Education, Language

Be in the Know: TOEFL Scoring

The Test of English as Foreign Language consists of four sub-examinations: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. Each of these component contribute a fourth (1/4) of a test-taker’s score. Knowing exactly how the TOEFL is scored is important to any test-taker because it gives him or her idea of what raw scores they should aim for. 


Each subtest will have varying number of items. The Listening exam has four (4) to six (6) recordings, with around 6 questions each; Reading has three (3) to five (5) passages, with five (5) questions each; there are two (2) tasks to complete in the Writing test; and 6 tasks in the Speaking examination. Despite this, each subtest contribute equally to your final score.


The raw scores of these subtests are converted to what is called scaled score. The scaled scores are from 1-30, with 30 being the perfect mark. Thus, the highest mark in the TOEFL is 120 — four perfect 30 scaled scores. 


The Reading and Listening subtests are scored automatically, but scoring the Writing and Speaking part of the TOEFL requires human intervention. In these subtests, several components are looked into.


The perfect score for the Writing examination means that the essay written has the following characteristics:


“~effectively addresses the topic and task

~is well organized and well developed, using clearly appropriate explanations, exemplifications,

and/or details

~displays unity, progression, and coherence

~displays consistent facility in the use of language, demonstrating syntactic variety, appropriate

word choice, and idiomaticity, though it may have minor lexical or grammatical errors”


The Speaking Exam, on the other hand, is graded through looks into three (3) components –

Delivery, Language Use, and Topic Development. The general description for a perfect score in the speaking test is:


“The response fulfills the demands of the task, with at most minor lapses in completeness. It is highly intelligible and exhibits sustained, coherent discourse.”




The TOEFL exam, as stated before, is graded by computer and by human raters for the Writing and Speaking subtest. To ensure objectivity and precision, these human raters are trained well and the system of scoring is calibrated so that one rater would have the same standards as the rest. Also, the TOEFL is not graded on site. This means that you cannot expect that raters would be grading your work during the actual TOEFL test. This is to ensure that the scoring is done without bias to the examinees.


This would ensure fair and objective scoring of the test.


Good luck!


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