I’ve been getting a lot of reports about TOEFL scores being put “on hold” lately.  These reports are mostly from students who took the TOEFL Home Edition.  Students have told me that they are still waiting for their scores weeks (or months) after taking the test at home.  Scores are supposed to arrive ten days after taking the home edition of the TOEFL.

It is impossible to say why your scores are “on hold,” but there are a few common causes.  They include:

  • Technical problems with your computer or the test software
  • Issues detected by the automated anti-cheating AI used by ProctorU
  • Loud noises
  • Suspicious activity by the test-taker

When one of these things happen, a recording of your test is manually checked by a human expert at ETS.  This is called “Administrative Review.” Officially, it takes 2-4 weeks  for this process to be completed.  Sometimes longer.

To talk to someone about this, you should contact the TOEFL Office of Testing Security.  You can call  them at the following numbers:

  • 1-800-750-6991 (in the USA)
  • +1-609-406-5430 (all other locations)

They will answer the phone from 7:30 AM to 5:30 PM Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday.  If you call, it is sometimes possible to be connected to the specific ETS staff member who is reviewing your scores.  Usually they will tell you to wait ten days and call back again, but sometimes it speeds up the process. 

You can also email them, but that might take longer. If you want to try, their email address is: communicatetestsecurity@ets.org  or maybe:   otiassist@ets.org.

I do not recommend using the regular TOEFL customer support phone number for this problem.

Update:  Here’s a copy of the email that ETS sends when this happens.

Dear XX,

At ETS, we are highly committed to the quality and fairness of our tests. We go to great lengths to make sure that every score is accurate and valid. As part of this process, sometimes we take additional quality control steps before scores are released.

For these reasons, your TOEFL scores from the XX/XX/20XX test administration are delayed because they are under administrative review. Most of these routine reviews are completed in 2-4 weeks. In rare cases, the review may take longer. These reviews are necessary to ensure that the results are accurate and valid.

At the conclusion of the review, you will be notified of the status of your scores.  If they are released, your scores will be reported to you and to any institutions or agencies you have designated to receive them.

If you have not been notified after four weeks, you can call to inquire about your scores at 1-609-406-5430 or 1-800-750-6991, 7:30 a.m – 5:30 p.m. U.S Eastern time, Monday through Friday, or email us at otiassist@ets.org.

Sincerely,
Office of Testing Security
ETS
Rosedale Road
Princeton, NJ 08541

Remember:  I’m not an employee of ETS. I’m just a guy on the Internet.

 

 

Students often ask what it means when their TOEFL account says something like:

“Scores not available”

Or:

“Tested – Score Not Available”

This kind of status is totally normal.  That’s what it is supposed to say.  If your status says that, you just need to wait for the scores to arrive.  If you took the test at home it will take ten days for the scores to arrive, and if you took the test at a test center, it will take six days for your scores to arrive.

The other common status is something like

“On Hold”

Or:

“Tested – Scores On Hold”

This status is not good.  It means your scores are in “administrative review” and you will have to wait up to 30 days for your final result.  This usually  happens during the TOEFL Home Edition if there was some technical problem, or if the proctoring software’s AI detected something abnormal.  The challenge for students is that they think everything was totally normal… but the scores still go on hold.  I’ve got an entire blog post about this issue.  Basically, though, you can call the office of testing security at ETS.

Those are the main status states shown in your account.  Sometimes after the test you might still see:

“Scheduled”

or

“Checked In”

Those are also normal.  Usually your score will come in 6 or 10 days.  Don’t worry about them.

If you guys see any other statuses please let me know and I will add them to the list.

It is a great day for the world, everyone!  The new TOEFL Bulletin has been published.  You know, one of my great regrets in life is that I wasn’t active as a teacher back when ETS distributed hard copies of this document.

The new version and (for now) the old version can be downloaded here.

Here’s what’s new in this year’s edition (I have omitted superficial and minor changes):

Page 5: The TOEFL Home Edition is described.

