How hard is to get a TOEFL IBT score of 80?


TOEFL is a test for measuring English proficiency sponsored by the American educational testing institution ETS. When taking an examination at an English-speaking graduate school, a TOEFL score of "80 points" is often required to prove your English proficiency. However, since it is a test that is less familiar in Japan than TOEIC and Eiken, some people may not be able to tell how much English ability a "80 score" shows. Therefore, in this article, I will explain in detail how difficult the TOEFL score is. We will also touch on recommended study methods and reference books, so if you are preparing to take the TOEFL exam, please refer to it.

How good is your English ability with a TOEFL score of 80?

TOEFL is divided into 4 sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing, each of which is rated on a 5-point scale and converted to 0-30 points. The total score is the sum of them. If you simply score 20 points in each section, your overall score will be 80 points, but how difficult is that? Let's take a closer look below.

Difficulty of TOEFL 80 points from the average TOEFL score and score distribution

According to official data from ETS, which hosts the test, the average overall score for 2020 for native Japanese speakers is 74 points. Speaking is 17 points, and the other 3 sections are 19 points. If you want to get 80 points, you need a above average score in each section.

However, it should be noted that this score is the average of Japanese people who have received TOEFL. Since TOEFL is not as common in Japan as TOEIC and Eiken, it is presumed that candidates are particularly motivated to learn English and have high English proficiency. Among them, it is above the average score, so it can be considered that intermediate and advanced English proficiency is required.

Source: TOEFL iBT Test and Score Data2020 ETS

How do you compare the English ability of TOEFL 80 points with TOEIC and Eiken?

Compared to TOEIC and Eiken, which are more popular as English qualification tests, TOEFL 80 points are said to be around 900 for TOEIC and quasi 1st grade for Eiken. However, all test formats are different, so consider it as a guide only.

According to the comparison table of each qualification released by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in 2018, a person with a TOEFL score of 80 is an "independent language user". It is defined as a level where you can have a step-by-step discussion about your area of expertise and have a natural conversation with a native speaker, so you can say that you have a very high level of English proficiency.

Reference: Comparison table between each qualification / certification test and CEFR | Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology

What are the learning points to get a TOEFL score of 80?

Now that you know how high the TOEFL score is, let's take a closer look at how to learn. In order to get a high score, it is necessary not only to improve your English skills, but also to prepare for the TOEFL test format. Let's hold down the points of learning for each section.

Reading section

In the reading section, 3-4 questions will be given for passages of about 700 words. It's so voluminous that the key is how to read "fast" and "accurately". First, eliminate any ambiguities about grammatical matters, and then improve your vocabulary as much as possible.

You should be able to study efficiently if you use vocabulary books and grammar books for TOEFL measures. In addition to studying with reference books, we also recommend reading English newspapers carefully. It is a good practice for TOEFL reading because it has a lot of sentences and many academic contents such as politics, economy, and science.

Listening section

Most listening questions are given in conversational or lecture-style audio. There are many situations that assume university life, such as university lectures and dormitory life orientation, and you will often come across words that you cannot hear. The important thing is to "understand the content of the story." Even if you have one or two words you don't know, if you can understand the whole flow without being particular about them, you will be more likely to answer the question.

As a learning method, first listen to the listening audio and then try to summarize the contents in your own words. If you try to solve the problem based on that, you can clearly see how much your understanding is.

Speaking section

Speaking is something that many Japanese test takers are not good at. Speaking is graded from three perspectives: "pronunciation / delivery", "vocabulary / language use", and "topic development". It is not just a matter of speaking correct English, but the quality of the content is also subject to evaluation, so it is good to learn and train in a logical story development pattern.

When practicing, be sure to record your own voice. It will lead to a brush-up by listening and looking back later. If you have a native speaker or someone who can speak English around you, it is also an effective way to have that person correct it. If you don't have someone close to you, we recommend taking an online English conversation lesson to practice speaking.

Writing section

There are two types of problems in writing: Independent task and Integrated task. The former is a writing-specific problem, and the latter is a comprehensive problem that combines reading and listening.

A stand-alone problem is a problem of expressing one's opinion on a topic. Present your claim and three grounds to support it, and be conscious of answering by summarizing the claim with a conclusion. Also, if you meet a certain number of words, you can expect to get a certain number of points, so you should be aware of securing the amount of sentences.

