What Score Do You Need on the TOEFL?

If you’re an international student applying to the U.S., you’ve probably asked yourself this question: what TOEFL score do I need to get in? You might have heard that making it to the 100’s will guarantee you admission, but you’ve also had friends who reached that score and were turned down from schools. Confused yet? We’d be too!

But before you give up hope, our friends at Magoosh TOEFL have good news for you! They’ve just released a new infographic that shows what TOEFL sores you’ll need to get into top graduate schools in the U.S. It’s based off their research on the minimum scores required at top schools as well as what other students at those schools score on average. That means you now have a place to start and a goal to aim for when you decide to take the TOEFL. Cue sigh of relief!

TOEFL Scores Infographic


What if I Need to Retake the SAT?

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SAT: Take 2 (or 3 or 4)

Some treat taking the SAT over again as though it were the same thing as walking down the aisle to take one’s marriage vows for the second time. If stigma should be attached anywhere, it should be on not re-taking the SAT—a second time, third time, and a fourth time. I’m not saying become an SAT test-taking junkie. Rather, you should feel utterly at ease with retaking the SAT. Here’s why!

1. Colleges only see the scores you decide to send them

The colleges aren’t like Big Brother (the all-knowing presence from Orwell’s 1984). That is, they won’t know your scores unless you submit them. You have the option of doing so, for free, during the test. However, you can also send them any time after the test (for a small fee). Unless, you send a specific college your score report, it will never know what you got.

2. You can send your best score in any one section

You can pick and choose your best performance, section-wise, from any test. So your total score can come from as many as three different tests.

Let’s say you scored 750 in math and were surprised at how well you did. However, you bombed the verbal because you didn’t study vocab. For the next test, you go into agro vocab mode and you end up with an amazing 680 on verbal (but you end up doing not so well on math and writing). On a third take you could just focus on the writing section and essay so as to get your best score. If you don’t do so well on the third test, take it again.

3. Knowing that you can retake the SAT multiple times should make it less stressful

All of this is good news because it makes taking the SAT much less stressful. So even if you think taking the test four times is ludicrous, because, hey, you have better things to do with your Saturday, that’s fine. Knowing that you can retake the test will, if nothing else, make the experience a little less stressful.

4. Just because you take the SAT again doesn’t mean you’ll do better

It’s important to note that taking the SAT again doesn’t mean you’re going to score better. Only retake the test if you feel you’ve prepped more than before and are going into the test with more knowledge and better strategies. You might also want to use different prep materials than you did the first time around. For suggestions, check out the Magoosh book reviews in our SAT eBook.

5. There is more to life than taking the SAT

For those of you at the very other end of the spectrum—those who know you can and should retake the test—don’t keep doing so just for those extra few points. There are other things that colleges look at—things you could be doing instead of learning more esoteric SAT vocabulary (do you really need to know the difference between the words “venal” and “venial”?). Volunteering at a hospital, working on that special talent, or studying for one of the SAT subject tests (I know—it’s hard to truly get away from the SAT) might make you seem a little more well-rounded.

Download 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid to learn how to eliminate the most common flaws in your application essays.

Magoosh SAT This post was written by Chris Lele, resident SAT expert at Magoosh. For more advice on SAT prep, check out Magoosh’s SAT blog.

ACT, SAT, PSAT…What’s the Difference?

Applying to college? Make sure your application essays don't contain any of the 5 fatal flaws!

One of the most important elements of every standardized test you’ll ever take is the time pressure.

When we compare standardized tests to each other, there are usually two points of view that people take: either they’re all the same, or you have to prepare for each one separately. The truth—surprise, surprise—is actually somewhere between those two ideas. But that’s boring to write about (who actually likes compromising, anyway?), so I’m not going to. Instead, I’m going to argue a point that might be a bit surprising coming from a test prep tutor. It’s one that I don’t wholly believe, to be fair, but it’s worth consideration.

All Standardized Tests Are Basically the Same

That’s right. You can talk about the SAT vs. ACT or the PSAT vs. SAT all you want—how the ACT math involves harder topics, how the SAT cares more about rare vocabulary words, etc.—and decide to take one or the other based on your preferences, but you’d really be talking about small differences and ignoring the enormous similarities between the two. Nobody ever lists the ways the two tests are similar, but maybe they should.

The Content Is the Same

No matter which test you’re looking at, it includes math, reading comprehension, grammar, and an essay. Every test includes at least something more than those four subject, and if you start looking outside of the high-school level tests, some don’t include all four, but still, they’re are at the heart of the PSAT, SAT, and ACT. Come to think of it, reading comprehension is actually on every single test I know of, including the dental school admissions test (there’s a test for everything, you know).

