How many TOEFL exams should I take before the application deadline and can I ask for a fee waiver?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

How many TOEFL exams should I take before the application deadline and can I ask for a fee waiver?

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps


TOEFL is a test of English proficiency administered by the Educational Testing Service. It is given online as the TOEFL iBT, but there is also a version called the TOEFL PBT. Prospective test takers need to check with their location to see which version is available. You may test an unlimited amount of times without penalty, and there is no passing or failing score. Students should look into what score their target colleges are looking for in order to make a sound decision about retaking the test. Regarding fees, there is a fee reduction service, but that is intended for students residing in the United States who plan to take the test. These students receive vouchers, but they must be seniors in high school and can only use the voucher one time.

Kristina Dooley
Independent Educational Consultant Estrela Consulting

TOEFL Exams and Fee Reduction Waivers

The number of times a nonnative English speaking student should take the TOEFL depends on the individual student. Many students take the exam just once or twice...similar to the number of times a student would sit for an ACT or SAT. Since the exam measures your level of English comprehension, it is important to remember that if you take the exam more than once, you should have had a substantial amount of time to improve your skills between exams. Also, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) recommends you take the TOEFL at least 2-3 months before any college application deadlines so that your score reports are ready in time. As for a fee waiver, ETS does offer a "Fee Reduction Service" to high school seniors studying in the U.S. who meet certain criteria for financial need. More information can be found on the ETS website:

Annie Reznik
Counselor/CEO College Guidance Coach


The TOEFL examination is used to determine a student's language proficiency. It should not be used to determine a candidate's potential for academic success at a given institution. Therefore, you should determine the minimum score needed to demonstrate proficiency and prepare and take the TOEFL until that level is satisfied. Unlike the SAT, an above average score won't be a plus factor for admission. If you do not meet the minimum score to satisfy proficiency requirements, don't be discouraged. Some schools (University of Maryland for one) offer semi-intensive English instruction alongside collegiate coursework for students still needing support for proficiency. As for a fee waiver, domestic students should seek one from their high school counselor. Students who will need an F1 visa for matriculation are unlikely to receive a fee waiver for the TOEFL.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services


Ideally you should take it one time and try to score above a 100 for the most competitive schools. There is no limit to the number of times you can take it but you will pay the fee for each sitting. Seniors attending high school in the United States who are non-native speakers might be eligible for a one-time reduced fee depending on their demonstrated need. This does not count for foreign exchange students. Go to the TOEFL site for details.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

How many TOEFL exams should I take before the application deadline and can I ask for a fee waiver?

You may take as many TOEFL exams as you wish, but try to make sure you prepare wisely as you don't want to waste time and money taking exams for which you are ill-prepared. If you are a college bound non-native English speaker and a high school senior, you may be eligible for a fee waiver if you meet certain other financial requirements. Please check out the ETS site here for more information:

Tyler Burton
President Burton College Tours

It depends

Students may sit for the TOFEL as many times as they wish to increase their score. A score is considered valid for two years from the test date. I recommend that students compare their TOEFL scores to that of the admissions requirements of schools that they are considering as good fit schools. If a student has a TOEFL score that is a good match with the schools that they are applying to then they should stop taking the exam. International students who attend a high school in the US and who are required to take the TOFEL to apply to an American college or university may apply for a fee waiver. The eligibility of a TOFEL fee waiver is determined by economic need and not by merit.

David Allen
Managing Director Global College Counselors Ltd

Once or twice

I'd say a couple of times is the most to try it - once to get a feel for the type of questions and how to prepare and then again to try and improve your score. Ask for the fee waiver only if you qualify.

Nicholas Umphrey

How many TOEFL exams should I take before the application deadline and can I ask for a fee waiver?

The TOEFL is a different exam than most college admissions exams in that your most recent score is the score that is honored. Unlike the SAT or ACT where the highest score is honored in multiple tries. Thus, take the TOEFL when you feel like you have a good command of the English language. As a rule of thumb, most tests are worth taking 2 times. Fee waivers are available to those with financial need.

Shannon Brady
Academic & College Counselor Brady College Counseling


Plan to take the TOEFL test two to three months before your earliest application deadline so your scores arrive at your institutions in time. Find application deadlines by checking the institution's website. You can get a fee reduction, not a fee waiver.

Woodrow Dunn
Academic Counselor Freedom High School

How many TOEFL exams should I take?

I would refrain from taking the TOEFL more than twice and certainly not more than three times, as it will not look good with your application information.