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High TOEFL score of 116/120, is it useless?


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As a non-native English speaker, my TOEFL Scores are: Reading 29, Listening 27, Speaking 30, and Writing 30; Total of 116/120.

 

That's a good score, but I was thinking it is practically useless. I'm applying for Computer Science doctoral programs (no ivy league or other top 20 programs). The universities that I'm applying to require a minimum TOEFL score of 80--and 90-100 is expected if you're expecting to be awarded Teaching Assistantship. I do need a TA, so I guess it might help there.

 

I wanted to know if the good folks here at Gradcafe think that these high scores would "impress" the admissions committee in any way, and exactly how and where can a TOEFL score help during admissions. Thanks!

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I think they are impressive. There's this misconception that scientists don't have to have good writing skills. It's not true. We go to conferences, write grant proposals, teach, etc. I mean it might be expected that an English major writes better than a science major, but having a great TOEFL would be seen as a plus in my opinion. That way, possible POIs won't have to worry about your communication skills, which are incredibly important in science.

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Thanks. Also, I can see my TOEFL scores online but they are yet to be 'processed' and sent to the universities. Now, one of the universities that I'm applying to says "We only accept electronic copies of the TOEFL score report". I just selected the 4 universities where my scores are to be sent, and have no idea whether ETS will send these scores electronically or in hard copy. Can anyone tell me if this university with receive these TOEFL scores "electronically" like it wants? I hope TOEFL doesn't send them the hard copy or something. I'm already way past the deadline. 

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NYU doesn't require TOEFL if your undergraduate teaching was in English, and I mailed them to confirm this.

In the reply , they said that if I do have a good score (they defined that as >110), I should include it in my application as it "may help."

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Thanks. Also, I can see my TOEFL scores online but they are yet to be 'processed' and sent to the universities. Now, one of the universities that I'm applying to says "We only accept electronic copies of the TOEFL score report". I just selected the 4 universities where my scores are to be sent, and have no idea whether ETS will send these scores electronically or in hard copy. Can anyone tell me if this university with receive these TOEFL scores "electronically" like it wants? I hope TOEFL doesn't send them the hard copy or something. I'm already way past the deadline. 

 

I'd suggest contacting both the TOEFL folks and the department to ask. It's always better to get all the info you can, when in doubt.

 

Other than that, I think a high score only helps a little, e.g. if they're comparing you with other international students with a less-than-great command of English. They have other (better) measures to assess your writing (mostly the writing sample). 

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I'd suggest contacting both the TOEFL folks and the department to ask. It's always better to get all the info you can, when in doubt.

 

Other than that, I think a high score only helps a little, e.g. if they're comparing you with other international students with a less-than-great command of English. They have other (better) measures to assess your writing (mostly the personal statement). 

 

CS is a field without writing samples so the personal statement is the best writing measure then.

 

A 116 is not necessarily more attractive than a 90-100...

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CS is a field without writing samples so the personal statement is the best writing measure then.

 

A 116 is not necessarily more attractive than a 90-100...

 

No, not necessarily. I don't think anyone should take these standardized tests results too seriously. :) But roughly, without taking other application aspects into consideration, a 116 leaves less reason to doubt one's proficiency than a 90-100.

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Congrats on a great score! 

 

In STEM fields, I would say that TOEFL and General GRE scores are evaluated more at the "minimum" level than the "competitive" level. That is, if your score is above the minimum/cutoff, the advantage you get from a higher score is only minimal. But of course, having a great score can never hurt you, so congratulations! :)

 

In my opinion, schools should never competitively evaluate candidates based on English speaking/comprehension/writing ability. Obviously, you must be minimally proficient in order to attend the school, so they should have minimum TOEFL/other test scores. However, I do believe the practice of favouring a candidate who speaks perfect English over a candidate who knows the minimum amount of English to succeed at the school is discriminatory. That is, if a school wants to only work with candidates of a certain English ability, they should set this as their minimum proficiency. 

 

In addition, I also think it is discriminatory for a school to set something like 85/120 to be the minimum English ability to attend the school but 100/120 to be the minimum to do TA work other than grading. For programs that are typically funded by "human contact" TA work, the program should set the same minimum for acceptance as they do for TA eligibility. Otherwise, they are accepting students with either the intention of giving them work that is at a lower level than their peers, or they are accepting students knowing that they are not eligible for most of the TA positions and thus might not be able to fund them. I know that at most Canadian schools, this "two tier" system is abolished and a student's ability to speak English is not considered when assigning TA positions. 

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