The TOEFL is scored on a scale of 0-120. There are four sections to the TOEFL ibt, Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing, with each section worth a maximum of 30 points each. So, how is the TOEFL scored? Each section’s score is calculated differently. When you receive your TOEFL score report it will contain your total TOEFL score (out of 120) and four scaled scores for each section of the TOEFL. It will also include general feedback on what your TOEFL score means relative to your responses.
The Reading and Listening sections are scored by a computer. As the questions are multiple choice, the TOEFL Reading and Listening section are the most straight forward in scoring. You either select the right answer choice, or you don’t. 😉 Because of this, re-scoring is not an option for these sections.
Because the TOEFL Speaking section is entirely based on recordings of your answers, it must be graded by a person. This means that the results and your score are based on a grader’s opinion of your response and how well it matches the ETS requirements. You can see the exact, official TOEFL guidelines and how they score the TOEFL speaking by clicking here.
The TOEFL Writing section used to be scored entirely by people, but now ETS uses a combination of manual human scoring and automated computer scoring. From the official ETS TOEFL website:
“The TOEFL test uses automated scoring to complement human scoring for the two tasks in the Writing section. Combining human judgment for content and meaning, and automated scoring for linguistic features, ensures consistent, quality scores.”
This means that your TOEFL Writing section can also be submitted for review and re-scoring. To learn more about how to have your TOEFL Speaking and Writing scores redone click here.
The TOEFL ibt scoring is done through a “centralized scoring network” administered by the main TOEFL ETS office, and conducted by a network of individuals in other locations, usually in their homes on their personal computer.
Why does it matter how or who scores my TOEFL exam?
This information means that the person scoring your TOEFL Speaking tasks and part of your TOEFL Writing tasks is human, and humans aren’t perfect 😉 Because of this, it’s important to remember that responses in the Speaking and Writing section require a strategy that appeals to a human grader.
For example, if you’re not including an interesting “hook” in the intro paragraph of your Independent TOEFL essay task, you are missing a key opportunity to make a strong first impression on the reader. Also, with the TOEFL Speaking, beginning your responses using the English Simple “repeat strategy” gives the grader an immediate impression that you’re a strong English speaker.
For more info on how to use this “human grader” strategy, check out the full English Simple TOEFL program.
Adam is the founder and lead instructor for the English Simple TOEFL program. He's taught English and TOEFL for over ten years, and developed curriculum all over the world. TOEFL is his business, but helping people is his passion. His "office" is always open, so feel free to drop him an email with any questions, complaints, compliments, or funny jokes. He speaks French, Spanish, Japanese, and Russian. But you gotta write him in English - you're prepping for the TOEFL!