TOEFL Scores and Results 2019 – 2020

Average TOEFL scores, Minimum TOEFL scores for MS MBA

 
You are either preparing to cross the seas for your next journey into education or you are testing your competence in a language not native to your own.

Internationals, in particular foreign students, are almost always required to exhibit their ability to speak, listen, read, and write, in English, for reasons that are ultimately for their own benefit – to be on par with their peers in a classroom environment and not be held back for a lack of understanding of the medium of education.

For the same, most western universities, especially the ones that are situated in Anglophone nations, require their international student applicants to appear for some form of English Language Testing Exam.

Some of the popular ones are the PTE (Pearson Test of English), IELTS (International English Language Testing System), and the globally famous TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), which is the one in focus for this article.
 

TOEFL Test Results

 
There are two types of TOEFL exam – online (iBT, Internet Based TOEFL) and paper (PBT, Paper Based TOEFL). The PBT test is an option for those locations where the internet test is not a possibility.

TOEFL iBT dominates the testing method almost everywhere.

For details on TOEFL eligibility, test dates, centers, and test pattern, we would like to refer you to this article – Guide to TOEFL in India.

TOEFL iBT scores are made available 10 days after the test date, while PBT scores are mailed 3-6 weeks post the testing date.

Armed with the test results, most students face a common query – is my score good enough? The response is a function of a few pieces of information, that the student needs, to get a complete understanding of where they stand.

  • What is the average TOEFL score?
  • What do the scores mean?

And,

  • What does my target school need?

We will try to respond to each of these queries to the most comprehensive way we can. Let us explore.
 

Understanding TOEFL Scores

 
The iBT test comprises of four sections – Reading (30 points), Listening (30 points), Speaking (30 points) and Writing (30 points) – adding up to a total of 120 points. The maximum TOEFL score you can get is a 120.

The test score report also reveals the individual scores. TOEFL test scores are very reliable, with scorers passing regular evaluation, scoring taking place at a centralized center rather than the individual test centers, and the scores having been mapped for reliability and standardization, pertaining to academic standards.

Here are two rubrics provided by ETS for the listening and reading sections of the exam.

Scoring guide for speaking
Scoring guide for writing

TOEFL PBT has three sections reading, listening, and writing, each scored out of 30 points. Before 2017, the total score used to be scaled to a total score between 310-677.

The current scoring system has done away with the scaling and only direct scores out of 30, on each section, are reported.
 

What is the average TOEFL Score?

 
The average score obviously depends on the testing group, the geographic location of the test taker, and the level of education of the test taker.

However, an easy way to understand the distribution of test scores is to observe the TOEFL score percentiles. Percentiles tell you where in the spread does your score belong.

That is, if you have a percentile of 50%, half of the test takers have scores below you and half have scores above. Thus, you are at the average.

A percentile of 90 would mean that only 10% of the test takers have a better score than you.

The table below shows a glimpse at the percentiles (based on 2017 TOEFL iBT scores) for undergraduate, graduate programs in non-business majors, and graduate business programs.

The average total TOEFL iBT score for undergraduate programs is approximately at 84, and 88 for all graduate programs.
 

Total TOEFL Score Percentile Ranks for TOEFL iBT – Undergraduate Level Percentile Ranks for TOEFL iBT – Graduate Level (Non-Business) Percentile Ranks for TOEFL iBT – Graduate Level (Business)
120 100 100 100
116 99 99 99
112 97 95 95
108 93 90 90
104 87 83 83
100 81 75 75
96 74 66 66
92 67 57 57
88 59 48 48
84 52 40 40
80 45 32 32
76 39 26 26
72 33 20 20
68 27 15 16
64 22 12 12
60 18 9 9
56 14 6 7
52 11 5 5
48 8 3 3
44 6 2 2
40 4 1 1
36 3 1 1
32 2 1 1
>=28 1 . .

