Another month, another list of recommended readings!

I ended my subscription to National Geographic, so there won’t be any more recommendations from that magazine after this month.  Same for Science News.  Moving forward, I want a bit more variety in this column!  I should mention that National Geographic has sent about ten letters to my home over the past couple months, begging me to resubscribe.  I wonder how much money they’ve spent on that.

Anyways, I did read the July and August issues of National Geographic this month.  A few articles stood out:

I also read a few books this month!  First up, I read yet another travel book by Colin Thubron.  This time I tackled “Among the Russians,” an account of his trip by car through the Soviet Union in the early 1980s.  While I have been hesitant to recommend his other travel books because of their “fancy” use of the English language, this one is a totally different beast.  The English here is functional and academic without being needlessly poetic.  I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who wants a bit of academic reading practice (and also loves travel).  You can get it for free on the Open Library or for cheap on Amazon.

I also read “None of the Above” by David Owen.  This book is an investigative look at the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and the SAT test from the early 1980s. The book is still relevant today as it is 2021 and it looks like the SAT test is finally on its last legs. If you’ve ever been frustrated with ETS, this is the book for you!  In addition to being informative, it is also very funny. Consider its opening lines:

“The not-for-profit are different from you and me. Tennis courts, a swimming pool, a baseball diamond, a croquet lawn, private hotel, four hundred acres of woods and rolling hills, cavorting deer, a resident flock of Canada geese. I’m loving every minute here at the Educational Testing Service, the great untaxed, unregulated, unblinking eye of the American meritocracy.”

The book is long out of print, but you can borrow it from the Open Library.

Okay, that’s all for now.  Now that I’m done with my science mags, I will start diving into my history mags for the next few months.  Stay tuned.

Well, since no one else has created one, I’m going to use this post as a TOEFL FAQ.  I’ll add to it gradually over time and will bump it to the top of the blog every now and then.  If there are any questions you think should be added, just leave a comment.  If my answers are faulty you should also leave a comment.

Please note that I am not associated with ETS, the owners of the TOEFL Test.  I’m just a guy on the Internet who gets asked the same questions day after day after day.

Q: How do I change my name in my TOEFL account?

You should call ETS support by phone. You can call them at +1-609-771-7100 or 1-877-863-3546.  They will likely ask you to email a copy of a document confirming the new name. Changes will show up in the account in a few days.  (source)

Q: When will I get my TOEFL scores?

If you take the test at a test center, you will get them six days after you take the test.  If you take the test at home, you will get them between six and ten days after you take the test. (source)

Q: When will score recipients (universities) get my TOEFL scores?

The ETS website and Score Bulletin contain somewhat conflicting information.  The TOEFL website suggests that they will get scores 6 to 10 business days after you take the test.  The TOEFL bulletin suggests that it could take 11 business days. (source and source)

Q: How do I know if schools have received my scores?  Is there some kind of confirmation? 

There is no confirmation from ETS.  You should ask the schools yourself.

Q: If I pay for extra score recipients after taking the test, how long will it take for them to get the scores?

3-5 Business days. (source)

Q: When will my TOEFL paper score report arrive?

Paper scores are mailed from ETS 10 to 12 business days after you take the test. (source) They are mailed using regular post so the delivery time mostly depends on your local mail service. Test-takers in certain Asian countries can pay extra for express mailing. (source)

Q: When can I download the PDF Score report?

The PDF score can be downloaded from your ETS account two days after your scores are provided. (source)

Q: Are the unofficial reading and listening scores scaled or raw scores?

They are scaled scores.

Q: Do the unofficial reading and listening scores ever change?

The unofficial reading and listening scores are considered “unofficial” so they could change.  However, it appears that they almost never change.  

Q: I ran out of time during the writing section, and didn’t click the “submit” button to send my essay.  Will it be graded?

Yes.  Whatever is on your screen when time runs out is submitted automatically.

Q: I accidentally cancelled my TOEFL scores at the end of the test. How do I reinstate them?

Try this:

  1. In your TOEFL account Click “view all my tests”
  2. From the drop down menu select “past.”
  3. Under Actions/Score Status” column locate the test date and time.
  4. Click the “reinstate scores” link
  5. Follow the instructions on the screen.

You will pay $20 to get your scores reinstated.  The above link might not be available immediately after you take the test.  If you don’t see it, wait a day or two.

Q: After I pay to reinstate my scores, how long will it take for schools to get them?

Your test will be scored and sent to recipients within three weeks. (source)

Q: My TOEFL score is “on hold.”  What does this mean?

