How International Students Can Get Into an American University with Low TOFEL Scores

The term TOEFL stands for ‘Test of English as a Foreign Languages’.  The TOEFL exam is used to evaluate the ability of a prospective student to use and understand English in an academic setting.

TOEFL is an admission requirement for non-native English speakers wishing to study at a university in the United States. The test evaluates listening, reading, speaking and writing skills through various academic tasks.

What Type of Content is on the TOEFL Exam?

The TOEFL test is divided into four parts:

  • Reading: The reading section is comprised of questions that are based on three or four passages drawn from academic texts. This section takes 60 – 80 minutes to complete.
  • Listening: The section has questions that are based on an audio recording of lectures, classroom discussions, and conversions. The section takes you roughly 60 – 90 minutes to complete.
  • Speaking: The speaking section involves six tasks that require candidates to talk about a familiar topic, in addition to issues relating to the material from the reading and listening sections of the exam. This section takes approximately 20 minutes to complete.
  • Writing: The prospective student is required to write two essays. The first essay is based on the topic introduced in the reading and listening sections. The second essay requires the student to express and support an opinion. This section takes close to one hour to complete.


The exam is worth 120 points (each section is valued as 30% of the total score).

What is the Minimum TOEFL Score for Admission to Academic Institutions?

International students applying for college admission are required a minimum score of 79 points.  Each university states the necessary score required for admissions on their international admissions.

What if One Attains a Low TOEFL Score?

There are various ways an international student can get into an American university with low TOEFL scores.

  1. Apply to an American university that does not require the TOEFL for admission. 

Students attempting to apply for admission with low (or no) TOEFL scores must register for an Intensive English Language Program.  The Intensive English Language Program is a university preparatory language program that teaches skills in reading, writing, listening, speaking, vocabulary, culture, grammar, and pronunciation. A student who passes this exam will be admitted. Some universities require students to re-take the TOEFL after completing their IELP course with the university.

Some of the universities in the U.S. that do not require TOEFL for administration include:

  1. Attain Unconditional Admission

For admission using this strategy, the university admissions committee must review the prospective student’s credentials.  The committee reviews: academic score, English fluency in the statement of purpose, score in their English courses as well as GRE score. If the admission committee feels that the applicant has proficiency in English, they may grant unconditional admission.

The TOEFL test requirement is waved for a foreign student who has earned a high school diploma from an accredited American high school, college or university.

  1. Conditional Admission

If the admission committee concludes that the prospective student does not have the required English skills, they may grant the applicant a conditional admission. Conditional admission allows the applicant to retake the TOEFL exam at a later date, as a way to improve their score and get their conditional admissions status waived.

California College Bound is a worthy partner in your search for your American degree. Reach out to us for more information on how to realize your big dreams of studying in America.

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