One of the most frequent questions TOEFL teachers get from students concerns how much time it will take to get a desired TOEFL score. There is no easy answer for this question because it depends on several factors:

  • The Student’s Level and Target Score:  Students planning on going to a community college in the United States typically need a score ranging from 45 to 60. If the student starts studying for the TOEFL at a solid intermediate to high-intermediate level, then this score can usually be reached in three months of full-time study in a TOEFL course. Full-time in the United States is 18 hours a week (before homework). However, four-year colleges and universities typically require a score ranging from 80 to 90. If an intermediate or high-intermediate student needs a higher score, it could take from six to nine months of full-time study in a TOEFL course to achieve the desired score.
  • The Student’s Commitment:  Student commitment and motivation are essential when studying in a TOEFL course. Students must have a clear goal (or TOEFL score) in mind and a plan on how to achieve that goal. This means joining a TOEFL course either in person or online and spending at least three to four hours per day, five days per week, studying strategies for the test and practicing the different question types. Like anything else in life, students must put in the time and actively study to get their desired score.

When students are planning on studying abroad and attending a college or university, they must take an honest look at themselves and their abilities. To start with, if a student is a “weak” intermediate level, meaning they are new to the level and still cannot do everything required of an intermediate level student, then he or she should consider taking ESL classes and becoming more fluent before studying in a TOEFL class. One key factor in a student’s lack of motivation is when he or she enters TOEFL too early (at a lower level) and cannot keep up with the amount of work required in the class. It is important to have a solid foundation and knowledge of English, particularly vocabulary and grammar, before enrolling in a TOEFL course.

The good news is if a student starts at the right level, has a clear idea of what score is needed, and puts in the time required to study for the TOEFL test, then he or she can generally estimate how much time it will take to obtain their desired TOEFL score.