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Best Time to Take the TOEFL®

Ron Ross June 15th, 2018

When is the best time to take the TOEFL? It is a difficult question. There is no solid, always correct answer for this question. You do not want to take the exam too early since you might be unprepared. You also do not want to take it too late, you will not have enough time in case you need a re-take for better scores. The timing for TOEFL is pretty much just guess work, sadly. However, here are a few things that you can consider when choosing a test date so you can maximize your performance while limit difficulties.

Check your program's application dates

The first thing you should do it to check with your schools about their program's application deadline. To find out your program's application date, you can just simply google "[School name] application date".

Once you find it, double-check with them if you need to. Make sure you have that important day marked somewhere on your calendar.

Next, you need to calculate backward to see what date you should take your TOEFL exam. There are two things to remember when making this calculation: (1) Possibility of re-take and (2) Official score delivery of the ETS.

(1) When choosing what date to take the exam, give yourself enough cushion between the application deadline and your test day so if you want to have a re-test, you will have enough time to do so. Even when you are very confident in your ability, you still should consider giving yourself this cushion space. Anything can go wrong with an exam and you wouldn't have known beforehand.

(2) Your schools will most likely request an official score report from the ETS. So you will have to go to the ETS website, request for the score delivery service and pay ETS the delivery fee. Keep in mind that the scores do not get sent immediately. They normally can take from 4 days to a week to reach your schools. So give the scores an extra week or so to reach your school as well. Again, make absolutely sure about your program's deadlines since different programs can have different deadlines. International students or scholarship students may also have different deadlines. So double-check and triple-check if you can.

Here are some scenarios:

1. If your application deadline is January 1st and you’re applying to a school in the US, then subtract four weeks to find your last possible test day. This means that your final possible test date to take a TOEFL is on or before December 10 th.

2. If your application deadline is January 1st and you’re applying to a school outside the US, you’ll have to subtract approximately two months from your application deadline so that your scores arrive in time. This means your final possible TOEFL testing date is on or before November 4th.

3. If your application deadline is January 1st and you’re applying to a school in the US and you are planning to take TOEFL multiple times, then your test-taking schedule might look like this:
1st official TOEFL: October 10th
2nd official TOEFL: November 10th
3rd official TOEFL: December 10th
Application deadline: January 1st

TOEFL Score does expire

Remember! TOEFL scores come with an expiration date. They are only good for 2 years. After 2 years, your record is nowhere to be found on the ETS website. That means they cannot send an official score record to your schools for you. If you are studying abroad now and you took the TOEFL before, you may not be able to use that score again if the score is more than 2 years old. So check your old score to see whether or not you have to do a re-take before applying for your program. Don't just assume you will be fine, check and make sure of the exact date you took your TOEFL the last time.

 
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