Not happy with your TOEFL score but not sure if you can or should take the exam again? Fortunately, retaking the TOEFL is an option!
In this guide, we’ll go over the formal TOEFL retest policy, how to retake the TOEFL, how often you can take the TOEFL, what schools really think of retakes, how to decide if a TOEFL retake is right for you, and how to make sure you score higher on your retake. Let’s get started!
Can You Retake the TOEFL? How Often?
Yes! It is possible to retake the TOEFL, and many people decide to take the exam more than once in order to get the score they want. Now, your next question may be, “How often can I take the TOEFL?” According to the TOEFL retest policy, you can take the TOEFL as many times as you want, but there must be at least 12 days between each of your test dates.
The process of registering for a TOEFL retake is the same as registering for the exam the first time, except you’ll already have created an ETS account. If you need a refresher on how to register for the TOEFL, check out our 7 step guide to TOEFL registration.
What Do Schools Think of TOEFL Retakes?
If you’re hesitating to retake the TOEFL because you’re worried about what schools will think, then we have good news: Taking the TOEFL multiple times will absolutely not hurt your applications. Admissions officers don’t care how many times you take the TOEFL. As long as you reach their minimum score requirements, that’s good enough for them, even if it took you several tries to do it.
Additionally, you don’t need to send schools your scores from every TOEFL you take. University admissions officers are only interested in your highest score, so you can wait until you get a TOEFL score you’re happy with and send that one to schools. However, waiting until after you take the TOEFL to send scores means you won’t get any free score reports, and you’ll need to pay $19 per score report. If you’d rather not pay that amount, just remember that schools will only look at your highest score and ignore the rest.
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Should You Retake the TOEFL? 4 Factors to Consider
So, now you know that you can take the TOEFL as many times as you want without it hurting your applications. But does that mean retaking the TOEFL is the right choice for you? Below are the four most important factors to think about when you’re trying to decide on a TOEFL retake.
Factor 1: Did You Meet Your Schools’ Minimum TOEFL Requirements?
If you met the minimum TOEFL requirements for each of the schools you’re applying to, guess what? You don’t need to take the TOEFL again! There’s no admission benefit to scoring above minimum TOEFL requirements, so don’t think that by taking the TOEFL again and scoring higher, you’ll increase your chances of being accepted. As long as you meet the minimum score requirement, that’s good enough for admissions officers.
However, if you didn’t meet the minimum requirement for one or more schools you’re interested in, you’ll likely need to retake the TOEFL and score higher if you want to be admitted into those schools. While there are some schools that are flexible with TOEFL requirements and allow conditional admission (where you prove your English skills in another way), most schools set a strict minimum for TOEFL scores and don’t admit students who don’t meet those scores.
Factor 2: Do You Have Enough Time?
You also need to make sure you have enough time to retake the TOEFL and get your scores to schools before admission deadlines. Remember, there needs to be at least 12 days between each of your TOEFL test dates, so no taking back-to-back tests. Additionally, when you request to send your TOEFL scores to schools, it takes time for the scores to get there.
If the school is in the United States, it’ll take about three weeks from the time you submit the score report request until the time the school receives it. If the school is outside the US, it can take eight weeks or longer. So, before you sign up for a retake, double-check school deadlines to make sure your new TOEFL scores will be received in time.
Factor 3: Are You OK Spending Money for a Retake?
If you decide to retake the TOEFL, you’ll need to pay a new registration fee for each retake. TOEFL price varies depending on the country where you take the test, but it will usually cost you around 200 USD each time you retake the TOEFL.
For some people, this cost can definitely be worth it, for example if you didn’t meet your dream school’s minimum TOEFL requirements the first time you took the test. However, if you retake the TOEFL multiple times, those registration fees can really start to add up, which is why it’s important to have a solid plan for how you’re going to raise your score. Speaking of that…
Factor 4: Do You Have a Plan for How to Improve?
If you weren’t happy with your first TOEFL score, you likely won’t see big improvements on retakes unless you change the way you prepared. Sticking to the same study plan you used for your first TOEFL will probably get you around the same score as you originally got, so you’ll need to have a new study plan if you want to see a significant improvement to your score. We go over ways to do this in the next section.
The only exception is if something unusual happened the first time you took the TOEFL that caused you to get a significantly lower score than you expected, such as you being sick, being late, etc. In those cases, you may be able to retake the TOEFL and get the score you want without a lot of additional studying.
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How to Raise Your Score on a TOEFL Retake
If you decide to retake the TOEFL, you need a plan to help you reach your goal score. Follow these tips to help you ace your retake and get the score you’re aiming for.
#1: Create a Study Schedule
Once you’ve made the decision to retake the TOEFL, create a study schedule so you know when you’re supposed to be studying and can keep yourself on track. Setting aside a regular time to study each day or week, such as weekdays from 7:00-8:30pm or Sundays from 12:00-4:00, will make it easier to study because you’ll know ahead of time when you should be studying and can fit the rest of your schedule around it.
