How do I score 115 on the TOEFL?

“How do I score 115 on the TOEFL?” asked someone at Quora. Reaching this score, as you can learn here, puts you into the 99% percentile. In other words only 1% of all test-takers reach this incredibly high score. Nevertheless,  out of every 100 test-takers, one reaches this high score.  Therefore, how do elite students score so high?

How do I score 115 on the TOEFL.?
How do I score 115 on the TOEFL.?

Can “YOU” score 115 on the TOEFL Exam?

I do not want to rain on your parade, but it may not be cognitively possible for you to achieve such a high score.  If you can answer “yes” to most of the questions below, then you may have a chance of reaching this goal.

  1. Are you someone who is incredibly driven to excel whether it be academics, sports, hobbies, work, or some other activity?
  2. Can you concentrate on a single task for 2-4 hours a day?  Can you stick to a goal for several months at a time, even when that goal is difficult to achieve?
  3. Did either one of your parents complete a graduate degree in an English-speaking country?
  4. Do you have a natural gift for learning new languages?  For example, do you already speak three or more languages?
  5. During your elementary school, middle school, high school, and college studies, were/are you the number one academically performing student in each of your classes?
  6. Have you been using English at home or with your friends in a limited way for more than 10 years?
  7. In your high school or college studies, were you one of the top 1% of all students. Put another way, out of 1000 graduating students do you consider yourself one of the top ten academically  performing students?

If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, your chances of scoring 115 decrease quickly. Nevertheless, following the TOEFL tips on this page will help you to get the highest possible score based on your English experience and aptitude.

What you should be doing while you prepare for the TOEFL

Get as much exposure to English as possible.

In addition to your TOEFL studies, you need to increase your exposure to English.   Here are some suggestions toward this aim:

About 45 minutes a day, read magazines, newspapers, and other short passages. Take notes and use your notes to orally summarize the most important points. Using your notes, deliver at least 3-5 60 second oral responses each week. Write 3-5 250 word summaries of those passages.

Engage in 1.5 hours of pleasure reading daily.  Stay away from social media, especially on your phone, and use that valuable time to read fiction and non-fiction books of your choosing.  Your goal is to read 200 plus pages of these types of books every week.

Find opportunities to speak English with native speakers. For example, one of my previous students, who lives in Brazil, plays video games online with gamers in the United States. Hence, he has improved his speaking incredibly. In fact, he scored 28 on the speaking section of the TOEFL and has a total TOEFL score of 110 right now.

If possible, join a Toast Masters group in your hometown. Attend meetings weekly so that you can give presentations in front of the group.

Spend about 45 minutes daily watching TV or listening to news, documentary, history, and science programs. Develop an effective note-taking system to capture the main ideas and most important support points. Then use your notes to orally summarize the passages. Furthermore, write 3-5 250 word summaries of the passages.

Watch 3-5 full movies a week. Pay attention to how the speakers talk to each other. Make sure you can catch the plot and how all the actions in the movie relate to that plot.

“How do I score 115 on the TOEFL?” Take a full-length TOEFL iBT practice test.

Full-Length TOEFL iBT Practice Tests

If you have a current official TOEFL iBT score, go on to the next section.

“How do I score 115 on the TOEFL?” involves taking a full-length TOEFL iBT four hour practice test to find your current level. Taking this practice is important for several reasons:

  • You will learn the structure and format of the TOEFL iBT exam.
  • Taking a practice test for four consecutive hours, which mirrors the duration of the official TOEFL exam, will help you to develop concentration and stamina. Developing this strength will help you to concentrate better during the actual TOEFL exam.
  • After taking a practice test, you will get an accurate overall score and subtotal reading, listening, speaking, and writing scores.  Knowing your level right now is crucial since you will choose an appropriate study plan based on these data.

“How do I score 115 on the TOEFL?” Discuss your results with a qualified TOEFL mentor.

A TOEFL mentor can help you reach 115+
A TOEFL mentor can help you reach 115+

Now you want to discuss your official score or practice score with a qualified TOEFL mentor.  Here are some general guidelines for what information you should share:

  • Let your TOEFL mentor see a copy of the score report so s/he can see how you did on all sections of the exam.
  • Tell your mentor that you need an overall score of 115. Also, let your mentor know if you need any specific subtotal requirements in the reading, listening, speaking, and writing sections.
  • Share your test-taking experience with your TOEFL mentor:  Did you have trouble concentrating during any part of the exam?  Were you distracted in any way during the test? Do you feel that the overall score and subtotal scores accurately reflect your current academic English proficiency? Is there anything in particular that you had trouble with during the test? The more information you can provide, the better your TOEFL mentor will be able to get you on the right TOEFL plan to reach 115.

Choose the right TOEFL plan.

Choose the right TOEFL plan.
Choose the right TOEFL plan.

Figuring out the right TOEFL plan is largely based on your current TOEFL level.  Your TOEFL mentor will help you to choose your personalized learning path based on your current strengths and weaknesses. To score 115, you will need to score 29-30 points in the reading, listening, speaking, and writing sections. Therefore, keep in mind the following tips as you think about how you want to prepare for the exam:

Choose the TOEFL Speaking Boot Camp course if your reading, listening, and writing subtotal scores are already 29-30 points.

The TOEFL Writing Boot Camp course is a good fit if you already have reading, listening, and speaking subtotal scores of 29-30 points.

In other situations, you will choose a 1-Month, 3-Month, 6-Month, and 12-Month TOEFL Course based on the following principle: If you are getting 3-5 hours of English exposure daily and if you diligently complete the lessons in your TOEFL plan, you can expect 2-3 points of improvement for each month you study; that is, if your TOEFL score is already over 100. To illustrate, suppose your current TOEFL score is 103 and you want to score 115; you can expect approximately 5 months of intense TOEFL practice and exposure before you will be able to reach your target score.

If your TOEFL score is below 100, you can expect 5-10 points of improvement per month as you prepare. Generally speaking, the closer you get to your target score of 115, the harder you will have to work for improvement. Remember that only 1% of all test-takers reach this score, so do NOT expect your TOEFL journey to be easy.  For example, if your current TOEFL score is 85 and you want to score 115, you should expect to spend approximately 12 months of intense study before reaching that high score.

Complete your lessons.

Stay the course.

After having chosen your course, you now need to begin going through the lessons.   I designed every one of my TOEFL courses to give you practice in 7 important areas: vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, listening, reading, speaking, and writing.  As a result, do NOT pick and choose which lessons you want to practice. All the lessons are designed to improve your academic English, which helps you to improve your overall score.  To prevent psychological burnout, pace yourself in the following ways:

  1. Limit your study in your personalized TOEFL learning path to no more than 3-4 hours daily.
  2. If you still have more time to study that day, spend another 3-4 hours increasing your exposure to English following the tips I explained in the second section of this blog post (i.e, reading, listening, talking to native speakers, watching movies…)

As a result, each day you can spend 3-4 hours with your TOEFL study and another 3-4 hours increasing your exposure to English.  Follow your personalized TOEFL learning path for the recommended period of time.

Take one more full-length TOEFL iBT practice test.

Now that you have followed the learning path for the recommended time length, you should take another TOEFL iBT full-length four hour practice test. If your score is 115 or higher, then register to take the TOEFL iBT exam.   If your score is lower than 115, then you should discuss your results with your TOEFL mentor. You and he/she will have to tailor your study plan based on the overall score and subtotal scores.

Good luck!

Michael Buckhoff,

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