Need to take the TOEFL for school? Then you might be wondering whether a TOEFL 105 is a good score. Is 105 high enough to get you admitted to your schools? Or should you aim higher?
In this article, we'll discuss whether a 105 iBT TOEFL score is good and how competitive it is for undergraduate and graduate students. Then, we'll explain how important TOEFL scores are for admission before giving you tips on how to raise your TOEFL iBT 105 score to 110 and 115.
Feature image: Alan Campbell/Flickr
TOEFL Score 105: Is This a Good Score?
First off, is a 105 iBT TOEFL score a good TOEFL score? The truth is, it depends on the schools you're applying to. Essentially, a good TOEFL score is any score that meets all of your schools' minimum TOEFL score requirements (thereby increasing your chances of getting accepted to them).
Alternatively, we can use percentiles to determine whether a TOEFL score is good or not. As a reminder, percentiles tell us what percentage of test takers scored lower than a particular score threshold. The higher your TOEFL percentile is, the better your score is (compared to those of other test takers).
Generally speaking, anything above the median (50th percentile) is considered a good score and anything above the 75th percentile a great score. According to official TOEFL percentiles for all test takers, a TOEFL 105 score falls in around the 87th percentile, placing it well above both the "good" and "great" thresholds.
However, percentiles can change depending on class level. For example, a 105 iBT TOEFL score rises from the 87th to the 93rd percentile when taking into account only high school students' TOEFL scores.
Here are the percentiles a TOEFL 105 score falls in for different class levels:*
|Academic Level||Percentile for 105 TOEFL Score|
|High School Students||93|
|Two-Year College Students||95|
|Graduate Students (Non-Business Programs)||84|
|Graduate Students (Business Programs)||86|
|Applicants for English-Language Schools||92|
*All percentiles are estimated based on current ETS data.
As this chart indicates, a single TOEFL score can change percentile fairly significantly depending on which class level you look at. In general, as academic level rises, the percentile for a TOEFL 105 score falls, showing that the more educated you are, the more likely you are to score above 105.
Let's look at the data more closely. For two-year college students, 105 is an extremely high score in the 95th percentile. Getting this score means you're scoring better than almost all other test takers applying to two-year colleges.
On the other hand, for non-business graduate students, 105 places you lower in the 84th percentile. Graduate students typically have better English skills than two-year college students and thus tend to score higher on the TOEFL. As a result, we can say that 105 is a very good, though not incredible, score for graduate students (as it is for two-year college students).
Percentiles are just one way to determine how good a TOEFL score is. Ultimately, it's not about what percentile you're in but whether your TOEFL score is high enough to meet your schools' minimum TOEFL requirements.
How Competitive Is a TOEFL 105?
A 105 iBT TOEFL score is a very competitive score.
In regard to English-language ability, a 105 indicates you are great, though not perfect, at English. According to ETS, scoring around 26-27 on Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing places you in the "high" or "good" range—that is, the highest range—for each section.
To improve your section scores, you must hone your English skills accordingly. For example, for Writing, ETS recommends writing comparisons and summaries of passages you've read. You can find more tips online at the ETS website.
So what schools can you get into with a 105? A TOEFL 105 score fulfills the minimum TOEFL score requirements of most highly selective schools and programs.
According to US News, the average TOEFL score required for admission (for undergraduates) to US universities is 78. When it comes to highly competitive schools such as those in the Ivy League, you'll often need at least a 100 TOEFL score. A score of 105 places you well above both of these thresholds, making it high enough for many competitive schools.
For undergraduate applicants, minimum TOEFL scores are typically set by the entire college or university. For graduate applicants, minimum TOEFL scores often vary by program. Below, we give you the TOEFL score requirements for various undergraduate schools and graduate programs.
There are a couple of things to note, though: most undergraduate applicants will need at most a TOEFL score of 100 for admission. As a result, there are very few (if any) schools that require a minimum 105 TOEFL score. With graduate programs, on the other hand, it's not rare to need 105 or higher for admission to highly competitive programs.
Undergraduate Schools You Meet the Minimum TOEFL Score For
|School||Minimum Required TOEFL Score||Recommended TOEFL Score|
|University of Maryland||100||—|
|University of Michigan||100||—|
|University of Rochester||100||107|
Graduate Programs You Meet the Minimum TOEFL Score For
|Program||Minimum Required TOEFL Score|
|Carnegie Mellon — Design MA, MDes, MPS||102|
|Texas A&M — Finance MS||100|
|Harvard — Education||104|
|Georgia Tech — Materials Science and Engineering||100|
|Harvard — Master of Theology (ThM)||105|
|University of Iowa — JD||105|
|Northeastern — Personal Health Informatics PhD||105|
|UNC — International Education MA||90|
|University of Chicago — Public Policy||95|
Graduate Programs You Need to Work a Little Extra Harder For
|Program||Minimum Required TOEFL Score|
|MIT — History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture and Art PhD||115|
|Harvard — MBA||109|
|University of Washington — Human Centered Design & Engineering PhD||106|
|Duke — Master of Theology (ThM)||108|
|University of Minnesota — Neuroscience PhD||107|
|Georgia Tech — Physics||106|
How Important Is Your TOEFL Score for Admission?