In the integrated type, the usual pattern is to read sentences that disagree with the content of the listening and summarize the content in the answer. As for the answer, there is a fixed flow of first making a claim and giving three reasons to reinforce it, so let's practice so that you can write a sentence that matches it.

Recommended reference book for those who aim for TOEFL 80 points

Finally, I would like to introduce a recommended reference book for TOEFL measures. There are various types of reference books, such as those that support all sections and those that are specialized in a certain field, so check the contents and choose a reference book that you can continue to study.

Official Guide to the TOEFL iBT Test

This is a collection of all ETS-approved questions written in English that sponsors the TOEFL. Contains 4 sets of practical questions. You will find explanations of scoring points in each of the reading, listening, speaking, and writing sections, as well as sample questions. You can cover all the problems with this one book.

Book title The Official Guide to the TOEFL iBT Test
Recommended level Beginner-Intermediate-Advanced
author Education Testing Service
the publisher MCGRAW-HILL
Price (tax included) 4,770 yen

Overall Measures: Revised New Edition Introduction to the Strongest TOEFL iBT

This reference book also covers all four sections. The author is an English teacher who has been teaching TOEFL for many years at a study abroad prep school, and this book explains how to efficiently improve the TOEFL score. The feature is that it does not just solve the problem, but proposes more specific "methods to improve points" such as how to take notes that lead to points. There are also level-specific explanations in each section, so you can study at your own pace.

Book title Revised New Edition Introduction to the Strongest TOEFL iBT
Recommended level Beginner
author Masako Uehara
the publisher Cosmopia
Price (tax included) 2,420 yen

Words: TOEFL test English words 3800

This is a collection of carefully selected TOEFL frequently used English words, and is divided into RANK 1 to 4 according to the difficulty level. It is also a big feature that words are organized by fields such as "anthropology" and "biology" according to the TOEFL question format where many academic words are asked. You can learn not only the meaning of words but also the background knowledge of each field, so you will be able to learn efficiently.

Book title TOEFL test English words 3800
Recommended level Beginner-Intermediate-Advanced
author Kanbe Takashi
the publisher Obunsha
Price (tax included) 2,530 yen

Reading Measures: TOEFL Test Reading Problem 270

It is divided into hands-on and exercise chapters, and in the exercises you can work on short passages divided into 17 fields such as "culture" and "medicine". Even those who are not accustomed to reading problems with a lot of volume can expect to gradually improve by completing the exercises.

Book title TOEFL test reading question 270
Recommended level Beginner
author Makiko Tanaka
the publisher Obunsha
Price (tax included) 2,310 yen

Listening measures: TOEFL iBT® TEST The essence of listening

"TOEFL iBT® TEST Listening Essence" is a reference book that brings the question format and difficulty level as close as possible to the actual TOEFL listening test. We are approaching TOEFL measures from all angles, such as not only improving listening skills but also taking notes that can be hints for solving problems. There are also countermeasure books for each section in the same series, so it is recommended to use them together.

Book title TOEFL iBT® TEST The essence of listening
Recommended level Intermediate to advanced
author Z-kai editorial department
the publisher Z-kai
Price (tax included) 2,640 yen

Speaking / Writing Measures: Complete Strategy! TOEFL iBT Test Speaking Writing

This is a collection of questions by authors who have a lot of experience teaching TOEFL. It is a book that you can learn to get a high score by speaking and writing. After solving the problem as a skill test, you can thoroughly train each skill by reading the explanation, understanding the "strategy method", and confirming the ability acquired in the finishing mock test. It is also important to have a complete list of vocabulary with audio at the end of the book and a collection of phrases useful for speaking and writing.

Book title Complete capture! TOEFL iBT test speaking writing
Recommended level Intermediate to advanced
author Kochev Alexander
the publisher ALC
Price (tax included) 3,080 yen

Speaking / Writing Measures: TOEFL iBT Test Required Phrase 100

This is a recommended reference book for those who want to take more practical speaking / writing measures for TOEFL. With 100 easy-to-use phrases and English expressions in the TOEFL test, you can acquire the knowledge necessary to speak and write logically. The feature of this reference book is that it also gives "bad examples". I will give an example sentence that does not increase the score and explain where the problem is and how to improve it, so you can learn while comparing it with your own sentence.

Book title TOEFL iBT test compulsory phrase 100
Recommended level Beginner-Intermediate-Advanced
author Eiko Suzuki
the publisher Teyes Planning
Price (tax included) 2,420 yen