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Understanding TOEFL Speaking and Writing Scores

Kayla C. July 25th, 2018

Considering that the writing and speaking TOEFL sections make up the other half of the whole test, it is safe to say that these sections are just as important as the reading and listening sections. These sections do affect your overall TOEFL score. However, unlike the reading and listening TOEFL sections, the writing and speaking sections are graded by TOEFL certified test scorers and not entirely done through a computer.

Here is what the speaking and writing section scales look like:

Skill

Score range

Level

Speaking

0-30

Good: 26-30

Fair: 18-25

Limited: 10-17

Weak: 0- 9

Writing

0-30

Good: 24-30

Fair: 17 – 23

Limited: 1- 16

Score of Zero: 0

What is considered a good writing score on the TOEFL?

A good score on the writing section of the TOEFL depends on a few factors.

  • Are you going to an undergraduate program or graduate program?
  • What is your overall TOEFL score goal?
  • Does the college you want to get admissions to require a specific writing TOEFL score?

If you answered – yes, to any of these questions then you have determined what a good TOEFL writing score should be. Basically, any score can be a good writing score on the TOEFL as long as it meets the score requirements for the school, program or job you are want to get access to.

A good writing score range would be between 18 – 30 for this section. Getting a 17- 23 would place you with a level of fair for writing, while a score of anything between 24-30 would give you a good TOEFL writing score.

What is considered a good speaking score?

Like the other sections of the TOEFL, there tends to be a rather vague concept of what a good score is. But if you really need to know, a good speaking score is any score that contributes to a higher overall TOEFL score or meets the basic TOEFL speaking section score requirements.

If you need specifics about what qualifies as a “good” TOEFL speaking score, then anything within the point range of 26-30 would give you a good score level. A fair score level's point range would be between 18-25 points on the speaking section of the TOEFL.

How the speaking section of the TOEFL is scored

The TOEFL speaking section contains six tasks. Two of these speaking tasks will be independent tasks. What this means is you get a prompt and are to give your opinion about the topic given.

The other four TOEFL speaking tasks are integrated. Integrated means the tasks are connected to an academic course's content or about a particular campus situation. Tasks 3 and 4 will have you read a passage then you will answer questions about those passages. Tasks 5 and 6 will have you listening to a prompt and then you will be responding to the audio prompt.

How these sections are scored is based on a specific TOEFL speaking score system. Typically the raters will give you a score range between 0 to 4. What a raw speaking TOEFL score would look like compared to the scaled TOEFL score system:

Average raw speaking TOEFL scores

Scaled speaking scores

4

30

3

23 - 29

2

15 - 22

1

8 - 14

0

0 – 6

The TOEFL speaking section will not give you raw scores but you will get raw score ranges.

It will look something like this:

  • Good: 3.5 - 4
  • Fair: 2.5 - 3
  • Limited: 1.5 -2
  • Weak: 0 -1

Understanding the TOEFL speaking section's rubric

Now that you understand a little about how the TOEFL speaking section determines scores, you can now move on to learning the TOEFL speaking rubric. The TOEFL speaking section has two rubrics. One rubric is for integrated tasks and the other is for independent tasks.

What to look for on the TOEFL speaking rubric

Despite there being two rubrics for the different TOEFL speaking tasks, there are three main points that both rubrics share. These key points are language use, delivery, and topic development.

The raw TOEFL speaking section score is compiled into a level range. With this level range, you will see a rubric score description describing the speakers overall English speaking ability. The descriptions go into detail about the three key points which will differ for each level.

Independent speaking rubric

Integrated speaking rubric

How the writing section of the TOEFL is scored

This is the part of the exam where you have 50 minutes to plan and then write two provided tasks. The integrated task should take you 20 minutes to write, while the independent task should take you 30 minutes. How these sections are scored is based on a specific TOEFL writing score system. Typically the raters will give you a score range between 0 to 5.

What a raw writing TOEFL score would look like compared to the scaled TOEFL score system:

Average raw writing TOEFL scores

Scaled writing scores

5

30

4

25-29

3

20 - 24

2

12 - 18

1

8 - 11

0

0 – 7

What to look for on the TOEFL writing rubric

The general key points to pay attention to most is: fully answer the prompt given, include specific examples, keep the written work well organized, have only a few spelling and grammatical errors.

The integrated essay will require you to listen to an audio, read a passage and then write according to the sources you are provided, not your opinion.

The independent essay will require you answer a specific question or write about a specific issue given in the prompt. This is where you can use your personal opinion in the response.

Independent writing rubric and integrated writing rubric

For the most accurate details, you can check the ETS website for any updates to the TOEFL writing rubrics. The ETS will be able to keep you up to date on what is required for students to meet each score level requirement for the written section of the TOEFL.

Independent writing rubric

Integrated writing rubric

Final thoughts

Now you should be able to understand at least the basics of how the TOEFL writing and speaking
sections are scored. You can now understand what the graders are looking for in relation to both
written and spoken sections of the test. Remember, both speaking and writing are broken into two
types of tasks.
 

 
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