Source: ETS TOEFL iBT Test and Score Data

TOEFL PBT test takers are too few to indicate a percentile score.
 

What do these scores mean?

 
Or rather, how do the schools interpret your TOEFL scores? If you had to put yourself in their shoes and evaluate your performance, how would you grade your fluency in the English language?

ETS helps us out here, as well, by sharing a range of scores and their corresponding expertise level in the language. The matrix below capitulates the details.
 

TOEFL iBT Level Check Reading Listening Speaking Writing
Low/Weak Level 0-14 0-14 0-9
Limited Level 10-17 1-16
Intermediate/Fair Level 15-21 15-21 18-25 17-23
High/Good Level 22-30 22-30 26-30 24-30

 

TOEFL PBT Level Check Reading Listening Writing
Low/Limited Level 0-14 0-14 1-16
Intermediate/Fair Level 15-21 15-21 17-23
High/Good Level 22-30 22-30 24-30

 
Thus, to judge your capacity in the language you should certainly aim for a high level of expertise, or do your best to stay at or above the intermediate level.

If you find yourself consistently performing below in the limited range, in your mock tests, you should find out what is holding you back and improve on those sections.

And if necessary, retake your TOEFL test to get a better improved score that fits the fluency standards required for admission.
 

What does my target school require?

 
That brings us to the next factor. Most schools don’t specify the minimum requirement for individual section scores.

Rather, if at all mentioned, they share either the average TOEFL scores of current students or a minimum score for the total.

To understand your score goal, you should first research what your target schools need in their admits.

Remember, these minimum scores are often just guidelines rather than strict measures.

TOEFL is one small peg in a wheel full of other conditions needed to secure successful admission in a school.

A less than minimum TOEFL score may not be the deal breaker just as a high TOEFL score will not be enough to ensure an admission offer.

Ultimately, as we mentioned before, set your score goal and plan your preparation accordingly.

If you find yourself in a position where you have scored below the least of the minimums of all the schools in your application list, consider improving your preparation and a second bite at the TOEFL apple.
 

How does the TOEFL score scale with IELTS?

 
ETS has conducted research to compare TOEFL scores with another popular English language fluency test, IELTS, to check for evaluation consistency.

Without going into the details, that you will find here, we have tabulated the results for the sections and total score below.

IELTS Score TOEFL iBT Reading TOEFL iBT Speaking TOEFL iBT Listening TOEFL iBT Writing Total TOEFL iBT
9 30 30 30 30 118-120
8.5 29 28-29 29 30 115-117
8 29 26-27 28 30 110-114
7.5 27-28 24-25 27 29 102-108
7 24-26 23 24-26 27-28 94-101
6.5 19-23 20-22 20-23 24-26 79-93
6 13-18 18-19 12-19 21-23 60-78
5.5 8-12 16-17 7-11 18-20 46-59
5 4-7 14-15 4-6 14-17 35-45
4.5 3 12-13 3 12-13 32-34
0-4 0-2 0-11 0-2 0-11 0-31

 
Also read

TOEFL vs IELTS vs PTE

Minimum IELTS Scores for MS MBA
 

Minimum TOEFL score for MS MBA

 

Institute Specialization Location Minimum TOEFL Score
Harvard Business School MBA USA 109
London Business School MBA UK 100
Stanford Graduate School of Business MBA USA 100
Rotman School of Management MBA Canada 100
McGill University MBA Canada 100
UCLA MS/MBA USA 87
Writing: 25
Speaking: 24
Reading: 21
Listening: 17

 
For more information on minimum TOEFL scores, we refer you to this article – TOEFL Scores for MBA in top business schools

To ensure up to date information, we would recommend that you visit the official websites.
 

Read more about the TOEFL Exam

ETS TOEFL iBT Format and Preparation
TOEFL IELTS Waiver for top universities
TOEFL Preparation Guide
Best TOEFL Books
 
Sources: 1, 2