TOEFL Score Percentiles
January 9, 2019
If you're reading this, more than likely, you are studying hard for the TOEFL exam. The TOEFL as a test presents lots of different challenges. The reading is dense and the vocabulary can be at times complicated; the listening section requires a sharp and nuanced ear; the speaking section is quick and at times frenzied; the writing section demands patience and specificity. There's no shortage of complaints about this exam, particularly from student who feel they already have a grapple on the English language. However, wouldn't it be great to better understand your chances of admission and how you align with other students and their TOEFL performance?
Thankfully, you can—through one word—percentiles. Yes, percentiles show you how you line up with your competition at a particular school and can reveal the English abilities of other students. This, in turn, can help you better understand what an admissions committee or university is seeking from a student with a non-English background. Read on to find out specifics about TOEFL percentiles, particularly as it relates to your own TOEFL performance and score. It never hurts to learn something new, particularly when it sheds light on your chances of admission, right?
TOEFL Composite Percentiles
Perhaps the most popular and published percentile ranking when it comes to the TOEFL is the composite—or total—score. Many universities and programs freely publish this information, as it helps to better understand the lay of the land in terms of competition. Your composite score comes from all four of the TOEFL sections: reading, listening, speaking, and writing. Percentiles are tools that admissions committees and programs utilize to portray the landscape of students' English capabilities.
If you have your total TOEFL score handy, you can determine your own percentile from the information below. Of course, your school may have its own percentiles based off its own student body. More than likely, that information can be found online or by contacting the admissions office directly. For now, take a look at the following table, which details percentiles from the makers of the TOEFL, ETS.
|TOEFL Total Score||TOEFL Percentile|
TOEFL Section Score Percentiles
Another regularly published TOEFL percentile is on a section-by-section level. Some universities value high speaking section scores, whereas others may place a strong emphasis on writing. Regardless, the higher score expectations alter the percentiles. Below are percentiles published by ETS. As with the composite percentiles, you can find them on a school-by-school basis.
If you have your sections cores handy, you can determine your own percentile ranking through this list. Note: We cut off at the sectional score of 15, as we realize most of our readers are high scorers or aiming for high scores come test day.
TOEFL Scores by Education Level
All different kinds of people take the TOEFL: High schoolers, undergraduate students, graduate students, business school students, even PhD candidates or those pursuing a degree in medicine. Truly, the TOEFL is the gold standard in evaluating English speaking, writing, reading, and listening abilities on the academic level.
Naturally, percentiles will change, depending on level of education. Below are several tables specifying them through several different educational groups.
The following percentiles are averaged from high school students:
|Composite High School TOEFL Score||TOEFL High School Percentile|
The following percentiles are averaged from undergraduate students:
|Composite Undergraduate TOEFL Score||TOEFL Undergraduate Percentile|
The following percentiles are averaged from graduate students:
|Composite Graduate School TOEFL Score||TOEFL Graduate School Percentile|
TOEFL Average Scores
While percentiles are based off of your own score and not an average score by school or university, it's important to keep in mind the average scores published by ETS for future reference. Below you will find the average scores by section from 2017. Average TOEFL scores are also readily available on a university-by-university level and can be found online or through a special request.
Similar to percentiles, knowing a school's average score can help you better understand the competition you're up against.
|TOEFL Test Section||2017 Average|
|TOTAL AVERAGE TOEFL SCORE||82|
TOEFL Percentiles: The Takeaway
In the end, when you raise your TOEFL score, you also raise your percentile. Try not to focus too much on this information while you are entrenched in effective TOEFL strategies, as you want to keep your eye on the prize—and the prize, in this instance, is doing whatever you have to do to raise your score.
However, use these percentiles as often as you would a mock practice test. Whenever you take a diagnostic TOEFL test, determine your percentile from your projected score. That way, you can keep an eye out for where you fall in the pecking order, so to speak. This way, we better understand our chances of admission and how an admissions committee evaluates TOEFL test-takers.