Page 7: ProctorU is mentioned in the list of contacts.  It also suggests that users can contact ETS via the chat function on their website.

Page 9: The word “drinks” was changed to “beverages.”  

Page 9: There is another reference to the home edition.

Page 11: Western Union is no longer offered as a payment option.  This matches changes to the ETS website a few months ago.  The link to the score posting dates has been removed.  

Page 12: The test frequency has been adjusted to reflect the Home Edition.

Page 12: The new guide mentions that “late phone registration” closes five days before the test date.  The old version didn’t mention phone registration. 

Page 12: The guide no longer links to “toeflgoanywhere.com”.  It seems like ETS has largely stopped using that site.

Page 13:  ETS will now collect sales taxes for things like late registration and score reviews. I suppose this is an effective fee increase. Previously, students were supposed to send the sales tax to their local government themselves.  LOL.

Page 13:  There is now a long paragraph about credit card failures.  I suspect ETS has seen statistics about how often purchases fail.  It might help.

Page 14:  No more Western Union.  I understand that Western Union is not great (to say the least) but it is too bad that students no longer have this option.

Page 15:  The line “test center staff can’t make schedule changes for you” has been removed.  Weird.

Page 16:  More Home Edition references.

Page 23:  More Home Edition references.

Page 29:  Scores are now reported “6-10” days after the test.  The old version says that they are reported “6” days after.

Page 30:  Scores now range of “0” to 30 points instead of “1” to 30 points.  This is a correction.

Page 32:  A reference to requesting score reviews by fax has been dropped.

 

 

 

Oh, hey, ETS finally uploaded a new “Score Reporting Dates” chart.

We didn’t have one of these for the first few months of 2021. This chart tells you how long you will have to wait for your scores to be reported Sadly, it is only for tests taken at a test center. It does not indicate how long you will have to wait for scores from the Home Edition.

The most important part of the chart is that it lets you know when an American holiday will slow down the report of your score.

Big news in the world of TOEFL.

This August ETS is launching a new test called “TOEFL Essentials.”  If you want to learn about the test, check out this report in Inside Higher Ed.  That report contains all of the information we currently know, but I’m doing my best to gain additional details.

A few highlights from the article are:

  • It will take 90 minutes to complete
  • It will cost about half of what the TOEFL iBT costs
  • It will cover academic as well as “conversational” English
  • It has “more tasks, but they are shorter”

All in all, this sounds somewhat similar to the “TOEFL Ladders” concept I posted about here way back in March of last year.

The test seems to be a response to  the growing popularity of the new Duolingo English Test, which has become very popular this year.  Indeed, the article actually contains some very tense words on that subject, so I encourage you to check it out.

I don’t know anything about the actual content of the test, but I have put out feelers for more details.

The cost of taking the TOEFL has increased in some countries.  This comes exactly six months following the last price increase.  Below you can see a table summarizing the cost of taking the test in the countries I track.  Some of the highlights include:

  • I spotted increases in: Argentina, Georgia, Guadalupe, Japan, Jordan, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, the Palestinian Territories, New Zealand, Thailand and Uganda. Of course there are many countries I am not tracking.
  • I spotted a price decrease in Vietnam.  
  • Switzerland remains the most expensive place to take the TOEFL ($320).
  • There are a handful of countries where the cost is still $185.
  • There are no countries on my tracker where the price is still $180 (Georgia was the last on my tracker).
  • None of the assorted service fees (score review, late registration, etc) have changed.
  • The test cost $140 when it started.
  • I am not associated with ETS.

Country

Pre August 1, 2020

August 1, 2020

February 1, 2021

Afghanistan 

$200

$220 

$220

Argentina

$195

$195

$205

Australia

$300

$300

$300

Azerbaijan

?

$195

$195

Bangladesh

$190

$200

$200

Benin

$185

$185

$185

Brazil

$215

$215

$215

Canada

$245

$245

$245

Colombia

$240

$240

$240

Congo, DR

?