Ultimately, is your TOEFL score important for admission? The answer is, generally yes—but this depends on whether your school requires a particular minimum TOEFL score or not.
If your school requires a minimum TOEFL score, you must get at least this score to qualify for admission. Not getting this score makes you ineligible for admission (unless the school offers conditional admission). For example, the University of Iowa's JD requires a minimum 105 TOEFL score for admission, so if you score lower than this, you won't get accepted!
If your school recommends a TOEFL score but does not require one (or requires one lower than the recommended score), aim for the recommended score. Though you don't need to get this exact score to qualify for admission, reaching (or exceeding) it will significantly raise your chances of getting accepted. For example, the University of Rochester requires a minimum 100 TOEFL score for undergraduate admission but recommends getting at least 107.
Now, what if you score well above your school's required or recommended TOEFL score? Usually, this won't give you much of an advantage (if any at all). Most schools just want to see that you have the minimum level of English proficiency needed to do well in school. Thus, there's not much of a difference between scoring higher than the minimum TOEFL score and scoring exactly at it.
That said, sometimes scoring a lot higher than a minimum could benefit you by acting as a tipping point in your favor if the admission committee is stuck between you and a similar candidate.
How to Take Your TOEFL 105 to 110 or 115
A TOEFL 105 score is a great score but not always high enough for admission to grad programs. If you currently have a 105, how can you improve your score so that you'll have a better chance of getting accepted to your schools?
Start by calculating how many hours you need to study to hit your goal score (i.e., the score that meets the minimum requirements for all of your programs). For this section, we'll cover two common TOEFL benchmarks: 110 and 115.
Next, subtract your current score (in this case, 105) from your goal score (110 or 115) to get the number of points you need to improve by. For example, if I have 105 and am trying to get 110, I'll need to improve by 5 points. If, on the other hand, I have 105 but want 115, I'll need to improve by 10 points.
Once you've found the difference between the two scores, use the following chart to roughly estimate the number of hours you'll need to study for each TOEFL section:
|Section||Study Hours for 1-Point Improvement|
Let's say I need a minimum 110 TOEFL score for admission to my schools. This means I'll need to improve my current score (105) by 5 points. Using the chart, I see that the number of study hours I have depends on which TOEFL sections I want to improve.
If I wanted to gain 2 points each on Reading and Speaking and 1 point on Writing, I'd need to study at least 12 hours for Reading, 30 hours for Speaking, and six hours for Writing. This comes out to a total of 48 prep hours.
Once you know how many study hours you have, choose a test date that gives you plenty of time to make a convenient study plan. I recommend giving yourself at least three to six months before you take (or retake) the TOEFL.
Finally, divide up your total number of study hours to get an estimated number of study hours per week. In my example, I must study a total of 48 hours. If I had four months before my test date, I'd need to study about three hours every week.
But what can you do specifically to take your TOEFL iBT 105 score to a 110? A 115? Read on for some of our best tips.
To Get a 110 TOEFL Score …
- Learn the format of the test. In this case, you only need 5 more points to hit your goal score of 110, so spend time going over the structure of the TOEFL. Closely analyze real TOEFL questions so that you know exactly what to expect on test day and won't waste any time trying to understand what you must do.
- Focus on your weakest section(s). Gaining 5 points at this TOEFL score level is a big task, so make sure you're aggressively targeting your weakest section(s) in your prep. For example, if your lowest score is Listening, try solving more Listening practice questions and work on developing efficient note-taking skills.
To Get a 115 TOEFL Score, Do All of the Above AND …
- Improve your overall English ability. In addition to studying for the TOEFL, you'll need to improve your general English-language skills. Target your weaknesses using a combination of TOEFL and non-TOEFL resources. For example, if you struggle with writing, you could try writing in an English diary every day or get native speakers to review your grammar and flow.
- Closely analyze your mistakes. To hit this extremely high score level on the TOEFL, you need to understand exactly what you're getting wrong on practice questions. Carefully look at the errors you make and determine whether there are any patterns. Then, use a variety of strategies to attack your weaknesses head-on.
- Take practice tests often. Full-length TOEFL tests will get you used to the format of the exam and help you build stamina for test day. Official tests are best (though, unfortunately, not free). Check out our guide for tips on what tests to use in your prep.
What kinds of schools look for a TOEFL score of 100? 79? Check out our guides to learn how competitive these TOEFL scores are and how you can get them.
What are the TOEFL scores you need for popular US schools? We've compiled a list of 50+ schools and their minimum TOEFL score requirements, so you don't have to research them on your own!
Curious about what a good TOEFL score is for your programs in particular? Our guide goes over how to set a goal score based on the minimum required TOEFL scores for your schools.
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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.