But those are pretty broad terms, right? After all, “math” can mean addition or it can mean integral calculus. So you might think that the specifics of each test can be pretty drastically different, but they aren’t. For example, most tests’ math sections, including the SAT and ACT, focus pretty heavily on number properties, algebra, basic geometry, and data analysis. Even if there’s a sprinkling of trigonometry or a dash of combinatorics, the real meat of a math section will based on the fundamentals. And the other broad subjects, such as reading comprehension, are also built on common sets of underlying skills.

The Format Is the Same

Because every standardized test is taken by many, many people, they can’t all be graded by hand. And computer grading means, pretty much without fail, multiple choice questions.

So it’s not only the content of the tests, but also the format. There are only so many ways you can ask a grammar question in multiple choice form. One of the easiest is to highlight a section of text with an error, then give some possible ways to correct that error. The PSAT, SAT, and ACT all have that type of question.

The fact is that most types of questions on either test are also on the other test. There aren’t that many ways to get creative when testing the same basic knowledge and skills with multiple choice questions.

The Timing Is the Same

I really can’t emphasize this one enough. One of the most important elements of every standardized test you’ll ever take is the time pressure. You know how many people say “I’m just not a great test-taker” or something similar? Well, that’s mostly about the clock. The way you react to the feeling of taking a test can hugely affect your scores. All tests bring this up in pretty much the same way. It’s not just about how good you are at math, but also about how confident you are, how calm you are, your breathing, your posture, and your focus.

Whether you score in the 50th percentile (higher than 50% of test-takers) or the 70th might be largely about based on how comfortable you are taking the test.

Back to Reality

Like I said at the start of this, they’re not really identical. There are some notable differences between the tests, sure. Don’t study only the PSAT if you’re going to take the ACT soon, of course. But on the other hand, they’re so similar in so many ways, it’d be wrong to treat them as entirely separate creatures. Most of the features of any one standardized test you take will be the same as another test you have taken or will take one day. And that’s a good thing, actually, because we get better at taking them with experience.

Download 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid to learn how to eliminate the most common flaws in your application essays.

Magoosh SAT This post was written by Lucas Fink, resident SAT expert at Magoosh. For more advice on SAT prep, check out Magoosh’s SAT blog.

Why You Don’t Need a Perfect GRE Score

Are you considering grad school and wondering where to start?

Anyone up for a climb?

Few things have the cachet of a perfect GRE score. Climbing Mt. Everest, and a perfect GMAT score come to mind. All amazing feats, ones in which you may be tempted to rest on your laurels. Yet, that perfect GRE score won’t open the door to every graduate program. Conversely, a score in the 330+ range can only help to get you into a top program (there is no attendant shame in falling short of perfection, as when you turn around thirty feet short of Everest’s summit).

What are schools actually looking for

Schools want a well-rounded candidate, one who has a strong GPA, excellent letters of recommendation, relevant work in the field (published papers don’t hurt!) and of course a competitive GRE score. Spending an extra month of study just so you make sure you can nail a perfect 170 on both the GRE math and the GRE verbal section takes away time that you could be working on other elements of your transcript. Again, being well-rounded trumps getting a perfect GRE score.

Average scores per programs

It may surprise you to learn that the average GRE scores for Ivy League schools are not all in the stratosphere. For instance, the average GRE quant score for Harvard engineers is 159. That means there are some Harvard bound engineers who are scoring near 150. Meanwhile, there is some math whiz with a perfect 170 on the math section who is not going to Harvard.

Does the same apply for the GMAT

For many b-school bound students, there is a raging debate: GMAT vs. GRE. If you fall into this camp, I want to make sure not to mislead you. In other words, don’t think that a perfect GMAT score can do what a perfect GRE score can’t—get you into the school of your choice. As coveted as that GMAT 800 may be, it by no means guarantees a one-way ticket to Yale or Wharton. Indeed, each year Stanford apparently turns away candidates with perfect GMAT scores.

Now that you know you don’t have to aim for a perfect score, only a very good one, you can give yourself a little bit of wiggle room. Faced with a tough triple-blank Text Completion that you just can’t wrap your head around? Guess and move on. There won’t be too many of these, and you’ll be able to relax, knowing that you don’t have to achieve perfection—just get pretty close.

Download our free report: GET YOUR GAME ON: Preparing for Your Grad School Application

magooshThis post was written by Chris Lele, resident GRE expert at Magoosh, a leader in GRE prep. For help with GRE vocabulary, check out our free flashcards and Vocab Wednesday videos on the Magoosh GRE Blog.