$195

$195

Egypt

$180

$185

$185

Ethiopia

?

$200

$200

France

$255

$265

$265

French Polynesia

$180

$185

?

Georgia

?

$180

$185

Germany

$255

$260

$260

Ghana

$200

$220

$220

Guadalupe

$180

$185

$195

Hong Kong

$225

$245

$245

Indonesia

$205

$205

$205

Iceland

$230

$220

$220

India

$180

$185

$185

Iran

$225

$245

$245

Iraq

$195

$215

$215

Israel

?

$280

$280

Italy

$255

$270

$270

Japan

$235

$235

$245

Jordan

?

$195

$200

Kenya

$200

$220

$220

Korea

$200

$210

$210

Mexico

$180

$185

$190

Mongolia

$195

$210

$210

Morocco

?

$210

$220

Netherlands

$255

$265

$265

New Zealand

$270

$270

$275

Nigeria

$195

$195

$195

Norway

$290

$315 

$315

Pakistan

$195

$195

$195

Palestinian Territories

?

$235

$245

Peru

$210

$220

$220

Philippines

$200

$215

$215

Russia

$260

$260

$260

South Africa

$230

$230

$235

Spain

$245

$250

$250

Sweden

$270

$280

$280

Switzerland

$295

$320 (!)

$320

Tajikistan

?

$185

$185

Thailand

$195

$210

$215

Turkey

$185

$185

$185

Uganda

$195

$215

$225

United Arab Emirates

$240

$255

$255

United Kingdom

$210

$220

$220

United States

$205

$225

$225

Vietnam

$190

$220

$200

West Bank

?

$215

$215

It seems that starting on December 11, the TOEFL home edition will be scheduled directly on the ETS website, not on the ProctorU website.  It also seems that the regular rescheduling policies will apply to the home edition (you must reschedule four days in advance, and a $60 fee applies).

This information comes from an e-mail that some students have received if they have a pending test.  Here it is:

ETS is updating the registration system for the TOEFL iBT® Home Edition on December 9–10, 2020, and moving the selection of the test date and time from the ProctorU® site to the ETS site. You could be affected by this change because of the status of your test.

Our records indicate that you have purchased a TOEFL iBT Home Edition test and scheduled your test date and time via ProctorU. No action is necessary unless you wish to make changes to your test appointment before test day.

If you wish to reschedule your test, here are your options:

  • On or before December 8, you can reschedule your test free of charge in your ProctorU account.
  • From December 9 at 7 p.m. ET until December 10 at 6:59 p.m. ET (UTC 0:00–23:59 December 10), you will not be able to make any selections or changes in either your ProctorU account or your ETS account.
  • On December 11, you can reschedule your test date in your ETS Account. TOEFL iBT test reschedules policies will apply.

Again, no action is necessary unless you wish to change your appointment.

Thank you for choosing the TOEFL iBT Home Edition test.

 

Hey, the TOEFL home edition is now permanent. Well, in their advertising ETS uses the phrase “here to stay.” The website says that it will be available “for the foreseeable future.”  See below.

TOEFL Home Edition

Update: here is the e-mail sent to institutions that use the scores:

In response to the needs expressed by institutions and test takers, ETS is pleased to announce that the at home TOEFL iBT® test and GRE® General Test are here to stay and will become a continuing part of each brand’s product portfolios. The TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition will also get an updated name: TOEFL iBT Home Edition. At home testing appointments are currently available around the clock for both tests through the end of January, and future appointments will be available soon.

7 months ago, we proudly announced that we had quickly introduced a solution for students who had been impacted by COVID-19 to take the TOEFL iBT test and the GRE General Test at home until in-person testing could resume. The tests have the exact same content, format, on-screen experience and scoring as the tests given in a test center. And thanks to artificial intelligence and remote proctoring, institutions can feel assured that the tests are administered securely and that the scores are reliable.