You should also include regular goals in your study schedule that you hope to meet, such as, “I want to have memorized 25 new vocab words by the end of the week,” or “I want to have raised my Reading three points by the end of the month.” Setting these goals will help encourage you to study and keep making progress.
#2: Figure Out Where You Made Mistakes
If you really want to raise your score on your TOEFL retake, you need to pinpoint where on the exam you need to make the most improvements, then focus your studying on those areas. Go through the TOEFLs you’ve taken (practice and official), and look at every question you answered incorrectly. Are there any patterns? Did you do well in Writing but didn’t score as high for Reading? Next, look more closely. Which Reading questions did you struggle the most on? Vocab questions? Author’s point of view?
Once you’ve figured out exactly where your weaknesses are, target those areas with your studying. This will help you focus your studying on the topics you need to improve the most in which will lead to bigger score increases.
#3: Consider If Other Factors Were an Issue
Sometimes you know all the information you need to, but something still prevented you from scoring well on the TOEFL. This is likely a problem for you if you scored high on practice tests but didn’t do as well on the real TOEFL. Below are three common reasons this happens and how you can work to overcome them.
Running out of time can seriously hurt your TOEFL score, so you want to be sure to avoid this. The best way to prevent this problem is to take multiple practice TOEFLs using the same timing as the real exam. That’ll help you get a feel for how long you can spend on each question without running out of time.
If you felt very nervous and/or stressed during the TOEFL, it may have impacted your score. Taking a standardized test can a nerve-wracking experience for many people, and this is especially true of the TOEFL, when you have to use many skills in quick succession.
If you feel your nerves affected your performance on test day, there are several things you can do to minimize the problem for next time. First, simply already taking the test once may help since you now know what to expect from it.
Additionally, make sure you get enough sleep the night before, eat a healthy breakfast the morning of the test, and don’t be afraid to pause for a few seconds and take a deep breath if you’re feeling particularly stressed. Finally, remember that the TOEFL is just a test, and you can always retake it if you aren’t happy with your score.
Test Center Distractions
Your score may also have been hurt by distractions that occurred while you were taking the TOEFL. This can include other test-takers shuffling papers, someone near you with a cough or sniffles, or any other background noise. Many TOEFL test-takers state that they found the Speaking section particularly distracting because everyone speaks at the same time and that makes it hard for them to concentrate.
If this is a problem for you, try taking practice TOEFLs (minus the Speaking section if needed) in a library or cafe where there’s a similar level of background noise. You can have a friend practice the Speaking section with you in a place where other people are having conversations, such as a park or coffee shop. You can also play an English video in the background during this section to try to simulate the test center experience.
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#4: Incorporate New Prep Materials
The study materials you use have a significant impact on how well you do on the TOEFL. A good prep book and good practice tests can be the difference between an average score and a great score. If you didn’t use a prep book the first time you took the TOEFL, or you don’t think the one you used helped you as much as you wanted, you should consider a new one.
Check out our guide to the 5 best TOEFL prep books to figure out the best prep book for you. Also, taking practice tests is key to tracking your progress and doing well on your TOEFL retake. Check out free and online TOEFL practice tests here.
#5: Try Out New Study Methods
If you studied a significant amount before your first TOEFL and didn’t get the score you wanted, you should also change up your study methods before you retake the test. One of the most common mistakes people make when studying is to study too passively. This means you’re just dragging your eyes across the page without really taking any information in.
To avoid this, try different study methods, such as using flashcards, including more practice questions in your studying, and stopping every few pages of notes to ensure you’re actually retaining the information you’re reading. If you’re really struggling with improving your studying, you may want to consider hiring a tutor who can help you come up with a customized study plan to improve your TOEFL score.
Summary: TOEFL Retakes
Many people aren’t happy with their TOEFL score the first time they take the test — luckily you have more than one chance at this important exam.
How many times can you take the TOEFL? Fortunately, you can retake the TOEFL as many times as you want, and it won’t hurt your applications.
But how often can you take TOEFL? The TOEFL retest policy requires there to be at least 12 days between each of your TOEFL test dates.
If you’re struggling to decide if a TOEFL retake is the right decision, consider these four factors:
- Do you have enough time?
- Did you meet the minimum scores of the schools you’re interested in?
- Are you OK with paying for a retake?
- Do you have a plan for how to improve?
If you do decide to retake the exam, do these five things before the exam to help maximize your TOEFL retake score:
- Create a study schedule
- Pinpoint your mistakes
- Consider if other factors were an issue
- Think about getting new prep materials
- Consider changing your study methods
Not sure what TOEFL score you should be aiming for? Learn what a good TOEFL score is based on the schools you’re interested in.
A prep book can be your most useful study tool for the TOEFL. Learn what the five best TOEFL prep books are so you can start studying smarter!
Need more information on how to send your scores to schools? Learn the six tips to sending your TOEFL scores by reading our guide.
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