Yes.  Unofficial TOEFL scores sometimes change when official scores are reported.

I’ve had scattered reports from TOEFL test-takers in recent days claiming that their “official” reading and listening scores are different from the “unofficial” scores seen at the end of their test.  I don’t know why this occurs, but it does. Perhaps score equating (for new test forms) is being done some days later due to the removal of unscored R and L questions.

If you have experienced this, please leave a comment below.  If you haven’t experienced this, leave a comment as well!

TOEFL test-takers now receive much more detailed score reports than before. In addition to their scaled reading and listening scores, they’ll see that they are either “developing” or “demonstrating” in several categories of questions. They’ll get the same sort of feedback for “delivery,” “language use” and “topic development” for each of the four speaking tasks and for “grammar,” “usage,” “mechanics” and “organization and development” for the two writing tasks.

This data will be provided for tests taken moving forward (and retroactively for tests taken after October 28). I’ll see if I can get some screenshots in the next day or two.

Note that all of this is provided via the test-taker’s account on the ETS website. The PDF score report remains unchanged.

I’ve been advocating for this sort of change since the last time the score reports were changed (back in 2019), so I’m happy today. Actually, I wrote a few days ago about my displeasure with the movement toward test scores that are somewhat opaque. I think it is wonderful that TOEFL test-takers will now have a better idea of where their scores have come from and how the various items on the test have impacted their final results.

I read on the ETS Naver blog that express shipping of TOEFL score reports has been expanded to countries across Europe, the Middle East and the Americas. For a fee of $25, test-takers can get their paper score report in 2-3 days (more or less) with some kind of tracking. Reports sent via the regular mail are still free.  This option can be selected during the registration process.

Note that for reports requested after the test is completed, the total fee is $45 for express mail and $20 for regular mail.

This is really great news because, inexplicably, a lot of people still need official paper score reports (and they generally need ’em RIGHT NOW). I don’t understand why that is the case in 2023, but the issue is raised quite often by test-takers I communicate with. Moreover, it seems like many young people nowadays don’t really grasp how the “regular mail” works and get frustrated when told that their score reports will arrive whenever their local letter carrier decides to swing by their place.

 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 2023.  Here ya go:

“Official score reports for the TOEFL iBT test will be sent to your designated recipients within 11 business days after your test (15 days for the TOEFL iBT Paper Edition). It could be 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 4-8 days after you take the test.  The PDF score report can be downloaded two days after that.

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.

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. 

 

 

Updated: March 5, 2023

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 iBT Home Edition, but sometimes it affects people who took the test at a test center.

When this happens, your TOEFL account says something like “Tested – Scores on Hold.”  This is also called “administrative review.”

This usually happens because ProctorU or ETS detected something abnormal, and the test needs to be reviewed by an expert.  They might think that you did something inappropriate.  Or there might have been a technical problem during the test.  Usually the review process takes 2-4 weeks. After that your scores are reported or your scores are cancelled.

At the beginning of the process, ETS usually sends an email to the test-taker that tells them to wait 2-4 weeks.

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

  • 1-800-750-6991 (in the USA and Canada)
  • +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. Usually they will tell you to wait ten days and call back again, but sometimes calling speeds up the review.

You can also email them, but that might take longer. Their email address is: communicatetestsecurity@ets.org  or maybe:   otiassist@ets.org.

You can also contact them using this form.

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.