How to Interpret my TOEFL score and correlate them to the IELTS, TOEIC, and CEFR

How to interpret my TOEFL score, and correlate it with IELTS, TOEIC and the CEFR
How to interpret my TOEFL score, and correlate it with IELTS, TOEIC and the CEFR

Estimated reading time 10 minutes

Chapter 1: Test Overview
1. TOEFL Breakdown
Chapter 2: The comparisson
1. Correlative graph
2. Conclusion

If your Native language is not English and you are looking for an opportunity to study or to work in an English-speaking country or a transnational company, then the chances of you taking International English tests are very close to 100%.

However you can find many options out there, but after searching a little bit you will find that a few names continue to pop up constantly, these are:


These are the most known International English tests that are accepted by most universities and companies around the world. Because of this, according to many, they are fierce competitors. I will explain a little bit on how they compare and contrast, but to do so, I will explain generally a bit of each of them, and then, work with the best standard in the world, the CEFR.

Chapter 1: Test Overview

Since our main focus is to compare the TOEFL score with all the others, I have to go just a bit deeper into this test.

1. TOEFL Breakdown

To better understand the scale of the TOEFL, I will break the overall score of the TOEFL, which goes from 0 to 120, into 3 sections of 40 points each.

Keep in mind that this is my summary to make things more understandable for most people. So let’s start with the first section.

Score of 0-40:

If your score oscillates in this sector, then, unfortunately, you have not been able to prove that you have adequate proficiency in English. This is a clear indicator that you need to improve your General English level by a significant margin to be eligible for University, College or a job in an English-speaking country. You will probably understand basic instructions but won’t be able to go deeper into your area.

Score 41-80:

Scoring in this sector will show that you have an understanding of the language at an intermediate-level. It is likely that you will be able to enter a College University or job in an English-speaking country with the score, especially on the higher band. Here you will be able to express opinions and comprehend more complex topics and abstract thoughts.

Score 81-120:

If you managed to get a score in this sector, then this proves that you have a higher level of General English and can be proficient in an academic setting such as College, University or a high position job in a transnational company. If you manage to get on the higher band of this section, then your opportunities multiply. As a reference, Ivy League schools usually request a minimum score of 100 points.

Now let’s go to an overview of each of these tests

2. TOEFL (Test Of English as Foreign Language – Internet based test)

This test is essential for all those who wish to participate in any undergraduate and postgraduate program mainly in the U.S. and Canada. It measures the ability of a non-native speaker of English on four main skills which are tested in each section of the test.

The total timing of this test can vary as it has a short format and 2 variations of a longer format. Though keep in mind that we will always get one long format or the other.

SectionAprox Time (minutes)

Here are a few charts that can better illustrate the timing.

Since all tests will be divided into 4 sections, which are: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. Here is a small color code for you to follow.

And here are the charts I promised.

Long Format – Reading Section
Long Format – Listening Section

The scoring is explained in broad terms in the following chart.

SkillScore RangeLevel
Reading0–30Low (0–14)Intermediate (15–21)High (22–30)
Listening0–30Low (0–14)Intermediate (15–21)High (22–30)
Speaking0–30Weak (0–9)Limited (10–17)Fair (18–25)Good (26–30)
Writing0–30Limited (1–16)Fair (17–23)Good (24–30)
Total Score0–120

Many government agencies use this test as a requisite for their applicants to measure their English proficiency. This test can be taken in most countries in certified test centers in an online format. A paper-based format still exists, although it is almost not used nowadays. The price of this test can vary from country to country, though it oscillates from US $160 to $250.

This test is created by their ETS (Educational Testing Service).

3. IELTS ( International English Language Testing System)

It is designed to measure the language ability of test-takers who wish to enroll in academic environments or the work fields of English speaking institutions and companies. It is a requirement mostly in the UK and has a strong presence in other countries as well. It is accepted as a valid document for immigration processes for English speaking countries.

It has 2 formats, General Training, and Academic. The test lengths vary depending on which format you choose. All test takers do the same Listening and Speaking sections. The test has four sections focused on each language skill.

SectionAprox Time (minutes)
Listening 30
Speaking 15

Here is a small chart to help visualize.

IELTS Timing

You get a score between 1 and 9. Universities often demand an IELTS score of 6 or 7. They may also demand a minimum score in each of the 4 sections.

