in theory, any school that accepts TOEFL scores electronically can see your scores as soon as they’re viewable online. So electronic scores can be sent to a school in as little as 10 days. However, not all schools receive electronic TOEFL scores in “real time.” Depending on the arrangement a school has with ETS, a school may be able to view your TOEFL score as soon as it’s available, or the school may be sent groups of TOEFL scores once a week. For schools with this weekly arrangement, it could take up to 16 days for the school to see your TOEFL retake score.

Practice for your TOEFL exam with Magoosh.

Now you’re at 10 days to figure out if you need a TOEFL retake and at least 30 days to study for a TOEFL retake. With electronic scoring, you add just 10-16 days for sending out the scores. So this “shortcut” can cut your retake time down to between 50 and 56 days, instead of a the 63-95 day range if you send your scores by mail.

And there’s more good news. If a school doesn’t have the ability to receive TOEFL scores electronically, they can get set up to do this pretty easily. Here are some details on how schools can receive TOEFL scores electronically. You could send those details to prospective schools and ask them if they’re willing to get set up. (Setup takes just a few days.)

What happens if I can’t get a passing TOEFL score in time for my school’s application deadline?

Still, 46 days is a relatively long time. If you’re on a tight timeline for school admissions, you still might not be able to retake the TOEFL by deadline.

If you fail the TOEFL and aren’t able to successfully retake it by your school’s application deadline, you have a number of options. If your TOEFL score is just below the limit, it doesn’t hurt to contact the school and see if you can be accepted anyway. Some schools are flexible on score requirements.

You can also look for programs that will accept you with your lower score. Remember, there is no true “failing” score on the TOEFL– there are just scores that fail to meet the requirements of a given university. If a TOEFL score of–say– 95 — isn’t good enough for one school, it may be good enough for others.

And even a very low TOEFL score may be good enough for a conditional acceptance program. If you think it may be easier to boost your English ability and TOEFL score after you arrive in the U.S., this is an option to look into. In some cases, you may also be able to find a university that treats your home country as a TOEFL exempt country. Check this TOEFL exempt country list to see if any universities might waive your TOEFL requirement.


  • David Recine

    David is a Test Prep Expert for Magoosh TOEFL and IELTS. Additionally, he’s helped students with TOEIC, PET, FCE, BULATS, Eiken, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. David has a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His work at Magoosh has been cited in many scholarly articles, his Master’s Thesis is featured on the Reading with Pictures website, and he’s presented at the WITESOL (link to PDF) and NAFSA conferences. David has taught K-12 ESL in South Korea as well as undergraduate English and MBA-level business English at American universities. He has also trained English teachers in America, Italy, and Peru. Come join David and the Magoosh team on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, or connect with him via LinkedIn!

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