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Setting Score Requirements

ETS provides guidance on setting score requirements for the TOEFL® Essentials test, including a concordance table for institutions to compare TOEFL Essentials scores with TOEFL iBT® scores and Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) levels. By extension, institutions will be able to align TOEFL Essentials scores with IELTS® scores using the TOEFL iBT and IELTS score comparison tool.

Score Scale

The TOEFL Essentials score scale is reported as bands from 1 to 12 for each section. The overall score is the average of the 4 sections, rounded to the nearest half band.

  • Listening: 1–12
  • Reading: 1–12
  • Writing: 1–12
  • Speaking 1–12

Overall Score: 1–12

When setting score requirements, institutions should choose an overall band score in half-band increments (e.g., 9 or 9.5 or 10) and section band scores in full-band increments (e.g., 8 or 9 or 10).

This score scale, as well as evidence for the validity, reliability and accuracy of the TOEFL Essentials test can be found in the Design Framework for the TOEFL® Essentials Test 2021.

Tips for Setting Score Requirements

  • In addition to total scores, consider setting minimum section score requirements for the skills that are most important to success in your program. Section scores can distinguish one applicant from another and provide a more complete picture.
  • Set flexible scores initially.
  • Conduct periodic reviews of your score requirements.
  • Consider whether English language learning support is available at your institution. If it is not available, an initial higher level of proficiency may be needed.
  • In general, institutions that use the CEFR to set score requirements for admissions require scores that map onto CEFR level B2 or higher for moderate language demands and CEFR level C1 or higher for high language demands.

Comparing TOEFL® Essentials Band Scores to TOEFL iBT® Test Scores and the CEFR Levels

The TOEFL Essentials test and the TOEFL iBT test can be used to meet English-language requirements for university admission decisions or other program requirements. The 2 tests provide high-quality options for a wide range of applicants, potentially expanding your applicant pool.

To make it easier for institutions to compare scores, we developed the score comparison tables below for both the overall band score and the section band scores of the TOEFL Essentials test. The tables also provide the mapping of TOEFL Essentials and TOEFL iBT test scores to the proficiency levels of the Common European Framework of Reference.

The information in these tables is based on analysis of responses to test tasks by approximately 5,500 test takers who took the TOEFL Essentials field test in 2021. Details are provided in the Design Framework for the TOEFL® Essentials Test 2021. Information in the tables is provided for guidance only. Institutions should consider factors relevant to their context and set requirements for the TOEFL Essentials overall band scores and the section band scores accordingly.

Total Score Comparison Table

CEFR levelTOEFL Essentials overall band score (1–12)TOEFL iBT total score (0–120)
Below A11–1.5n/a

Note: The TOEFL Essentials overall band score is calculated as the average of the 4 section band scores. The overall band score ranges from 1 to 12 in increments of 0.5, rounded to the nearest whole or half band. The TOEFL iBT total score is calculated as the sum of the four section scores and it ranges from 0 to 120 in increments of 1.

Use the table to select a corresponding TOEFL Essentials score based on a TOEFL iBT score within a given range. For example, a TOEFL iBT score of 90 falls within the 72–94 range for the CEFR B2 level. The corresponding range for the TOEFL Essentials overall band score is 8–9.5. The total score comparison table can be used to decide how low or high the requirement for the TOEFL Essentials overall band score should be within that range. In this case, a higher TOEFL Essentials band score (e.g., 9) can be used when a TOEFL iBT total score (e.g., 90) is also higher in the corresponding range.

To set comparable score requirements between TOEFL Essentials band scores and IELTS band scores, institutions can use the TOEFL iBT® and IELTS® Score Comparison Tool

Section Score Comparison Tables

Listening Section

CEFR levelTOEFL Essentials (1–12)TOEFL iBT (0–30)
Below A11n/a

Reading Section

CEFR levelTOEFL Essentials (1–12)TOEFL iBT (0–30)
Below A11n/a

Writing Section

CEFR levelTOEFL Essentials (1–12)TOEFL iBT (0–30)
Below A11n/a

Speaking Section

CEFR levelTOEFL Essentials (1–12)TOEFL iBT (0–30)
Below A11n/a

MyBest® Scores

MyBest® scores — sometimes called superscores — are the combination of an applicant's best scores for each test section from all of their valid TOEFL Essentials scores in the last 2 years. TOEFL Essentials score reports include both the scores from a single test date selected by the test taker and the MyBest scores.

This graphic shows the Test Date Scores and the MyBest Scores from a TOEFL Essentials score report. Under the MyBest Scores header is the note “MyBest scores are your highest section band scores from all valid test dates in the last two years.” The Average of Your Highest Section Band Scores is 7.5 out of 12. The section band scores are shown in a bar graph, with scores of 8 in Listening with a test date of March 22, 2021, 7 in Reading with a test date of February 26, 2021, 9 in Writing with a test date of March 22, 2021 and 6 in Speaking with a test date of February 18, 2021.

Accepting MyBest Scores

It's your choice to accept MyBest scores, based on your institution's needs and goals. Here are some important facts to consider when making your decision.

  • MyBest scores are valid. Research shows that MyBest scores and test date scores are both valid measures of English-language proficiency.
  • Accepting MyBest scores widens your qualified applicant pool. Allowing students to leverage their best performance on each section means that more students will meet your English-language requirements.

You will always get each applicant's TOEFL Essentials scores from a single test date and their MyBest scores.