It means that your test is being reviewed due to some abnormal event during the test.  It mostly happens after students take the TOEFL Home Edition. You will get an email from ETS explaining this.  For more information about the review of your test, you can call the Office of Testing Integrity.

Q: How long does it take for “on hold” scores to be checked by ETS.

According to the e-mail sent to students, “most of these routine reviews are completed in 2-4 weeks. In rare cases, the review may take longer. “

Q: My status is “scores not available.”  What does this mean?

It means that your scores are not available yet.  Don’t worry.  Everyone gets that status before their scores are available.  It is normal.

Q: Can I have water or some other drink during the TOEFL Home Edition?

No.  No food and drink are permitted during the TOEFL Home Edition.  Even if the proctor says it is okay… don’t do it. (source)

Q: I am getting an error when I try to pay for the TOEFL.  It says “Error 481” or “Error 101.”  What should I do?

Payment errors are common.  The easiest solution is to use PayPal, since it has a totally separate billing system.  You can also try paying in a different browser, or paying over the phone like it is the 1980s.

Q: Can I use my user name and password from my GRE account on the TOEFL page?

No.  You must make a new account for TOEFL.

Q: Can I take the TOEFL Home Edition using Windows 11?

According to ProctorU’s social media team, you can take the TOEFL Home Edition using Windows 11.  However, the ETS website says that you must use Windows 10 or 8, so that’s what I recommend. (source)

Q: I need to cancel my TOEFL test. Will I get my money back?

You can cancel your test up to four days before the test date.  You will get 50% of your money back. (source)

Q: I have an emergency.  Can I cancel my test after that?

According to the ETS social media team, you can call ETS and make a request to cancel your test after the deadline. A refund may be granted. You can call them at +1-609-771-7100 or 1-877-863-3546.

Q:  The TOEFL is really hard.  I don’t know how to prepare.

That’s more of a comment, really.

A few weeks ago, I published an article over on EdAgree about how to develop academic English skills that will come in handy on the TOEFL.

Here’s a bit from the introduction:

The TOEFL test probably includes more academic language than any other major test of English proficiency. This means that preparing for it can be challenging, but also very rewarding. Students preparing for the TOEFL test shouldn’t just practice their English skills in general, but should focus on specific academic skills. For this reason, I strongly recommend that students start preparing for the TOEFL test as early as possible.

In this guide, I will quickly describe each section of the TOEFL test and suggest a few strategies for developing related academic English skills. The advice here will be most beneficial for people who have six months or more to prepare for the test, but I think there will be useful information for all readers.

If that sort of thing looks interesting to you, be sure to check out the whole article .

When application deadlines are approaching, people always send questions about when the schools they selected will get their TOEFL scores.

The answer is not exactly clear.  ETS says a few things.

On this page, they say:

Score reports are sent to your designated score recipients approximately 8–16 days after your test date.

On this page, they say that it depends on the system used by the school:

ETS® Data Manager: 6–8 business days 

Scorelink® Service: 8–10 business days

And, finally, in the most recent TOEFL Bulletin, they say:

Official score reports for the TOEFL iBT test will be sent to your designated recipients within 11 business days after your test.

I suppose this means they could arrive as long as 16 days after you take the test.  That seems to be the longest possible wait mentioned by ETS.  If you are on a tight deadline, keep that in mind.  They could get sent sooner than that, but don’t count on it.

Note, also, that scores for tests taken at a test center are reported to students more quickly than tests taken at home. It could be true that schools get those scores more quickly as well. 



Every few months, students report getting a “502 Bad Gateway” error when opening the ETS Secure Test Browser to take the TOEFL Home Edition.  I am not sure what causes this, but it goes away eventually.  It also affects the home edition of the GRE. There is no solution available.  You just have to wait until it goes away.  Sorry.

Okay, here’s what I learned about the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition after reading:

  • The TOEFL Bulletin
  • The Practice Test
  • The ETS website

From the Bulletin:

  • The Bulletin says that the speaking section is taken two days following the R, L and W sections.  This conflicts with the ETS announcement, which says it is taken three days later.  I do not know which is correct. Update:  According to TOEFL head Srikant Gopal, the test can be taken up to three days later.  The Bulletin is incorrect.
  • The Bulletin says that the paper edition is available in Brazil.  But according to TOEFL head Srikant Gopal this is not correct.  It is not available in Brazil.
  • You cannot register for the paper edition via the TOEFL app.  You must use the website.
  • The fee for rescheduling the entire paper edition test is $60. The fee for rescheduling the speaking section is $30.
  • Important: bring your email confirmation to the test center.  You will need to write the appointment number in your test booklet.
  • There is a 10 minute break after the listening section.
  • There are no unofficial scores, of course.
  • Scores are reported 11-13 business days after you take the test.  This is longer than the regular test center edition (6 calendar days) and the home edition (10 calendar days).
  • You can cancel your scores after completing either the R, L and W or S sections.  If you cancel after either section, all of the scores will be cancelled.
  • Scores are sent 15 business days after you take the test.
  • Additional score reports are free.
  • Score review is not available.

