TOEFL Speaking Score of 26

Many students seek a TOEFL speaking score of 26. Some want to earn PhD degrees; others want to become teaching assistants. A large part of these students seeking a TOEFL speaking score of 26 want to work in the employment industry. Dina, who was recently one of my STEALTH students, needed a TOEFL speaking score of 26 in order to clear her pharmacy credentials.

TOEFL Speaking Score of 26
TOEFL Speaking Score of 26

TOEFL Speaking Score of 26: Dina’s Background

Born and raised in  Pakistan, Dina and her family moved to the United States for a better life. She was sad to leave her parents, but she was excited to be able to start a new life with her husband and her two children. Dina’s mom was a pharmacist in her native country and had saved money for years so that her Dina could attend college in the United States. Her mother had supported Dina during her undergraduate and graduate study. Because of her mom, Dina was almost ready to become a full-time pharmacist in the United States. All she had to do was to clear her pharmacy credential reaching these TOEFL subtotal scores:

  • Reading: 22
  • Listening: 21
  • Speaking: 26
  • Writing: 24

A score of 93 will put Dina in to the 68%. Only 32% of those seeking professional licenses score higher than this. Her listening subtotal requirement of 21 will put her in the 42%.   More than 58% of all test-takers seeking professional licenses reach this score.  Reaching the reading subtotal score of 22 will rank Dina at 49%. Therefore,  about 51% of test-takers wanting licenses obtain this score.

However, to reach a score of 26 on the speaking section, Dina will need to be in  the 84%, with only 16% of test-takers ever reaching this score.  In addition, scoring 24 on the writing section will rank Dina at 72%. As a result, 28% of test-takers reach this level.   Based on these data, here is what Dina needs to do:

  • Reading score of 22%: Bottom 49%
  • Listening score of 21%: Bottom 42%
  • Speaking score of 26: Top 16%
  • Writing score of 24: Top 28%

From these data, Dina will have a very difficult time reaching her speaking subtotal score based on these statistics.

TOEFL Speaking Score of 26: Multiple TOEFL Exams

  1. Dina took many courses in English for almost 8 years. Therefore, she thought it should be relatively easy to reach her desired marks.  On her first try, she scored with the following subtotals: R = 22, L= 21, S=24, and W=25.
  2. Dina wasn’t too frustrated with her overall scores. She decided to practice  using TOEFL Practice Online (TPO) for a couple of weeks.  On her second try, she scored the following: R = 21, L= 21, S=26, and W=25. This time she grew a little frustrated because she reached her desired speaking score. However, her reading subtotal score was too low. “Why can’t ETS allow her to combine subtotal scores for different tests?” Dina wondered.
  3. Dina bought some TOEFL preparation books from ETS online and studied so that she could stabilize her reading and listening scores a bit.  After about three weeks of practice, Dina felt more comfortable and registered to take the TOEFL exam again. This would be the third time. She boosted her reading and  listening scores to 25.  She scored well on the writing with 27. However, she was shocked with she saw her speaking score of 24. Since she had scored speaking 26 on her second TOEFL exam, Dina thought she would get a similar score this time. “Why is this happening to me?” Dina thought to herself.

TOEFL speaking score of 26: Motivation + Attitude

Though it all, Dina remembered what a  friend had told her many years ago.  Remember P.A.C.E: Positive Attitude Changes Everything. Consequently, Dina decided to register for Magoosh TOEFL for one month.  She knew she would reach her goal soon.  Shen went through all the lessons. She especially paid attention to the speaking lessons.  A month later, she retook the TOEFL for a fourth time and met all her requirements except for her speaking score, which was 24….again! Dina could not understand why her score was 24. She had already gotten 26 the second time she took the TOEFL. Why could she not reach this score again.

