Test Preparation

How is the TOEFL Score Calculated?

How is the TOEFL Score Calculated?

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Wondering how TOEFL scores are calculated? This detailed TOEFL scoring guide will break down the steps involved in overall and sectional TOEFL score calculation.

vishakha Bhagia
Updated on:  05 Sep 2023  | Reviewed By: 
| 8.26K | 8  min read

Why is TOEFL Score Important?

The TOEFL exam is one of the most highly preferred English assessment exams used to determine the English language ability of the test-taker. If you are a study abroad aspirant looking to study undergraduate and postgraduate programs in foreign universities, then the exam is supremely important for you. Mainly because the TOEFL score is accepted by more than 10,000 universities in countries like Canada, the United States, Australia, the U.K., and the continents of Europe and Asia. If you wish to seek admission to your target university, it is necessary for you to score a mark that fulfills its minimum TOEFL score criteria.

 While here, you can check our preparation guide to know how to get a good score in TOEFL, this article will help you understand how TOEFL score is calculated. 

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Why Should you Know About TOEFL Score Calculation?

Now you may be thinking that just the TOEFL preparation guide would have sufficed, since, for test-takers like you, preparation accounts for 90% of the work. But it is important to know how the TOEFL score is calculated, especially from the preparation point of view, because it can help you understand the general pattern and division of weightage among the sections in the test. The mark distribution and marking process will give you the necessary inputs to navigate the sections and strategize better to get the best possible outcome.

Also, every section has its own scale. Therefore, a score of, say, 20 in one section may be excellent, while in another section, it may only be average. Knowing this difference will help the candidate to give proper attention to their respective strengths and weaknesses and strategize their preparations accordingly. 


How the TOEFL Score is Calculated?

The TOEFL exam consists of four sections: 

The total score of the test is in the range of 0-120, and each sectional score is in the range of 0-30. 

Read more about: How Important Is The TOEFL Score?

Scores are given on the basis of the candidate’s performance in the test. To be eligible to receive an official score, the candidate has to answer a minimum of one question in both the Reading and Listening sections, write a minimum of one essay, and finish a minimum of one speaking task.

In the TOEFL iBT test conducted via the internet, examinees receive 4 sectional scores and a total score. Each section has four to five proficiency levels which you will find in the section-wise TOEFL score calculators listed below. 


How is the TOEFL Reading Score Calculated?

The candidates are typically judged by how well they can understand the academic writings in English at the introductory university level. The score will be provided between 0 and 30, that is, all the scores for all the correction questions will be added up and scaled to a score within the range of 0-30.

The TOEFL Reading Score has 4 proficiency levels - Advanced ranging from 24 to 30, High Intermediate ranging from 18 to 23,  Low-Intermediate ranging from 4 to 17, and Below Low-Intermediate ranging from 0 to 3.

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How is the TOEFL Listening Section Calculated?

The candidates are judged upon how well their listening skills are. Their grasp of various accents of English is also tested. They are assessed in  Listening for Basic Comprehension, Listening for Pragmatic Understanding, and Connecting and Synthesizing Information. It also has four levels of scaling proficiency- Advanced ranging from 22 to 30, High Intermediate ranging from 17 to 21, Low intermediate ranging from 9 to 16, and Below low Intermediate ranging from 0 to 8. 

Both the reading and listening sections are scored by a computer. 


How is the TOEFL Speaking Score Calculated?

This section aims at testing spoken skills within an academic setting as well as outside. There is one Independent Speaking Task and Integrated Speaking Tasks. All the 4 tasks are rated within 0-4. The scores are all added up and converted to the scaled score of 0-30.

The TOEFL Speaking Score has five levels for grading proficiency- Advanced ranging from 25 to 30, High Intermediate ranging from 20 to 24, Low intermediate ranging from 16 to 19, Basic ranging from 10 to 15, and Below Basic ranging from 0 to 9. The TOEFL scoring section is graded by both AI and ETS-certified test scorers.


How is the TOEFL Writing Score Calculated?

The TOEFL Writing section tests the student’s ability to write in English in an academic setting. The candidate should know how to write in English which is of an academic level and is grammatically correct. It also has four scales of proficiency- Advanced ranging from 24 to 30, High Intermediate ranging from 17 to 23,  Low intermediate ranging from 13 to 16, Basic ranging from 7 to 12, and Below Basic ranging from 0 to 6. The writing section is also scored by e-raters and human raters.

Read more about: What is a Good TOEFL Score?

Because the range and measure for each section are different, therefore marks should not be compared among different sections but only within the same sections. 

To know the validity period of the TOEFL score and how to send your TOEFL score to your target universities, you can read here


What are the Minimum TOEFL Scores of Top Universities?

Speaking of reporting TOEFL scores to universities, let us take a look at the minimum TOEFL score criteria set by the universities which you need to fulfill if you are seeking admission to their courses. 

TOEFL Score Criteria of Top Universities

  Ranks   Colleges   Minimum TOEFL IBT Scores  



  Minimum TOEFL IBT Scores  


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)



Stanford University (School of Engineering)



Harvard University (MS Courses)



  ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology)  



UCL (University College London)



Imperial College London



University of Chicago

Overall - 104
Sectional - 26


Cornell University

Speaking: 22
Reading: 20
Listening: 15
Writing: 20


Columbia University



Duke University



A Glimpse of the Past Performance of the TOEFL Test-takers 

Every year ETS releases a summarized report of the average performance of the test-takers. This report lists down the overall and sectional test performances for different groups of the examinees, categorized on the basis of several levels like nationality, the purpose of taking the test, level of qualification, and so on. These average performance reports are an ideal reflector of the difficulty level of the test.

Since the report shows the percentage of people scoring above or below a certain mark, you will be able to get a fair idea as to how difficult or easy it may be for you to score beyond a certain number. You can then compare the scores with the minimum criteria set by the university and ascertain the strategies you need to take to achieve a score. 

Here is where you could check the average performance report of TOEFL test-takers for the period January 2018-December, 2018.


TOEFL Performance Descriptors

ETS has its own scale of assessing the examinees’ level of English proficiency.  For each score range, ETS has defined in detail the quality of performance, weaknesses and strengths, and the level of skills and aptitude of a candidate in the language. If you are taking the TOEFL and have a target score in mind, it is recommended you check the performance descriptor for that particular score range here. Carefully go through the level of proficiency the score warrants and the areas where you are expected to show your expertise in and areas which you are expected to improve. Make a note of these requisites and include them in your TOEFL study strategies to give an edge to your preparations for the test. 

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This was a detailed breakdown of how the TOEFL Score is calculated. You may have checked out the performance descriptor for your target score and are now planning to give your preparations a quick start.  If you missed out on our TOEFL overall and sectional preparation guides, here’s where you can find them:

How to Prepare for TOEFL by GyanDhan

For assistance from TOEFL preparation institutes, do contact GyanDhan. We will connect you with the best TOEFL prep company in the market for zero cost. 

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