Students often ask me why their TOEFL scores were canceled, and how they can reinstate them.  Here’s what you need to know.

When your scores are cancelled, you’ll see something like “Scores Canceled” in your ETS account.  It will look like this:

TOEFL Scores Cancelled

There are several possible causes .

(Note that this is different from scores being “on hold” or “in administrative review.” If that is your problem, read this blog post)

Scores Canceled Accidentally

Sometimes, scores are canceled because the test-taker accidentally clicked the “do not report scores” button at the end of the test.  This sounds silly, but I hear about it every week.  Seriously.  Scores will not be sent to score recipients if they are cancelled, of course.

If you accidentally canceled your scores you can pay $20 to reinstate them via your account on the TOEFL website. It might take up to three weeks for your scores to be reinstated (source).  

Scores Canceled Because of Inappropriate Test-Taker Behavior

If there is a problem when you take the TOEFL iBT Home Edition your scores might be canceled.  You will probably not be given the chance to appeal, as I have never heard of this decision being reversed.  Rule violations might include using your phone during the test (or break), running some inappropriate software in the background, talking to someone, wearing jewelry, or even looking away from the screen too long.  You’d better follow the rules. 

In cases where students insist that everything went smoothly, the problem is usually that some inappropriate software was running the background.  Such software includes Microsoft Teams, Skype, Discord, Google Drive, Zoom… and many more. This is common on computers borrowed from an employer.

If this happens you should call ETS for details.  Check their website for contact information.

Scores Canceled For Statistical Reasons

Sometimes, your scores will be canceled because the ETS Office of Testing Integrity thinks your scores are not valid for statistical reasons. There are a few reasons I’ve seen:

  • There is a big difference in your performance on the scored questions vs the unscored questions in the reading or listening section.  This is called “inconsistent variable performance” by ETS.
  • There is a big difference in your performance in one of the sections vs one of the other sections.  This is called a “section score inconsistency” by ETS.
  • There is something inconsistent about your use of time on the test (you got a high score in a section even though you finished it way too quickly). 

Usually more than one of these things needs to be detected at the same time to cause scores to be canceled.

This is very rare.  If it happens to you, you will get a long e-mail from the Office of Testing Integrity at ETS.  You will likely be given the option to appeal the decision, to accept the cancelation and get a refund, or to accept the cancelation and get a voucher for a free test.  If you decide to appeal the decision, there are a few things you should do right away:

  1. Request a copy of the “Score Review Summary” for your test. Use those exact words. This document will summarize the statistical evidence against you.  
  2. If you took the test in the USA, you should ask ETS to assign an arbitrator from the American Arbitration Association to help with your case.  Use those exact words.  This person will help you challenge the case free of charge. Note that this will probably make it impossible to take legal action against ETS in the future.
  3. If you took the test outside of the USA, feel free to contact me for assistance after you have requested the score review summary.  I will help you free of charge.

Note that challenging the decision can sometimes take a few weeks.  

Scores Canceled Because of Plagiarism

ETS often cancels scores if they detect plagiarism in the writing and speaking sections.  I’m pretty sure they have a database of sample answers from the Internet, including the sample ones on this website.  It seems like ETS has some software called “AutoESD” that determines if essays are copied.  Don’t plagiarize.  If this happens you won’t get your money back.

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