TOEFL speaking score of 26: Perseverance

Unhappy with her situation, Dina decided to hire a TOEFL tutor. She found an inexpensive course managed and taught by Michael Buckhoff. Buckhoff is the founder, owner, and materials writer for STEALTH. The course only cost $45  a month. Moreover, Dina was allowed to send speaking practice to Michael every day by e-mail.  Michael would listen to her responses and correct her pronunciation, language-use, and topic development.  At first, it was not very comfortable to have someone else point out all her errors; however, after a month or so, she began to speak much more fluently. She improved her word stress. She remembered to pronounce her syllables and grammatical word endings.  She even began putting some emotion into her practice tests, which helped her to improve her intonation.  In effect, Dina realized that she was improving her pronunciation because of the feedback her TOEFL mentor was giving her.

TOEFL speaking score of 26: Is this what they call TOEFL hell?

Therefore, she persevered and diligently studied the pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and speaking lessons that her speaking mentor had recommended.  Feeling confident, she re-took the TOEFL for the fifth time, this time reaching all her subtotal scores except for writing: R=22, L=25, S=26, and W=22.  Writing had never been a problem on any previous TOEFL exam.  Hence, she could not understand why her writing subtotal score was so low.  Dina, at the advice of her mentor, decided to ask to have her writing section reviewed.  After two weeks, she got an email telling her that her writing score remained at 22. This was a very hard pill to swallow.  Michael and Dina were disappointed. Is this what some students refer to as TOEFL hell?


Nonetheless, Dina continued to send speaking practice to her TOEFL mentor, reviewed the writing section of the course, and even sent some independent and integrated writing practice tests to be scored.  She wanted to get some writing feedback from her TOEFL mentor before she re-took the TOEFL exam.  Against all odds, Dina kept her head high. These failures would not prevent her from becoming a pharmacist. Dina knew she would beat the TOEFL exam. It was only a matter of time.

overcoming TOEFL adversity
overcoming TOEFL adversity

TOEFL speaking score of 26: The 6th TOEFL iBT

After a good month of practice, Dina registered to take the TOEFL exam for the sixth time. Like other occasions, Dina felt confident.  She could answer most questions during the reading and listening sections. She had no brain farts during the six speaking tasks. As a result, she was able to address all speaking tasks in a coherent and developed way.  Her integrated writing task was complete, accurate, and polished.  Dina relied on some specific personal experiences to help her respond to the independent speaking task.  Thus, her response was nicely organized and developed.

TOEFL speaking score of 26: Goal accomplished!

Waiting to get her results from her sixth TOEFL exam was perhaps the longest 3 weeks of Dina’s life. Finally, the email came and the results spoke volumes about Dina’s tenacity: (99) R=26, L= 22, S=27, and W=24.  Working with her TOEFL mentor, she had sent more than 200 independent and integrated speaking practice tests; most of them came from TOEFL Practice Test Online  (TPO). It had taken her more than 6 agonizing months.  Frustration, anxiety, sadness, anger, impatience, restlessness, animosity, distrust, hatred, bitterness, self-pity: These words describe Dina’s emotions during her TOEFL journey.  However, now that she had conquered the TOEFL and had cleared her TOEFL credential to become a practicing pharmacist in the United States, all of the negative feelings were replaced by positive words: joy, happiness, ecstasy, pleasure, satisfaction, delight, glee, pride, gladness,  and rejoicing.

Moments after learning her score, Dina sent the following message to her TOEFL mentor Michael Buckhoff:


Today I have good news to tell you, I passed Toefl with scores 26,22,27,24. I am really thankful for all the support and motivation that you gave me, you are an amazing teacher honestly. I would not cancel my account, because my husband just starts his journey with Toefl and he will use my account under name O. iF YOU DO NOT MIND.



Michael was just as delighted as Dina was to hear her good news. Together Dina and Michael had spent hours, hours, and hours sending each other e-mails. Dina would record her practice tests, and Michael would e-mail his comments back to her.  They had both worked very hard. Finally, Dina was able to finish her TOEFL journey and move on with her life.  Michael could be any happier, so he sent her the following video:

Remember Dina’s story if you are not finished with your TOEFL journey yet.  Stay the course. Keep focused. Refuse to give up.  Be consistent and practice until you reach your desired target score and subtotal scores. You will reach your goal. Believe.

Good luck to everyone who is preparing for the TOEFL exam!

Michael Buckhoff,







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