Complete Guide to TOEFL test for Studying in the USA
Complete Guide to TOEFL for Studying in the USA

TOEFL stands for “Test of English as a Foreign Language.” If English is not your native language and you want to go to college in the United States, then chances are you will need to take the TOEFL test.  Here is everything you need to know about TOEFL to get you started.


Do I Need to Take TOEFL?

Most colleges require foreign students to take TOEFL in order to be considered for admission.  If you are from a country which speaks English (such as the UK, Australia, Canada, or New Zealand), then you won’t have to take TOEFL.

However, most colleges will also waive the TOEFL requirement in certain situations.  For example, if you have already gone to school in the USA or have a very high verbal SAT score, then you may not need to take TOEFL.  You’ll have to check with the college to find out what their requirements are.


What Is the Difference between TOEFL PBT and TOEFL iBT?

There are two types of TOEFL tests you can take:

  • TOEFL PBT (Paper Based Test)
  • TOEFL iBT (Internet Based Test)

The structure and grading system of these tests are completely different.  Note that the Paper Based Test is the original test.  Many colleges in the USA only accept TOEFL PBT!   However, the PBT test is slowly being phased out.

*Before taking the TOEFL test, see which version is accepted by the colleges you intend on applying to!



  • Measures listening, grammar, reading, and writing
  • Takes approximately 3 ½ hours to complete
  • Given at test centers where iBT test is not available
  • Score scale 310-677


  • Administered via the internet
  • Takes approximately 4 hours to complete
  • Measures reading, listening, speaking, and writing skills
  • Given at online testing centers
  • Score scale 0-120

You can read a detailed account of the differences between the TOEFL PBT and iBT here.


What TOEFL Score Is Required By Colleges in the USA?

The required TOEFL score varies depending on the college or university.  Here are some examples of TOEFL requirements. You’ll see that most schools require a minimum TOEFL PBT score of 500 to 600 and a TOEFL iBT score of 61-100.


TOEFL PBT Test Score Requirements

  • Arizona State University: 500-550
  • Boston University: 550-600
  • California Institute of Technology: 600
  • Columbia University: 600
  • Georgetown University: 600
  • Harvard University: 600
  • Indiana State University: 500
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology: 577
  • University of Colorado – Denver: 525


TOEFL iBT Test Score Requirements

  • University of Arizona: 61
  • Boston University: 100
  • Columbia University: 100
  • Georgetown University: 100
  • Harvard University: 100
  • Indiana State University: 61-80
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology: 90
  • University of Colorado – Denver: 71


How Long Are TOEFL Scores Valid?

Your TOEFL scores remain valid for 2 years after you took the test.  After this timeframe, you will need to retake the test if you need it to apply for college.


What If I Don’t Do Well on the TOEFL Test?

If you don’t do well enough on the TOEFL test to meet the minimum requirements of your chosen colleges, then you can choose to “cancel” the scores.  You can also request (for a fee) for your TOEFL test to be reviewed.  You can find more information about canceling and reviewing TOEFL scores here.


Can I Retake the TOEFL Test?

Yes, you can retake the TOEFL test as many times as you want.  However, you can not retake the test more than 1 time in a 12-day period.


How Much Does the TOEFL Test Cost?

Note that, even if your English is fluent, you should still take a TOEFL practice test.  You can find some free practice TOELF tests online, but most require you to pay for them.  You’ll probably want to get some TOEFL practice books.  So, be sure to factor in these costs as well!

As for the actual TOEFL test costs, the registration fee will vary depending on your country.   The TOEFL costs include registration and sending the scores to 4 institutions.

Here is a breakdown of how much you can expect the TOEFL test to cost:

TOEFL iBT: $160 to $250, depending on location

TOEFL PBT: $160 (same cost at all locations)

Additional Score Reports, Per Institution: $17

Where Can I Take the TOEFL Test?

The TOEFL test must be taken at approved testing centers.  You will have to search online to find out where the nearest testing center is and what testing dates are available.


Even if your English is “perfect,” the TOEFL test can still be difficult in parts.  Make sure you take some time to do practice TOEFL tests and be sure you understand each of the sections before you sit for the real test.

Schedule your TOEFL test in advance in case you need to retake the test.  If you don’t do well on your first TOELF test, you want to make sure you have time to retake it!