The scoring of the IELTS will be on a scale of bands from 0, the lowest, to 9, the highest. Here is a small chart detailing what to find in each band.

User TypeCharacteristics
9. ExpertHas full operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding.
8. Very GoodHas fully operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies and inappropriacies. Misunderstandings may occur in unfamiliar situations. Handles complex detailed argumentation well.
7. GoodHas operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriateness and misunderstandings in some situations. Generally handles complex language well and understands detailed reasoning.
6. CompetentHas generally effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings. Can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.
5. ModestHas partial command of the language, coping with overall meaning in most situations, though is likely to make many mistakes. Should be able to handle basic communication in own field.
4. LimitedBasic competence is limited to familiar situations. Has frequent problems in understanding and expression. Is not able to use complex language.
3. Extremely LimitedConveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations. Frequent breakdowns in communication occur.
2. IntermittentNo real communication is possible except for the most basic information using isolated words or short formulae in familiar situations and to meet immediate needs. Has great difficulty understanding spoken and written English.
NonEssentially has no ability to use the language beyond possibly a few isolated words.
0. Did not attemptNo assessable information provided at all.

The price of this test will usually be around US $225.

4. TOEIC. (Test of English for International Communication)

This test focuses on more real-life scenarios that can be more helpful for specific skills, such as telephoning, working or traveling. There are two separate parts to the TOEIC test: the first is The Listening Comprehension and The Reading Comprehension and the other part is The Speaking Section and The Writing Section. You can do one or both parts, depending on the requirements solicited.

SectionAprox Time (minutes)
Listening Comprehension45
Reading Comprehension75

As usual, here is a small chart to help illustrate.

TOEIC Timing

Though the Listening Section and the Reading Section can take up to 2.5 hours due to the initial 30 minutes of administrative required time, you must keep in mind that if you opt to take the Speaking Section and the Writing section, it can take up to an extra 90 minutes. Making the whole test last approximately 4 hours.

The TOEIC Reading and Listening gives a score between 10 and 990:

ProficiencyScore Scale
Working Plus785-900
Limited Working605-780
Elementary Plus405-600
No Useful10-180

The Writing and Speaking sections are scaled on a Proficiency Level scale that goes from 1 to 9.

Proficiency Score Scale

The price range of this test will be around the US $85.

It is also produced by ETS (Educational Testing Service).

Chapter 2: The comparisson

Why would you want to correlate it?

A lot of people wonder why they need to correlate all tests if they measure broadly the same thing, and give out a very similar conclusion. But there are some clear geographical and purpose-oriented differences that make them unique in their own form. The TOEFL and the TOEIC are both made by the same company, ETS. And these tests do not compete directly amongst them.

1. Correlative graph

Their results do overlap in some things, but the TOEIC is more oriented towards Work and Travelling, while the TOEFL is focused on Academic skills, which is why it is very important for Universities and Colleges.

The IELTS solves this by making 2 versions of the same test, where they can compete against the ETS tests. The General Training IELTS, tackles very similar things as the TOEFL does, while the Academic IELTS, despite its name, fends off against the TOEIC, as its content can be used in the working environment as well.

The main difference is geographical

Many institutions trust one much more over another one. The main barrier you will find is across the world in geographical attributes. The US and Canada will tend to favor the TOEFL, while the UK and Australia will go almost exclusively on the IELTS.

You must keep in mind that one was created in Europe and the other in North America, both of which have a distinct form of English. Some bits of grammar, spelling, and vocabulary, in general, may be different than what you expect, so naturally, the test cannot fulfill 100% the needs of the local countries.

The main difference is geography
The main difference is geography

Nevertheless, they overlap in almost all, and a direct correlation can be drawn from approximate scales and scores collected from thousands of test-takers.

Here is a chart that compares the approximate scores between the TOEFL, TOEI, IELTS and, CEFR to have a clear reference.


From here we can see how they all compare to the CEFR, the golden standard, and that one test can more or less determine your approximate score in the other test.

2. Conclusion

For this reason, many institutions and companies tend to be open-minded about the tests and are flexible to accept one test over another from their applicants.

But bear in mind that this will not always be the case, because there are a few institutions who will require a specific test, as they are either in the geographical area where that test is best suited or their own academic program is better aligned with one or another test.

This must be researched by you before registering for one of these international tests, as it may be possible that you can end up having to take 2 of them.

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