From the free practice test I learned:

  • It has the same questions as the other iBT versions, of course.
  • There is a question booklet and a separate answer sheet. For R and L you select answers by filling in circles with a pencil.  Just like in the old days.  For W you write the essays.
  • You are not permitted to jump between sections.
  • Since the answers are selected by filling in a circle with a pencil, I suspect that “table” questions won’t be used in the reading section.  That’s just a guess though.
  • You will have thirty seconds to answer each listening question and then the next question will be played by the administrator.  That’s a slightly different timing scheme than the regular test, where you control when the next question is played.
  • Some space for notes is provided in your booklet.
  • You can switch freely between the two essay questions.  You may only work on one at a time, in the time you are given.

From the website I learned:

  • The e-rater is not used to grade the essays.

Good news, everyone!  The TOEFL Home Edition is now available in China!  I’m not quite sure when it became available, since the documentation is all in Chinese, but you can try to read about it here.  It appears that the first sittings are available October 18. 

The test will use ProctorU, as it does in the rest of the world.

Registration is a bit funky.  Interested users must buy a voucher from Hong Kong, and then use it in their account on the regular ETS website.  Chinese students might be interested to learn that the NEEA doesn’t seem to be involved in the home edition at all.

This is fabulous news for ETS, as China is probably its biggest market for the TOEFL.

ETS has just launched the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition.  This is a new way to take the TOEFL, which will initially be offered in the United States, India, Mexico and Colombia.

It is the same test as the regular TOEFL iBT, but the reading, listening, and writing sections will be taken on paper at an official test center.  The speaking section will be taken at home with an online proctor within three days.

A unique feature of the Paper Edition is that all score reports (even after taking the test) are sent for free. Frugal students with a lot of target schools might take the test just for this reason, since ETS charges $20 per school to send scores for the regular iBT test and Home Edition.

Registration opens today, and the first administrations will happen December 11. It will be offered twice a month, at first.  The price will be the same as the regular iBT, at least in the USA.  A free practice test will be provided.

The regular IBT test will still be available, of course.

You can read about the new test on the ETS website.

Note that there are a few discrepancies between the website and the official TOEFL Bulletin.  The Bulletin indicates that the test is also available in Brazil, and that the speaking section should be completed within two days.  I’m not sure which is correct.  Update: the bulletin is wrong.  It is not available in Brazil, and you have three days to take the speaking section.

I’ll provide more information as soon as it becomes available.

Regular readers of this blog will recall that the previous paper-based TOEFL (the Revised Paper Delivered Test) was discontinued earlier in 2021.

Students often ask if they can wear earplugs while taking the TOEFL test.  Here’s what you should know:

  1.  If you are taking the TOEFL Home Edition you cannot wear earplugs.  Don’t even try.  Don’t ask the proctor.  If the proctor says it is okay, they are wrong… and your scores will probably be cancelled.  During the TOEFL home edition, you cannot put anything in your ears.
  2. If you are taking the TOEFL at a test center you can wear earplugs, but you cannot bring your own.  You should ask the test center operators for a pair.  Hopefully they have some available.  Consider calling the test center ahead of time if you want to know.

And that’s what you should know about wearing earplugs during the TOEFL.

The Duolingo English Test is experimenting with some new question types.  These types are not used on the test right now.  They might be added to the test later, or they might never be added to the test.  Currently, students are being exposed to them in unscored situations.

They look like this.

  1. You are given a short paragraph about some subject.  It might be about five sentences long. You are then asked what question can be answered by paragraph and are given four options.  You can read the paragraph while picking your answer.

    For instance, the paragraph might be a story about how Michael got a low score in math class, and then studied hard to pass the final exam and improve his score. The correct choice might be: “Why did Michael want to improve his math score?”

  2. You get a short paragraph and are asked to pick the best title for the paragraph. You are given four choice. For instance the paragraph might be the same as above, and the title could be “Michael Tries to Impress his Family.”

Let me know if you see these in operation.