Do TOEFL scores expire? Ho long are TOEFL scores are valid? Read this guide for the answers to those questions as well as everything you need to know about TOEFL iBT score validity. In this guide, we’ll go over how long TOEFL scores are valid for, what happens after they expire, if you can still use expired scores, and how this affects your planning when applying to schools.
How Long Are TOEFL Scores Valid?
TOEFL scores do have an expiration date of sorts, and it’s important to know it. TOEFL scores are valid for two years after the test date. This means that if you took the TOEFL on May 1st, 2017, your scores are valid until May 1st, 2019. If you’re applying to schools, you can only use valid TOEFL scores.
Can You Access Expired TOEFL Scores?
What happens after the TOEFL expiration date passes? Once it has been over two years since you took the TOEFL, your expired scores will disappear from the TOEFL website. You won’t be able to view or send them anymore.
While your TOEFL scores are still valid, you can save and print out copies of your scores, so even after the two-year mark passes you’ll still have a record of how well you did. However, schools won’t accept these expired scores as official TOEFL scores for your application.
Why Do TOEFL Scores Expire?
Although you may find it annoying that TOEFL scores are only valid for two years, ETS does this to ensure that it’s giving current information to schools so that those schools can accurately decide if you’d be able to excel in their classes.
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Say a person took the TOEFL 10 years ago, when she was learning English in school, and got a high score. In the years since, she hasn’t practiced English very much and has forgotten a lot of what she knew. If TOEFL expiration didn’t exist, she could just use those old scores to apply to schools, and the schools would assume she still had a high level of English. She could end up attending classes where she can’t understand what’s being discussed, which could lead to her getting bad grades and even dropping out. Restrictions on the validity of TOEFL scores are put in place to help avoid these situations.
So even though it can be frustrating that the validity of TOEFL scores is so short, especially if you’ve kept your skills honed, it’s much easier to retake the TOEFL than it is to enroll in a new school only to learn that you’re too out of practice with your English skills to do well there.
How to Plan for the TOEFL So Your Scores Are Valid
Because TOEFL scores are only valid for two years, you may need to do some planning to make sure you have valid TOEFL scores to submit when you apply to schools. Follow these four steps to help you plan when to take the TOEFL.
#1: Check TOEFL Score Validity Rules for Each School You’re Applying To
If you plan on taking the TOEFL early (at least a year before you begin applying), it’s important to know the TOEFL score validity policies for each school you’re applying to. For most schools, your TOEFL scores only need to be valid when you apply, but for other schools, the scores need to be valid through the start date of the program. There can be close to a year between these two dates, so it’s important to know each school’s policy.
Let’s look back at our original example. If an applicant took the TOEFL on May 1st, 2017, her scores are valid until May 1st, 2019. If she’s applying to schools in the fall of 2018, and they all only require TOEFL scores to be valid when she’s applying, then she’s fine. However, if a school/schools require her scores to still be valid when she starts class, then she’ll need to retake the TOEFL since her scores will have expired by the time she begins class in August/September 2019.
Most schools will state their requirement on their admissions page, along with other TOEFL information. If they don’t, you should contact them and ask. It’s much easier to make a quick call or send an email than it is to deal with out-of-date TOEFL scores.
#2: Figure Out the Time Frame You Can Take the TOEFL In
Once you know the TOEFL validity deadlines for each of your schools, you can figure out the time frame in which you can take the TOEFL. If you want to take the TOEFL early, remember that you can’t take it more than two years before the validity deadlines for the schools you’re applying to.
If you plan on taking the TOEFL later, remember that it takes about three weeks after you’ve taken the test for schools in the US to receive your scores and eight weeks or longer for schools outside the US to receive your scores. Give yourself enough time for schools to receive your scores before application deadlines.
#3: Consider Retakes
It’s possible to take the TOEFL multiple times, and this may be something you want to do, perhaps because you want the practice or you don’t feel confident you’ll score highly enough the first time you take the test. If you really don’t think you’re going to use your first TOEFL score, it’s fine to take it more than two years beforehand, since it won’t matter if those TOEFL scores are expired. However, you may want to consider taking free practice TOEFLs instead to save money.
On the other hand, if you’re taking the TOEFL close to school admission deadlines, make sure to leave yourself time for a retake if that’s something you think you’ll want to do. You can’t take the TOEFL more than once in a 12-day period.
Review: TOEFL Score Validity
Do TOEFL scores expire? Unfortunately, yes. TOEFL scores are only valid for two years after you take the test. After they expire, you won’t be able to access them online or send them to schools. The TOEFL score validity period is fairly short to ensure schools have accurate and current information about your English skills.
Because TOEFL scores are only valid for two years, you may need to do some planning to make sure your TOEFL scores are still valid. Check with each school you’re applying to in order to learn how long they require scores to be valid (either until the admission deadline or the first day of class). Also remember to leave time for scores to be sent to schools and to take retakes, if that’s something you’re planning on doing.
Thinking about retaking the TOEFL? Learn everything you need to know about TOEFL retakes, including how many times you can retake the test and how it’ll affect your applications, by reading our guide.
If you’re looking for more help preparing for the TOEFL, try reading one of our top five recommended TOEFL prep books.
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