Since launching the at home tests in March, we at ETS have learned a lot, and have been making continuous improvements to the products and experience. Early on, the tests were only available on PCs, but we quickly expanded that to include Mac® computers. We worked diligently to increase accessibility for people with disabilities and health-related needs. We increased test taker convenience by increasing testing capacity and reducing the registration deadline. We also addressed test takers’ needs to better understand the new delivery method and registration process by posting videos, developing registration checklists and hosting Facebook® Live events. And, as test centers began reopening around the world, we informed test takers that the decision to test at home or in a test center was theirs to make.

More than 400,000 individuals have registered to take the at home tests for the TOEFL iBT test and GRE General Test in 163 countries and territories since March. We have learned through surveys that many test takers prefer to test at home, and now they can choose whether testing at home or in a center will work best for them. As we move forward, we will continue to make further improvements in service to you and your prospective students.

Thank you for your continued partnership and support of ETS’s high-quality assessment solutions; your trust means the world to us. Should you wish to direct students to learn more, please suggest they visit the websites for TOEFL test takers and GRE test takers. For updates intended for institutions, visit the TOEFL and GRE pages created for you. And should you need ETS’s support during this time, or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at TOEFLnews@ets.org or

 GREtests@ets.org.

Sincerely,

Srikant Gopal
Executive Director, TOEFL® Program

Alberto Acereda
Executive Director, GRE® Program

I’ve received many reports about people getting payment errors when trying to pay for the TOEFL on the ETS website.   This is sometimes reported as “Error 481” or “Error 101” (or something else).

Remember, this site is not affiliated with ETS.  I’m just trying to help.

Anyways, If you are having this problem, here’s what you should do:

  • Delete your cookies/browser history and try again.  This seems to be the advice given by ETS when people call their customer service line.
  • If you don’t know how to do that, just try another Internet browser (Chrome, Edge, Firefox, whatever).
  • If payment by credit card doesn’t work, try PayPal.  That uses a different payment system, so it might solve the problem.  Note that most people don’t need a “PayPal account” to use PayPal.  People from most countries just need to enter their name and credit card number.
  • Make sure the address in your ETS account matches the address of your credit card, if possible.

And, of course, you should call your bank in case they are blocking the payment for some reason.

If you can’t solve the problem you can possibly register (and pay) by phone for test centers in the USA by calling +1-443-751-4862.  To register for a test center outside of the USA, look up your country on this contact page.

As always, the general support numbers for ETS are: +1-609-771-7100 or 1-877-863-3546.  Expect to be on hold for a few hours.  Good luck, brother.

Leave a comment down below if you have any experience with this problem.

Hey, it’s my second favorite day of the year!  The updated TOEFL Bulletin (for 2020-21) has been published.  This edition is a few months late, as it was supposed to be made available in July.

If you are interested in what’s new this year, I’ve got you covered.  Listen up:

 

Page 6 – Test Takers with Disabilities or Health-related Needs

This has been added:

“If seeking accommodations, submit your request as early as possible. Documentation review takes approximately four to six weeks once your request and complete paperwork have been received at ETS.”

 

Page 10 – Your ETS Account 

These are now on the list of “Services available through your account.”

cancel or reschedule your test
request a score review

 

Page 12 – Test Dates

This line has been revised:

“The TOEFL iBT test is offered more than 60 times each year.” (previously 50)

 

Page 15 – Test Re-take Policy

The section in bold has been added:

“There is no limit to the number of times you can take the test, but you cannot take it more than once in a 3-day period. This applies even if you canceled your scores from a previous test. If you already have a test appointment, you cannot register for another date that is within 3 days of your existing appointment.”

 

Page 24 – Personal Items

The sections in bold have been added:

“Personal items other than ID documents are not allowed in the testing room and are not permitted during breaks, except for food, beverages, and medication.”

“You cannot access your phone or other device during the test session or during breaks to check messages, make a call, or check the time or for any other reason.”

