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Toefl Essay Grading Scale

So far, we’ve covered how to predict your TOEFL score for Reading, Listening, and Speaking. Today: the math for TOEFL Writing score predictions.

How to predict your TOEFL score for Writing: A Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Get your TOEFL Writing responses scored

The hardest part of predicting your TOEFL score for Writing is getting your practice TOEFL Writing Tasks scored. You can’t just count up the number of right and wrong answers like you would in TOEFL Reading and Listening practice. Instead, you need to get your responses scored with the same rubrics that ETS uses.

The official TOEFL Writing rubrics are publicly available on the ETS website. To predict your TOEFL Writing Score, your could carefully go through these rubrics, using them to estimate the scores on your own practice essays.

Self-scoring is pretty difficult though, and not necessarily reliable. You may not be able to judge your own writing with accuracy. So you should probably try to get feedback and unofficial TOEFL Writing scores from others.

Our blog has plenty of advice on how to get TOEFL Writing Feedback. Here are some articles that can help you get the unofficial scoring you need for this first step in predicting your TOEFL score for writing.

Step 2: Average the scores of both tasks

TOEFL Writing has 2 tasks. These tasks have the same point weight; each task represents 50% of your TOEFL Writing score. If you average your practice scores for both tasks, you’ll have a score for the whole TOEFL Writing Section.

Let’s imagine that on a TOEFL practice Writing Section, you got a score of 3.5 for the Integrated Writing Task, and a 4.5 for the Independent Writing Task. To get your average for the whole section, add these two scores together and divide by two. 3.5 + 4.5 = 8. 8/2 = 4. So your average Task score for this practice Writing section would be 4.

Step 3: Convert your average task scores into percentage scores

Next, you need to turn your average Writing task score into a percentage score for your practice Writing section.

To do this, divide your average task score by the maximum possible task score. For a TOEFL Writing Task, the maximum number of points is 5. The above-mentioned Writing Task average is 4, which gives us 4/5, or  0.8 — and 80% section score.

Step 4: Convert your percentage scores into scaled TOEFL scores

Just like all the other TOEFL sections, TOEFL Writing is scored on a scale of 0-30 . To figure out where your practice Writing Section lies on that scale, apply your percentage score to the number 30. In the Writing Section scores above, 80% of 30 = 0.8*30 = 24. Thus, you can predict a TOEFL Writing Score of 24 based on the practice performance described in this blog post.

Other factors

In statistics, a prediction is only valid if it’s based on repeated samples and experiments. This means you should complete and score multiple TOEFL Writing Sections, not just one. Take the scores of several practice sessions and average them together. This multiple-section average will be the most accurate predictor of the real TOEFL Writing Score you might get on test day.

And remember, all TOEFL scores are norm-referenced. Your raw score on the exam may be adjusted by a few points. Still, the prediction methods I’ve described above should help you get pretty good idea of the TOEFL Writing Score you’ll get.

The TOEFL iBT is scored on a scale of 0-120. The Reading and Listening sections, in which every question has exactly one correct answer, are scored by computer. The Writing and Speaking sections, on the other hand, have to be scored by hand. Each of the four sections of the TOEFL is worth 30 points total, but exactly how your score is calculated depends on the section.

Scoring the Reading and Listening Sections

The Reading and Listening sections are the easiest to score. A computer will determine the number of points you received, and then your score will be calculated on a scale of 0-30 for each section. It’s that simple. (Magoosh does the same thing for our online practice TOEFLs.)

Scoring the Writing and Speaking Sections

The writing and speaking sections are a little more involved. Each response will be reviewed by at least two trained ETS graders, who will independently score your response on a scale of 0-4. If their scores differ by more than one point (i.e. if one of them gives you a 3 and the other a 1, for example), then a third grader will review your test. All the graders’ scores are averaged together to give you one score from 0-4, which is then converted to the standardized 30-point scale.


What’s up with this 30-point system?

The scoring system that ETS uses may seem unnecessarily complicated, but it’s designed the way it is because there are so many versions of the TOEFL. The number of points possible on one test may differ slightly from those on another test. The first step that ETS has to do to give you a standardized score is to scale these scores by converting each possible score to a standardized score. On the TOEFL, of course, all scores are converted to a scale of 0-120.

There’s one more problem with scoring the test: although ETS does a pretty good job of writing tests that are fairly similar in difficulty, they can’t do this perfectly. Your raw score, or the mere number of points you receive on the test, would be perfectly fine if everyone in the world took the exact same test you took. But since your version of the test may have been harder or easier than other people’s, ETS equates the score, or converts it to a new score that compensates for these differences. I can’t tell you exactly how this happens, but we have to trust ETS that they know what they’re doing.

ETS is constantly doing research to be sure that their scaling and equating algorithms create fair scores. It’s partly due to this that the TOEFL contains experimental sections, or sections of the test that are not scored, but are administered for research purposes and to test out new questions and eliminate problems in them.

Getting your Score Report

Score reports are available online about ten days after you take the test, and the official score reports your institution probably requires are mailed a little bit later, about 13 days after you take the test. So in all, it will be about three weeks after you take the test when your institution actually receives your score report. You can read more about how to send your scores to universities in this post.

Wondering if your TOEFL score is good enough? This infographic can help.

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