Changes to the TOEFL Exam: “MyBest Scores” & What This Means for Students

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The ETS recently announced that it would introduce something called MyBest Scores in the upcoming school year, and more schools are updating their admissions policies for international students and non-native English speakers. What does this change mean, and what do you need to know to prepare for it? Read on to find out!

What is ETS?

The ETS, or the Educational Testing Service, is one of the largest nonprofit organizations dedicated to assessment testing. The ETS conducts research into test structures and updates test assessments accordingly, spending a great deal of effort on developing challenging questions, administering tests, and scoring those tests.

 

The ETS offers several tests and related services, including the following:

  • GRE General and Subject Tests, used for admission into many graduate and some professional degree programs
  • HiSET Exam, an exam that allows students who did not complete high school to demonstrate their academic proficiency and college readiness
  • Praxis assessments, used to license and certify teachers in the U.S.
  • TOEFL assessments, used to measure English language proficiency for students
  • TOEIC assessments, used to measure English language proficiency for job seekers

 

The biggest point of confusion students have is thinking that the ETS and the College Board are the same organization. While ETS develops and administers the SAT and AP exams, they are not the same organization. The College Board is a client of the ETS and offers services outside of testing.

What is the TOEFL?

As we touched on earlier, the TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language) exam measures your English language proficiency. There are a few different types of TOEFL exam, but the most common one is the TOEFL iBT test, which focuses specifically on your readiness to use and understand English at the college level.

 

The TOEFL iBT is a computer-based test that is divided into four sections:

Section Time Questions Description
Reading 60-80 minutes 36-56 questions Read 3 or 4 academic passages and answer questions
Listening 60-90 minutes 34-51 questions Listen to academic speech like lecture or class discussions and answer questions
Speaking 20 minutes 6 tasks Express your opinion on a topic, or respond to reading and listening tasks
Writing 50 minutes 2 tasks Write essay responses to reading and listening tasks, and express your opinion on a topic in writing

 

You can find plenty of resources on the ETS website for the TOEFL test. These include sample questions and tasks, and even a free study planner to help you prepare.

 

Who has to take the TOEFL?

While there are a number of scenarios where you might take the TOEFL iBT, the most common one is for admission to a college or university in an English-speaking country. Other reasons for taking the TOEFL include qualifying for scholarships or certifications or to apply for a student visa.

 

Of course, not every student applying for admission to an English-speaking university has to submit TOEFL scores. Usually, only students whose native language is not English and who will be graduating with the equivalent of a high school diploma from a non-English-speaking country need to submit TOEFL scores for admission. If both of those conditions (English isn’t your first language and graduating in a non-English-speaking country) aren’t met, you may not need to submit a TOEFL score.

 

For example, if you’re a student whose first language isn’t English but you moved to the United States when you were twelve and will be graduating from a U.S. high school, you generally won’t need to submit a TOEFL score. Your high school diploma (and your transcript) will demonstrate your college readiness. Similarly, if your first language is English but you spent your last two years of high school in Brazil, you may not need to submit a TOEFL score.

 

If you’re unsure of whether you need to submit a TOEFL score or not, the best thing to do is to reach out to the college you want to apply to as early as possible. Explain your situation to them, and the admissions counselors will let you know if you need a TOEFL score to be eligible for admission.

Want to know your real chances of admission?

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What is “MyBest Scores”?

If you’ve heard of or are familiar with superscoring, then you have the basic idea of what a MyBest Score is. Prior to this change, most colleges looked at the highest single sitting of the TOEFL exam when making their admissions decision. Some schools have total score requirements while others have section score requirements, and some have both. As you can imagine, some students struggle to meet the stricter test score requirements for certain schools.

 

With the introduction of MyBest Scores, TOEFL exam takers have a better chance of meeting test score requirements without having to accomplish it on just one exam. Instead, ETS will list your highest score for each of the TOEFL sections and use the sum of those scores for your total score.

 

When is this change happening?

This change is going to take place starting with the 2019-2020 admissions cycle in August. For international students, this means that some colleges and universities will begin to look at multiple test sittings when evaluating your English proficiency.

 

Because this announcement is relatively recent, some schools have yet to update their admissions policy. That said, many of the schools that consider superscores for the SAT or ACT plan to accept MyBest Scores as well. For example, MIT has already stated that they will consider MyBest Scores for applicants next year.

Wrapping it Up

MyBest Scores help both students and colleges find the right match. For students, MyBest Scores can nudge your TOEFL score into “eligible” territory; for colleges, using MyBest Scores allows them to admit more students from a larger pool of applicants.

 

Of course, test scores are just one component of an application, and it’s equally important to make sure that the other parts of your application are as strong as can be. If you’re looking for personalized guidance on how to improve your application and make the most of your chances, then CollegeVine can help. Students who work with CollegeVine are three times more likely to get into top schools. Find out if our College Applications Program is right for you!

 

For more information for international students, check out the posts below:

How Is the Admissions Process Different for International Students?

U.S. College Scholarships for International Students

Schools that Grant Financial Aid to International Students: A Complete List

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Gianna Cifredo
Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Gianna Cifredo is a graduate of the University of Central Florida, where she majored in Philosophy. She has six years of higher education and test prep experience, and now works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She currently lives in Orlando, Florida and is a proud cat mom.