Updated: March 10, 2023

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 you do something inappropriate during the test your scores will be cancelled.  You will probably not be given the chance to appeal, and I have never heard of this decision being reversed.  Rule violations might include touching your phone during the test (or break), running some inappropriate software in the background (see below), talking to someone, wearing jewelry, or even looking away from the screen too long.  You’d better follow the rules

Sometimes, ETS detects inappropriate software running on your computer during the test.  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, ETS will probably send you an email about it.  You can also contact the Office of Testing Integrity for more 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.
  • Your overall score increased dramatically between attempts.
  • 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.

If you took the test outside of the United States  your scores will be cancelled and there will be no appeal.  You will not be given a refund. This is a new policy.

If you took the test in the United States you can appeal the decision in this way:

  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. 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. Feel free to contact me for assistance after you have requested the score review summary.  I will help you free of charge.

In any case, ETS will probably send you an email. You can also contact the Office of Testing Integrity for more information.

Scores Canceled Because of Plagiarism

ETS often cancels scores if they detect plagiarism in the writing and speaking sections.  Maybe 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.   If ETS feels that you plagiarized your test will be cancelled  and you will not get a refund.  You cannot appeal.

The e-mail from ETS will look something like this:

I am writing to advise that the test scores issued in your name for August 21, 2022 have been canceled. In the quality control process, the ETS Writing staff noticed that your response(s) to the integrated/independent Writing task did not reflect a response to the assigned task. This was noticeable since the responses for which you receive a score should be your own original and independent work. Further reviews determined that a portion of your Writing response(s) contains ideas, language and/or examples found in other test taker responses or from published sources.

Don’t plagiarize.

You can contact the Office of Testing Integrity for more information.

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