toefl guide

Understanding TOEFL Reading and Listening Scores

Kayla C. October 12th, 2021

The TOEFL is comprised of four main sections that test you on reading, listening, speaking, and writing. Many colleges and universities often have TOEFL score requirements for each section of the TOEFL. This means a college will give you a general TOEFL score requirement, but will also require you to have a specific score per section. For example, some colleges may require you to have an overall TOEFL score of 100. These same colleges may then also require you to have a specific score of 25 for reading and listening, a 26 for the speaking and 24 for writing. Another example is some graduate programs will only accept students that achieve a certain level for each section of the TOEFL.

Now, this may seem hard to understand at first, but don't worry! This simple TOEFL reading and listening score guide can help clear up any misunderstandings you may have. You may also be wondering about what qualifies as a good listening or reading TOEFL score. For now, we will help you understand how the reading and listening sections impact your overall TOEFL score. This short guide will also show you how to determine a good listening and reading score, how to understand your scores for these sections and more.

How the reading and listening sections on the TOEFL affect your overall TOEFL score

Each section of the TOEFL has slightly different ways to measure and scale a student's understanding of the English language. Reading and listening are scored on a computer. The reading and listening sections have the most similar score scales. In order for you to be considered high level in either section, you need to score at least 22 – 30 points in either section. This means you can get a solid 44 – 60 points which are exactly half the total max TOEFL score of 120. Here is what the reading and listening section scales look like:   


Score range




High: 22 - 30

Intermediate: 15-21

Low: 0-14



High: 22-30

Intermediate: 14-21

Low: 0 -13

The reading and listening sections on the TOEFL tend to be the easiest out of all the sections for many non-native English speakers. The TOEFL speaking section tends to be the hardest, especially for students who have a strong accent or trouble with pronouncing certain sounds.

What is considered a good reading score on the TOEFL?

In general, a good reading score on the TOEFL is any score that gets you into the university or college of your choice. Many prestigious colleges often have TOEFL reading score requirements that require a student to be at least between the intermediate to high-level score range. The latter being the most expected. It is also not unheard of for specific university graduate programs to require specific TOEFL reading scores during their admissions process.

Basically, when it comes to studying for a good reading score on the TOEFL you should make it a TOEFL study goal to get between 22 – 30 points for this section. This particular score range will help give you a high level of the TOEFL reading section. Achieving this score range will help you meet most, if not, all potential TOEFL reading score requirements for college and graduate programs.

How to use percentiles to determine a good reading score

Another great way to determine whether or not you have a good reading TOEFL score is by looking at the percentiles. These percentiles provided for each section will tell you how well you did on the TOEFL in comparison to other students who also took the TOEFL at that time.

The TOEFL reading section's percentile range*:


TOEFL reading scores













* The data provided are rough estimates from a group of TOEFL test takers in January/December 2016.

** These are rough estimates of scores since percentiles are not precise.

Using percentiles to understand your ranking with other TOEFL test takers can come in handy when you want to know if the score you have is competitive enough. However, percentiles are enough to determine whether or not you have a good TOEFL listening score for college admissions.

How college requirements can help you determine a good TOEFL listening score

Same as the TOEFL reading section, the listening section is also subject to college score requirements. Many colleges expect high-level scores in order to gain admissions into specific degree programs. A university may also require specific listening scores due to the competitiveness of the college you are trying to gain admission to or have a particular standard for their students.After all, some universities and colleges may only give you conditional admissions if you don't meet their listening or reading TOEFL score requirements. To avoid any issues in the admissions process, students should strive to get a high level on the TOEFL listening section. Basically, you want to get at least 22 points in the listening section.

Just as you would with your reading score, you can also make a chart showing what each university or college requires for the listening section of the TOEFL.

What are raw scores?

Raw scores are the initial scores you get from the total points you earned on a particular section of the TOEFL. Each section of the TOEFL has a specific amount of questions or rubrics regarding how many points you get for answering a question correctly. In the case of speaking and writing sections, you would be given a raw score based on a set rubric.

Raw scores for the reading and listening sections of the TOEFL are determined by how many questions you received and how many you correctly answered. Since each TOEFL is different in the number of questions you receive you may get different raw scores if you take the test multiple times.

How to use raw scores when determining a good TOEFL reading score

When looking at the TOEFL reading section you see a general scaled score range from 0 – 30. This scaled score is determined by your raw score. On the reading section, you can earn 1-3 points per question. There are no penalties for answering incorrectly other than not receiving any points for that question.

Depending on how many questions you get and the point scale for your particular TOEFL test, these will determine your maximum raw score. Generally, the maximum raw score is 45 points but this can be less depending on the number of questions you get for the TOEFL reading section.

Because there is so much variation between TOEFL tests, there isn't a specific chart to explain the raw score and scaled score conversions. There are rough estimations you can make but may not be reliable for your particular TOEFL results.

Basically, to determine whether your raw score is good enough you can look to see how many questions you got right in relation to how many questions you had on the reading section. The more questions you answer correctly the better your overall reading score.

How to use raw scores to determine a good TOEFL listening score for you

The TOEFL listening section is similar to the reading section with a few slight differences. One difference is the maximum raw score you can achieve for this section is 35 points, some tests will give you fewer questions. The TOEFL listening section gives 1 point per question. There are no penalties for incorrect answers beyond not receiving the point.

A good listening score means you answered more questions correctly in relation to the total number of questions given for this section of the TOEFL.

Final thoughts

Students wanting to have a good reading and listening score on the TOEFL should try to achieve at least 22 points in each section. This will place you at the high level on the score level. Colleges, universities and many graduate programs often want students that have at least intermediate to high-level reading and listening TOEFL scores.

The more points you get for each section the better your overall TOEFL score will be. A good reading and listening score is important but remembers these sections are only half the TOEFL test.


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