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Harvard TOEFL Requirement: The Score You Need


What's a good TOEFL score for Harvard? Is there a TOEFL Harvard minimum you must meet in order to qualify for admission as an undergraduate or graduate student? Who has to take the TOEFL?

In this guide, we go over the Harvard TOEFL requirement for each major department and look at how this minimum score varies depending on the program you're applying to. We then give you expert tips on what to do if you're struggling to meet the Harvard TOEFL score threshold.


Who Needs to Take the TOEFL for Harvard?

First off, which applicants actually need to take the TOEFL? The general rule is that if your native language is English, you do not have to take the TOEFL.

At Harvard, whether you must take the TOEFL depends on two main factors:

  • Your country of citizenship
  • Your class level (undergraduate or graduate student)

If you're a US citizen or permanent resident, you will not need to take the TOEFL. If you're an international applicant from a major English-speaking country such as Canada, the UK, Australia, or New Zealand, you also shouldn't need to take the TOEFL.

However, if you're an international applicant from a non-English-speaking country, you are required to take the TOEFL. Here's exactly what the Harvard website has to say: 


Students whose native language is not English ARE REQUIRED to submit a TOEFL score not more than two years old. Official tests results must be submitted directly to the Admissions Office from ETS (code #3434). We will not accept any other language proficiency tests in lieu of the TOEFL. While not required, candidates who have taken SAT I, SAT II, or ACT tests are encouraged to submit their results, reported directly from the College Board (code #3434) or the American College Testing Service (code #1840). 


Here's what this means: if you're from outside of the United States but English is your first (native) language, then you may not have to take the TOEFL and submit scores.  If English isn't your first language, then you'll have to take the TOEFL no matter what. 

The only exception to this is if you're a transfer applicant. In this case, you may choose to submit your TOEFL scores, but it's not a requirement for admission. 

So does Harvard require graduate students to take the TOEFL as well? Just like undergraduates, graduate students who are not native English speakers must take and submit TOEFL scores. 


Harvard TOEFL Requirement for Undergraduate Applicants

The TOEFL is not required for all undergraduate applicants to Harvard. However, if you're an international student whose first language isn't English, you'll have to take the TOEFL and submit scores. 

So what TEOFL score do you need to get into Harvard? Harvard does not have a minimum required score, but the Harvard website points out that a score below 100 may not be enough to demonstrate proficiency. Here's what Harvard has to say


While there is no absolute test score cut-off, the Committee would be concerned that an internet based TOEFL score below 100 might indicate that the candidate does not have sufficient fluency in English to do well in classes here. A strong knowledge of English is essential for successful study at Harvard, including the ability to understand and express thoughts quickly and clearly.


And there you have it! So while there's no stated minimum TOEFL score for Harvard, you should aim for a score in at least the 100s.

Although the TOEFL is optional, all international applicants, as well as domestic applicants, must submit SAT/ACT scores. To learn more about what SAT/ACT score you'll need for admission to Harvard, go to Harvard's Admission Requirements page.




Harvard TOEFL Requirement for Graduate Applicants

Like we mentioned earlier, international graduate applicants who are non-native English speakers will have to submit TOEFL (or IELTS) scores with their applications.

Graduate TOEFL requirements can vary depending on the school/department and program. At Harvard, many schools have minimum TOEFL score requirements that apply to all programs in that school.

However, some programs may require TOEFL scores that are slightly higher than their school minimums. Thus, you should always check directly with your program to see what its exact TOEFL requirements are.

The following chart summarizes the TOEFL requirements for some of the major schools and programs at Harvard:

School / Program Minimum Required TOEFL Score
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences 80 iBT (minimum)/over 90 iBT (recommended) 
Anthropology PhD 80 iBT
Chemistry and Chemical Biology PhD 80 iBT
Psychology PhD 80 iBT
Harvard Business School
MBA program 109 iBT (recommended)
Doctoral program 100 iBT (recommended)
Graduate School of Design 92 iBT with 23 on all sections (minimum)
104 iBT with 26 on all sections (recommended)
Harvard Divinity School
MDiv, MTS, Ho Scholars, and Special Students programs 100 iBT 
ThM program 105 iBT 
Graduate School of Education 104 iBT with 26 on all sections (recommended)
John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences 80 iBT
Harvard Extension School 100 iBT
Harvard Kennedy School 100 iBT / 600 PBT
MPP program iBT: minimum 25 on all sections
PBT: 58 on Reading, 59 on Listening, and 61 on Writing
MPA/ID, MPA, MC/MPA, and MC/MPA Edward S. Mason programs

