Guidelines for Using TOEFL® Scores
The TOEFL® programme has created some general guidelines to help institutions use TOEFL scores to help with the admissions process. Some of these recommendations include setting score requirements, section scores, evaluation of readiness, using scores to aid in interpretation of other tests and conducting validity studies.
TOEFL score requirements should be reviewed on a regular basis and adjustments made as needed. Various fields and levels of study may require different levels of English-language proficiency. You may also want to consider having more flexibility in accepting applicants with lower proficiency if your institution offers programmes with ESL support.
TOEFL section scores contain valuable information to help differentiate applicants. Detailed information, including a tool to compare TOEFL iBT® scores and IELTS® scores, is located on our website at www.ets.org/toefl/institutions/scores/compare. The research conducted to provide this score comparison is detailed on this web page.
Guidance on interpreting TOEFL iBT test score cutoffs is also available at www.ets.org/toefl/institutions/scores/interpret. Performance feedback to students is provided by ETS. This information may also provide assistance in admissions decisions.
Consider establishing requirements for TOEFL section (subtest) scores, not just total scores. Information about score comparisons for each communication skills can be found at
We also recommend that you base your evaluation of an applicant's readiness to begin academic work on all available relevant information, not solely on TOEFL scores. Review the student's application to find other supporting evidence of English and academic proficiency.
TOEFL scores measure English-language proficiency at a particular point in time. Proficiency may improve or decrease based on the amount of study and exposure to the language following the test date. For this reason, TOEFL scores are valid for only two years.
A good way to evaluate the validity of your admissions criteria is by performing a validity study. Validity evidence should be gathered for specific uses of TOEFL total scores or section scores. For example, in the United States, ETS researchers conducted a study on the use of TOEFL iBT Speaking section scores for initial screening of International Teaching Assistants (ITAs) who assist with tutoring of students in U.S. institutions. The study concluded that scores from the TOEFL iBT Speaking section can be used successfully as an initial screening to determine whether ITAs have the necessary English-language proficiency to assist in teaching students at the university level. A copy of the study is available in the Research section of the TOEFL website at www.ets.org/toefl/research08-02.
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