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. 

 

 

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
  • Someone entering the testing room during the test
  • 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 it takes longer than that.

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.

 

 

Here is how the scores are reported if you take the test at a test center:

  1. Right after the test = unofficial reading and listening scores
  2. Six days after the test = official reading, listening, speaking and writing scores are posted in your ETS account (source)
  3. Eight days after the test = you can download the PDF score report
  4. Between eight and sixteen days after you take the test = scores are sent electronically to score recipients (source)

Note that the unofficial reading and listening scores are almost always the same as the official scores.

Here is how the scores are reported if you take the TOEFL Home Edition:

  1. Right after the test = unofficial reading and listening scores
  2. Between six and ten days after the test = official reading, listening, speaking and writing scores are posted in your ETS account. Two days after the scores are reported, you can download a PDF score report. (source)
  3. Between eight and sixteen days after you take the test = your scores are sent electronically to score recipients (source)

 

 Okay.  One last bit of free customer support for ETS.  Students often ask me how long it takes for score recipients to get their TOEFL scores.  The answer is that it takes eleven days for recipients to get the scores. You can find this information buried deep in the TOEFL Bulletin for 2020.  Here ya go:

“Official score reports will be sent to your designated recipients within 11 days after your test – or sooner, depending on what score delivery method each specific institution uses.”

The scores are sent electronically, so this means the institutions should have them eleven days after you take the test.  ETS does not provide confirmation that the scores have been properly received, but you can call the admissions department of your school to confirm if necessary.

Of course if you have chosen paper score reports this could take a lot longer.  ETS says:

However, if we mail the score report, keep in mind that ETS has no control over mail delivery to various locations around the world. Allow another 7-10 days for mail delivery in the U.S., and 4-6 weeks for mail delivery to other locations. For information specific to your postal system, contact your post office for an estimated arrival time for mail from the U.S.

How Long Until Scores Appear in your ETS Account?

In case you are wondering, scores appear in your ETS account after six days (if you take the test at the test center) or ten days (if you take the Special Home Edition).  The PDF score report can be downloaded two days after that.

It’s a great day, everybody!  The TOEFL Test and Score Data Summary for 2019 is available!

These annual reports provide valuable data about test taker performance.  While this year’s figures are similar to last year’s figures, the following data points were mildly interesting to me:

  • The overall mean (average) score is still 83.  But that figure is rounded, and it looks like there was still a significant fractional increase this year.
  • The mean reading score is now 21.2 (+.4)
  • The mean listening score is now 20.9 (+.3)
  • The mean speaking score is now 20.6 (+.1)
  • The mean writing score is now 20.5 (-.2)

It is interesting that the writing score has decreased.  That may represent an ongoing trend.  Here are writing scores since 2010:

  • 2019: 20.5
  • 2018: 20.7
  • 2017: 20.8
  • 2016: 20.9
  • 2015: 20.6
  • 2014: 20.3
  • 2013: 20.6
  • 2012: No data
  • 2011: No data
  • 2010: 20.7

Some students do claim that the writing section has been getting more difficult in recent years.  They may be correct about that, but it looks like the test was really challenging back in 2014.  And it is exactly where it was a decade ago.

Interestingly, the other sections are all up since 2010.  Some by a lot:

  • Reading: 20.1 –> 21.2
  • Listening: 19.5 –> 20.9
  • Speaking: 20.0 –> 20.6

It is also worth noting that the use of automated speaking scoring does not appear to have affected average speaking scores, but that technology was only used during the last five months of 2019.


As always, it seems like a lot of the overall increase in scores is coming from the test-prep powerhouses of East Asia.  Scores in China are +1 (to 81), scores in Japan are +1 (to 72) and scores in Taiwan are +1 (to 83).  However, scores in Korea are -1 (to 83).

Scores in the key markets of Brazil (87) and India (95) are unchanged.

I would love to see which countries have the most test-takers, but I suspect that information is confidential. 

The highest scoring country is now Austria, where the average score is 100.


Women still outperform men in listening, speaking and writing. 

TOEFL scores are now available six days after you take the test.  When an American holiday takes place after you take the test, they could be delayed. Note that the detailed PDF score report is available only after 8 days.

To access your score, log in to your account on the ETS website.  Note that there isn’t a particular time of day that the scores are available.  

To confirm the specific date when YOUR score will be reported, consult this chart from ETS.  It lists every test date until the end of 2020, and the date that the scores will be available.