100 iBT / 600 PBT
iBT: 25 on all sections (recommended)
PBT: 58 on Reading, 59 on Listening, and 61 on Writing (recommended)

Harvard Law School
JD program None (TOEFL not required)
LLM program 100 iBT with 25 on all sections 
Harvard Medical School 100 iBT
T.H. Chan School of Public Health 100 iBT / 600 PBT
23 on all sections (recommended)


In this chart for Harvard, TOEFL score requirements generally take two forms: minimum required scores and recommended scores.

Required scores are scores you must meet in order to qualify for admission. If you don't meet these scores, your application will be rejected (unless you qualify for conditional admission).

Recommended scores are scores you don't need to get in order to qualify for admission; however, you will have a better chance of admission if you do get them.

For Harvard, as well as for any other school, always aim to get the recommended score (over a required minimum score). Getting (or exceeding) a recommended score will make you a more competitive applicant for your program, thereby increasing your likelihood of getting accepted.




What If You Don't Meet the Harvard TOEFL Requirement?

It's not easy getting a high enough TOEFL score for Harvard. So what can you do if you're having trouble meeting your goal score? Here are a few options depending on whether your score is close to or far from the Harvard TOEFL requirement.


If Your Score Is Close to the Harvard TOEFL Requirement …

  • Contact your program. Ask whether they are willing to review your application despite the fact your TOEFL score is slightly lower than what's required. If your program agrees to consider you for admission, use the time before you submit your application to strengthen other parts of it, such as your statement of purpose and CV/resume.
  • See whether you qualify for conditional admission. If your program offers conditional admission, you'll most likely need to fulfill an English-language requirement or class before you can start taking regular courses at Harvard.
  • Pay for a TOEFL score review. If your program at Harvard doesn't offer conditional admission and won't accept lower TOEFL scores, consider getting a rescore. With this service, ETS (the maker of the TOEFL) rescores your Speaking and/or Writing sections, potentially raising your total score by 1-3 points (though it could also lower it!). A rescore is better than retaking the test as it's cheaper and less time-consuming.


If Your Score Is Far From the Harvard TOEFL Requirement ...

Your best option is to retake the TOEFL. If you do this, though, make sure you spend plenty of time honing your weaknesses and figuring out ways you can improve your score.

The more points you need to hit the Harvard TOEFL score minimum, the more hours you'll need to study. And the more hours you need to study, the more time you should try to give yourself before test day. Generally, it's best to set aside at least three to six months for TOEFL prep.

To figure out how many hours you'll need to study, subtract your current TOEFL score from the TOEFL Harvard score you need for admission.

For example, if I'm applying to Harvard's psychology program, I'll need to score at least 80 on the TOEFL. Let's say my current score is 76; this means I'll need 4 points to reach my goal score of 80.

Once you've found this difference, use the chart below to determine (roughly) how many hours you'll need to study for each TOEFL section:

Section Study Hours for 1-Point Improvement
Reading 6-8
Listening 6-8
Speaking 15
Writing 6-8


In my example, I need to improve my total TOEFL score by 4 points to qualify for admission to Harvard's psychology program. If I wanted to improve only my Reading and Speaking sections by 2 points each, I'd have to study at least 42 hours (because 2(6) + 2(15) = 42).

Once you have an estimated number of study hours, divide up the number of weeks you have until test day to get a rough number of hours you should study for the TOEFL per week. If I'm studying 42 hours over the course of two months, for example, I'll need to prep a little more than five hours each week. This gives me my best chance of meeting the minimum Harvard TOEFL requirement on test day.



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What's Next?

Curious about TOEFL score requirements for other schools? Our extensive article lists more than 50 popular colleges and universities and their TOEFL score expectations.

What TOEFL score do you need for admission to MIT? NYU? Read our guides to learn about the different TOEFL scores you need for undergraduate and graduate admission.



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Hannah Muniz
About the Author

Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.

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