Need to take the TOEFL for school? Then you might be wondering whether a TOEFL 79 is a good score. Is 79 high enough to get you admitted to your schools? Or should you aim higher?
In this article, we'll discuss whether a 79 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 79 TOEFL score to 80, 90, and even a perfect 120.
Feature image: Steve Bowbrick/Flickr
TOEFL Score 79: Is This a Good Score?
First off, is a 79 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. According to official TOEFL percentiles for all test takers, a TOEFL 79 score falls in around the 38th percentile for all students, placing it just below the "good" threshold.
However, percentiles can change depending on class level. For example, a 79 iBT TOEFL score rises from the 38th to the 42nd percentile when taking into account only undergraduate students' TOEFL scores.
Here are the percentiles a TOEFL 79 score falls in for different class levels:*
|Academic Level||Percentile for 79 TOEFL Score|
|High School Students||51|
|Two-Year College Students||58|
|Graduate Students (Non-Business Programs)||30|
|Graduate Students (Business Programs)||32|
|Applicants for English-Language Schools||44|
*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. As academic level rises, the percentile for a TOEFL 79 score falls, showing that more educated test takers typically score higher than 79.
Let's look at the data more closely. For high school students, 79 is a fairly good score in the 60th percentile. Getting this score as a high school student means you're scoring better than most other high school test takers.
On the other hand, for graduate students (business and non-business), 79 places you in only the 32nd or 33rd percentile—that's well below the median. Graduate students typically have better English skills than high school students and thus tend to score higher on the TOEFL. As a result, we can say that 79 isn't a particularly good score for graduate 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 79?
A 79 iBT TOEFL score is a minimally competitive score.
In regard to English-language ability, a 79 indicates you are good, but not great, at English. According to ETS, scoring around 20 on Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing places you in the "intermediate" or "fair" range for each section. This range is one level below the highest range ("high" or "good").
To improve your section scores (and thus your range), you must hone your English skills accordingly. For example, for Reading, ETS recommends improving your vocabulary and studying more academic texts. You can find more tips online at the ETS website.
So what schools can you get into with a 79? Generally, a TOEFL 79 score fulfills the minimum TOEFL requirements of many less selective schools and programs.
According to US News, the average TOEFL score required for admission (for undergraduates) to US universities is 74. A score of 79, therefore, places you right above this threshold, making it high enough for many lightly or moderately competitive schools. Unfortunately, another common TOEFL score cutoff is 80, making 79 just short of what you'd need for admission.
When it comes to highly competitive schools, such as those in the Ivy League, you'll often need at least a 100 TOEFL score. Therefore, it'll be difficult, if not impossible, to get into these types of schools with a TOEFL 79 score.
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.
Here are the TOEFL score requirements for various undergraduate schools and graduate programs.
Undergraduate Schools You Meet the Minimum TOEFL Score For
|School||Minimum Required TOEFL Score||Recommended TOEFL Score|
|Bowling Green State University||80||—|
|University of Connecticut||79||—|
|Georgia State University||69||—|
|University of Houston||79||—|
|University of Idaho||70||—|
|University of Montana||70||—|
|University of San Francisco||65||80|
|University of South Florida||79||—|
|University of Texas at Arlington||79||—|
|University of Washington||76||92|
Undergraduate Schools You Need to Work a Little Extra Harder For
|School||Minimum Required TOEFL Score|
|University of Central Florida||80|
|University of Georgia||80|
|University of Iowa||80|
|North Carolina State University||80|
|Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute||88|
|San Diego State University||80|
Graduate Programs You Meet the Minimum TOEFL Score For
|Program||Minimum Required TOEFL Score|
|University of South Florida — MBA||79|
|Indiana University Bloomington — Education||79–80|
|University of Connecticut — Environmental Engineering||79|
|Temple University — Music MA||79|
|Purdue — History||77|
|Drexel University — Master of Legal Studies||79|
|University of Houston — Optometry||79|
|Cornell — Applied Physics PhD||77|
Graduate Programs You Need to Work a Little Extra Harder For
|Program||Minimum Required TOEFL Score|
|Arizona State University — Finance PhD||80|
|Michigan State University — Education MA||80|
|Texas A&M — Industrial & Systems Engineering||80|
|UC Santa Barbara — Music||80|
|Georgetown — History||80|
|Northeastern — LLM||85|
|University of Maryland — Pharmaceutical Sciences PhD||80|
|Notre Dame — Biological Sciences||80|
|UC San Diego — Experimental Psychology PhD||85|
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 Houston requires a minimum 79 TOEFL score for undergraduate 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 Washington requires a minimum 76 TOEFL score but recommends getting at least 92 or higher.
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 79 to 80, 90, or 100
A TOEFL 79 score is good but not always high enough for admission. If you currently have a 79, 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 three common TOEFL benchmarks: 80, 90, and 100.
Next, subtract your current score (in this case, 79) from your goal score (80, 90, or 100) to get the number of points you need to improve by. For example, if I have 79 and am trying to get 80, I'll need to improve by 1 point. If, on the other hand, I have 79 but want 100, I'll need to improve by 21 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 90 TOEFL score for admission to my schools. This means I'll need to improve my current score (79) by 11 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 4 points each on Speaking and Writing, 2 points on Reading, and 1 point on Listening, I'd need to study at least 60 hours for Speaking, 24 hours for Writing, 12 hours for Reading, and six hours for Listening. This comes out to a total of 102 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 102 hours. If I had six months before my test date, I'd need to study about four hours and 15 minutes every week.
But what can you do specifically to take your 79 TOEFL score to an 80? A 90? A 100? Read on for some of our best tips.
To Get an 80 TOEFL Score …
- Learn the format of the test. In this case, you only need 1 more point to hit your goal score, 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.
To Get a 90 TOEFL Score, Do All of the Above AND ...
- Focus on your weakest section(s). Gaining 11 points 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 Reading, try solving more Reading practice questions or work on developing a better passage-reading strategy.
- Improve your overall English ability. In addition to studying for the TOEFL, you'll need to improve your general English-language skills. Once you know your weaknesses, target those using a combination of TOEFL and non-TOEFL resources. For example, if you struggle with speaking, you could look for an English conversation club to join and play English learning games with or use YouTube videos to practice your pronunciation.
To Get a 100 TOEFL Score, Do All of the Above AND …
- Closely analyze your mistakes. To make big gains 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's a good TOEFL score for you? In general? Learn how to set your own TOEFL goal score today!
Want to learn more about minimum TOEFL scores for colleges? We've compiled a list of more than 50 schools and their TOEFL requirements for both undergraduate and graduate applicants.
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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.