Schools Accepting TOEFL MyBest Scores

Important Update from 2020: ETS is now maintaining its own list of schools and organization that accept TOEFL MyBest Scores.  I probably won’t update my own list anymore.  You can find the official list as a PDF file right here.

The following institutions have stated publicly that they will accept TOEFL MyBest Scores. Note that this list could be out of date. It is best to contact the school you are interested in directly.

Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Source: “If you wish to send us “MyBest Scores”, we will accept them. All TOEFL scores we receive will be made available to the program reviewing your application. “

Miami University. Source: “We accept MyBest scores for the TOEFL. This means that the highest scores for each section from different TOEFL exams will determine a combined highest sum score.”

Carnegie Mellon School of Design. Source: “the School of Design also accepts MyBest scores for TOEFL iBT. “

Shoreline Community College. Source: “MyBest scores are accepted.

University of British Columbia College of Graduate Studies. Source: “The College of Graduate Studies accepts MyBest Scores.”

Northwestern (Graduate School). Source: “GS accepts the “MyBest scores”. A new reporting structure released by ETS in August 2019. These scores may be entered in the TOEFL section on the “Test Scores” page of the application form.”

University of Arizona (Graduate College). Source: “Individual MyBest scores must also be dated within 2 years of the enrollment term to be considered valid.”

University of Buffalo. Source.

CalArts. Source: “CalArts accepts “MyBest” scores delivered directly from ETS.”

San Francisco Conservatory of MusicSource: “SFCM will consider accepting the MyBest scores. We must have all score reports the MyBest scores are from submitted with the application, and the scores must be from within the past two years.”

Hey, this is cool. You can now get your TOEFL scores just six days after taking the test. ETS just updated its web page with the following information:

“Now you can get your TOEFL iBT scores even faster! Scores are posted online approximately 6 days after the test date, instead of 10 days. The PDF version of the score report is available to download within 8 days after your test. Score reports are also mailed to you (if you requested a paper copy) and sent to your selected institutions or agencies within 11 days after the test date.”

That’s pretty great. Here’s the original source.

I presume they mean six “business days.” That means you will probably have to wait a bit more than six days.

According to reports, TOEFL score reviews (that is, re-scoring) are now much faster than before. I haven’t gotten confirmation, but according to ETS customer service, score reviews are now finished in 24 to 72 hours. In the past, these took up to ten days, just like a regular score report.

In fact, one student has told me that her writing section score review took just ten hours to complete this week.

This is interesting. Indeed, considering the changes to the speaking section’s length and scoring process, it likely does not take as long as before to grade the test.

I wonder if this is foretelling faster TOEFL score reports in general. Now that it is possible to take the test every single week, many students would appreciate getting their scores in just three days. I have heard nothing about this, however.

Stay tuned. I’ll let you know what I find out.

We now know about an additional TOEFL change. Students can no longer access detailed PDF score reports. This means that students will be given an overall score for each of the sections on the test (reading, listening, speaking, writing) but will no longer get assessments for specific writing and speaking tasks.

To understand what I mean, here’s an image from an old score report PDF (taken from the Official Guide to the TOEFL, 5th edition):

You can see that in addition to their overall speaking and writing scores, the student was given a “level” assessment for five different sub-sections. These levels were: weak, limited, fair, or good. Each of the essays was a sub-section. Pairs of speaking questions made up the other sub-sections.

The bottom of the score report contained a chart to convert these levels to a numerical rubric score. In this way, students would know which of the tasks they excelled at, and which with they struggled with. This meant that the students could really focus when preparing to take the test for a second (or third… or twentieth) time.

Now, however, this information is no longer available. The new PDF score reports provide only overall scores in the speaking and writing sections. They are no longer given assessments for the sub-sections. They look like this:

In the past, if a student got 20 points in the writing section, he could see that he got a “good” in the independent task, and a “weak” in the integrated task. He would then know to focus on the integrated task in the future. Now, though, he will have no idea which task lowered his score, and which one he should focus on in the future.

Likewise, students who fail to get their target score have no way of knowing which speaking tasks they should focus on when they prepare to take the test again.

This is a problem, I think. On one hand, ETS gave students a gift with the shorter version of the test by making it possible to focus on a smaller number of tasks while studying. But the elimination of the score reports takes that gift right back.

If ETS brings back the score reports I will let you know right here.