 

Page 26 – On Test Day

The following rule has been removed:

“Referring to, looking through or working on any test or test section when not authorized to do so, or working after time has been called.”

 

Page 27 -Unofficial Scores

The following has been added:

At the end of the test, you’ll be able to view your scores for the Listening and Reading sections. These scores are not your official scores until your score reports are posted in your ETS account, approximately 6 days after you take the test – however, these unofficial scores will give you an idea about how you did on the test.

 

Page 28  – Test Question Inquiries

All of this has been removed.  Weird.

“Language specialists prepare TOEFL test questions following very careful, standardized procedures developed to ensure that all test material is of consistently high quality. Each question is reviewed by several members of the ETS staff. The TOEFL Committee of Examiners (COE), an independent group of professionals in the fields of linguistics, language testing and language teaching that reports to the TOEFL Board of Trustees, establishes overall guidelines for test content and test specifications.

After new test questions have been reviewed and revised as needed, they are selectively used in trial situ ations and then assembled into tests. The tests are then reviewed using established ETS and TOEFL procedures to ensure that all possible versions of the test are free of cultural bias, and statistical analyses of each question ensure that all items provide the appropriate measurement information.”

 

Page 34 – ETS Score Cancellation Policies

ETS hq ain’t no sanctuary city.  The following has been added:

“ETS reserves the right to share any and all information in its possession about a test taker and the terms and conditions of test taking with any third party, including but not limited to (a) any entity which ETS recognizes as an authorized user of test scores, including without limitation any entity to which ETS reports test scores at the test taker’s request, and (b) any government agency with responsibility for administration or enforcement of U.S. criminal and/or immigration laws.”

Page 35 – Holding/Cancelling Scores

The following has been added:

“The retake test policy will be enforced even if a violation is not immediately identified (e.g., inconsistent registration information). If the violation is identified after registration but before the test administration, the testing appointment will be canceled and test fees will be forfeited. If the violation is identified after test scores have been reported, the invalid scores will be canceled, score recipients will be notified of the cancellation and test fees will be forfeited.”

 

Interestingly

The new version includes contractions.  Indeed, they are used whenever possible. Strange.

There are also a few minor changes to wording that I haven’t mentioned here.

Okay, so here is a selection of countries, and both the old and new price to register for the TOEFL.  Increases range from $5 to $25. Countries where prices have changed are indicated in bold.  As you will see, in some countries prices have not changed. 

I am sure that prices have changed in additional countries, but I didn’t track them.  

Update: I finally got info for Sweden (+$10) and China (+$20, aprox).

Note that you can look up your own country on the ETS website.

I’ll update the chart next week in case any changes are delayed.

Country

Old Price

New Price (August 1)

Afghanistan 

$200

$220 

Argentina

$195

$195

Australia

$300

$300

Bangladesh

$190

$200

Benin

$185

$185

Brazil

$215

$215

Canada

$245

$245

Colombia

$240

$240

Egypt

$180

$185

France

$255

$265

French Polynesia

$180

$185

Germany

$255

$260

Ghana

$200

$220

Guadalupe

$180

$185

Hong Kong

$225

$245

Indonesia

$205

$205

Iceland

$230

$220

India

$180

$185

Iran

$225

$245

Iraq

$195

$215

Italy

$255

$270

Japan

$235

$235

Kenya

$200

$220

Korea

$200

$210

Mexico

$180

$185

Mongolia

$195

$210

Netherlands

$255

$265

New Zealand

$270

$270

Nigeria

$195

$195

Norway

$290

$315 (!)

Pakistan

$195

$195

Peru

$210

$220

Philippines

$200

$215

Russia

$260

$260

South Africa

$230

$230

Spain

$245

$250

Sweden

$270

$280

Switzerland

$295

$320 (!)

Thailand

$195

$210

Turkey

$185

$185

Uganda

$195

$215

United Arab Emirates

$240

$255

United Kingdom

$210

$220

United States

$205

$225

Vietnam

$190

$220