skip to main content skip to footer

Test Takers' Interpretation and Use of TOEFL iBT Score Reports: A Focus Study Group TOEFL iBT

Stricker, Lawrence J.; Wilder, Gita Z.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), Internet Based Testing (iBT), Score Interpretation, Score Use, Focus Group, China, France


The aim of this study was to explore how test takers interpret their TOEFL iBT scores and how they use the scores and ancillary TOEFL material. Focus groups were conducted with recent TOEFL test-takers in Beijing and Paris. The participants’ interpretation and use of the scores were intertwined. Many participants focused on the Total Score as an admission requirement, and interpretations were minimal: Did the score reach the required level? Other participants were also interested in section scores in order to understand their performance and to learn how to improve it; interpretations were more complex and varied. Participants identified barriers to interpretation: absence of norms and institutions’ minimum scores, too-general can-do statements for the skill levels in the score report, lack of clarity about the scoring of the Speaking and Writing sections, and limited awareness of ancillary material. Many participants viewed the TOEFL iBT as a diagnostic test. Some of these findings may be time bound because the study was completed before the expansion of TOEFL websites for test takers.

Read More