How to Pass the TOEFL iBT

Many students often  wonder how to pass the TOEFL iBT.  However, Educational Testing Service does not list passing scores. Instead, universities have set their own requirements for what they consider “passing scores.” Keeping that in mind, in the more than 3,000 universities in the United States, quite often, undergraduate and graduate scores of 60/120 and 80/120 are seen as the absolute minimum requirements.  Nevertheless, many competitive universities set much higher standards than these.

Therefore, your first step in how to pass the TOEFL iBT is to contact a university you want to attend.  Get in touch with the admissions office so that you can see what the TOEFL requirements are.  Once you know what the requirements are,  you should then begin your TOEFL preparation journey of reaching this score.  For the purpose of this article, let’s say you want to attend a competitive school or clear a credential for healthcare, for example.  As a result, you may need to reach a score of at least 93/120. In addition, let’s suppose that you need to reach 22/30 in reading, 21/30 in listening, 26/30 in speaking, and 24/30 in writing.

How to Pass the TOEFL iBT
How to Pass the TOEFL iBT

How to Pass the TOEFL iBT: Take a full-length four hour TOEFL practice test to find your level.

The first step in reaching your desired TOEFL score is to take a full-length four hour practice test. These practice tests are not free, especially if you want your six speaking and two writing tasks to be scored. Whoever scores these speaking and writing practice tests needs to be qualified.  E-mail me at if you want me to recommend an online testing service that offers authentic, realistic practice tests.

  • Taking one of these practice tests will help to find your current level without having to spend $200 to take the official TOEFL exam.
  • After completing a practice test, you will familiarize yourself with the structure and format of the TOEFL exam.
  • Sitting during a four hour practice test will help you develop the strength and concentration that you need.

How to Pass the TOEFL iBT: Get a specific course plan based on your practice test score

Now that you know you current TOEFL level and the target score that you need, you need to get a specific course plan to help you. Here are some general guidelines to help you in your choice:

  • Do not choose a speaking or writing course if you have not met your subtotals in the reading and listening sections.
  • Plan ahead as you choose your study plan. Reaching your desired TOEFL and subtotal scores will usually take much longer than you might expect. For example, do not choose a 1-Month TOEFL course if you need to improve your overall TOEFL score by more than 10 points.
  • Generally speaking, you can expect an improvement of about 5-10 points in your overall TOEFL score for each month that you study.
  • Only choose a TOEFL speaking course if you have already met your subtotal requirements in the reading, listening, and writing sections.
  • Pay attention to the speaking feedback you get and practice all the lessons that the speaking specialist recommends.
  • Send 2-5 independent and integrated speaking practice tests to your speaking specialist every week. The more you complete, the more feedback you get!
  • In some cases, you may be scoring lower than your target score because of pronunciation issues. Make sure that you practice the pronunciation lessons that your speaking specialists recommends.
  • Only choose a writing course if you have already met your reading, listening, and speaking subtotals.
  • Send 2-5 independent and integrated writing practices to your TOEFL writing specialist each week.  The writing practice tests you complete, the more improvements you will make in your writing.

How to Pass the TOEFL iBT: Practice, Practice, and Practice

Many students purchase a TOEFL course with a personalized learning path and do not use the course. Do NOT be one of these students. Once you get your TOEFL course, you need to practice the lessons and practice tests daily for the recommended time if you want to improve. Discipline yourself to set aside time each day to practice your lessons. Your goal each week is to study a variety of TOEFL lessons. For example, you should be practicing vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, listening, reading, writing, and speaking weekly. The more you practice, the more you will improve. The more you improve, the closer you get to your target TOEFL score. To illustrate, consider two examples of students from my Online TOEFL Course.

Rava had a TOEFL writing score of 21 when he joined my course. During 2.5 months of using my course, he completed 25 independent writing practice tests and 15 integrated writing practice tests. I read, evaluated, and scored each of his practice tests. After each practice test, I recommended specific lessons to help him improve. Rava diligently studied the recommended lessons and continued to send me his writing practice. My best estimate is that Rava spent close to 100 hours practicing his writing.  As a result of his practice,  Rava scored 29/30 points on the writing section of the TOEFL iBT.

In the same manner, Khalid had not reached his subtotal score of 26 on the speaking section of the TOEFL exam.  Over an eight month period, he completed more than 266 independent and integrated speaking practice tests. Each time he sent me a speaking practice test I gave him about 8 minutes of audio feedback.  My feedback consisted of delivery, language-use, and topic development comments. I recommended specific lessons to help him improve. He studied the lessons and continued to practice his speaking daily. Finally, after more than 266 speaking practice tests,  2168 minutes of feedback, and more than 350 hours of study and practice, Khalid scored 26/30 points on the speaking section.

If you want to succeed like these two students, you must practice and never give up until you reach your desired TOEFL score.

How to Pass the TOEFL iBT: Pay attention to the pronunciation, speaking, and writing feedback

During your TOEFL journey, you will experience many obstacles.  These difficult items will become more apparent after completing pronunciation, speaking, and writing practice exercises.  Therefore, pay close attention to the audio, video, and written feedback you get. Your speaking and writing specialists will score your practice tests using the official rubrics for the TOEFL iBT exam. The purpose of the speaking feedback back is to help correct pronunciation, language-use, and topic development problems. As a result, make sure that you review the recommended lessons.

Similarly, the purpose of the writing feedback is to help you see how well you responded to the writing tasks. Also, your feedback from your writing specialist will help you see the organization, development, and language use problems in your writing. Thus, review any recommended lessons before your next practice test, and use the feedback you got to improve your writing on the next practice test.

How to Pass the TOEFL iBT: Take a final full-length four hour practice test

Once you have completed your TOEFL course, you should take one final full-length TOEFL practice test to see how close you are to your overall score and subtotal scores.  Discuss your practice test score report with your TOEFL specialist by e-mail. If both of you agree, then register to take the official TOEFL iBT exam.

This article is written by Michael Buckhoff, the founder, owner, and materials writer for the Online TOEFL Course “The 7-Step System to Pass the TOEFL iBT.”

You can contact him at






1 thought on “How to Pass the TOEFL iBT”

  1. Pingback: TOEFL Writing Practice to Help You Score 24+ - Better TOEFL Scores Blog

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