What happens if I fail the TOEFL?

What Happens if I Fail the TOEFL?

As you’re preparing for the TOEFL, you’d be right to ask yourself…. “But what if I fail?” Always plan for success, but have a backup plan for failure.

What does it mean to fail the TOEFL?

This is an important place to start, as you think about the possibility of “failing” the exam. First, you need to understand that you can’t “fail” the TOEFL in the same way you’d fail a test in a high school or college class. ETS doesn’t set any passing or failing score. Instead, different universities set different TOEFL score requirements. If you fail to meet those score requirements, then you’ve “failed” the TOEFL. At some top schools, you may “fail” and be denied admission if you get a TOEFL score below 100, or below 110 in extreme cases. At other schools, a score as low as 70 or even 65 might not cause you to “fail” the exam.

Understanding the score you need to get into school makes “failing” less mysterious and scary. This in turn makes TOEFL failure easier to think about and plan for.

What if I fail the TOEFL but don’t think I was graded correctly. Can I appeal my scores?

The answer to this question is yes. You can appeal your TOEFL scores. (The process is described on the official TOEFL Scoring Services web page.) There are some limitations and costs for TOEFL score appeals, though.

The biggest limitation is that scores for the multiple choice sections of the TOEFL– Reading and Writing– are final and cannot be reviewed. You can only appeal the scores you get in TOEFL Listening and Speaking.

There is a second limitation that’s also pretty important. If you ask for your Speaking and Writing scores to be reviewed, there’s no guarantee that your scores will go up. ETS could feel your Speaking and Writing was scored correctly the first time, and leave your scores the way they are. Not only that, but ETS can also decide that the scores you originally received are too high. In that case, your score could be lowered.

In addition to the risk of a lower score, there are some financial risks. You need to pay $80 to have just one of the two sections reviewed for scoring mistakes. And you need to pay $160 if you want to have both TOEFL sections rescored. This can be a lot of money wasted if your appeal doesn’t actually cause your TOEFL score to go up. So if you’ve failed the TOEFL, consider the score review option very carefully.

If I fail the TOEFL, can I retake it?

This is another good question to ask yourself. The simple answer, of course, is yes. You are allowed to retake the TOEFL iBT test every 12 days. And there’s no limit to how many times you can retake the TOEFL.

The real question is “When can I retake the TOEFL?” And that really depends on how long you’ll need to study for your TOEFL retake. How much time should you give yourself? And how much time can you give yourself, while still being able to meet school deadlines for TOEFL scores? There are a lot of factors to consider. In my next post, I’ll show you how to figure out if you have enough time for a TOEFL retake.

This post was written by David Recine, expert at Magoosh TOEFL. For help preparing for the TOEFL, check out Magoosh’s TOEFL blog.


  1. Hi George,

    Very informative blog post 🙂

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