Why TOEFL is a money making machine and ETS doesn’t respect You

To start the new year, I will add one more Rant about the TOEFL iBT ( in addition to this rant from an Oxford scholar)  . One week before the test, I took some practice with Notefull videos . Joseph Miranda does a great job at explaining how to score well on the TOEFL iBT. The latter is not exactly measuring English skills , you have to know different kinds of tricks which are not even nearly related to English skills. My weakness is the Speaking part . My English speaking is fluent but I find it unnatural to say everything in 45 sec or 60 sec ( no more , no less). The voice is recorded and later scored by a certified ETS  rater. It is a similar to a rapper contest without the rhythm. Even in my native language ( French ), I cannot do it. I passed the test on December 5 at GLS Sprachenzentrum Berlin. Despite the training from Notefull, I knew I fucked up the speaking part.

@ets.org agents reply like robots

I received my score, 10 days later , I thought I performed better. Only 22 on writing.

I knew I could score better at reading and much more at writing ( I used the right paragraph structure according to Notefull. Wrote 350+ words for the first essay and 500+ for the 2nd => the more the higher score). Surprised , I requested  toeflsupport4germany@ets.org to see my corrected exam. Here is the template answer I received :


Thank you for contacting the TOEFL Program.

Dear Mr.,

Thank you for your email.

Please be informed that we do offer a score review service – after receiving your scores, you can request a review of the Writing section and/or the Speaking section of your TOEFL iBT® test. You have 1 month after your test date to request a review. IMPORTANT NOTE – the score review service is not available if you have already requested that your scores be sent to any institutions or agencies.

Keep in mind that you can only request only 1 score review per test administration, and there is a cost of US$80 for each section. Both sections together cost US$160.

If the review results in a change in your scores (either higher or lower), your new scores will be posted to yourTOEFL online account, and you will receive a revised test taker score report if you requested a paper copy before you took the test. The revised scores will become your official scores.

Download the Score Review Request Form at www.ets.org/toefl/ibt/scores/scoring.

Results of the score review will be posted online within 3 weeks of the receipt of your request and payment

If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us again.

Kind regards,

Agent ID: xxx
Case ID: xxxx


US$80 to request one score review ?? It is no secret that paying for an extra review will grant a higher score. Now I never asked to review, I simply requested to see my corrected test.

The  TOEFL test taker are not allowed to display parts of the exam in any public environments. So I understand their refusal to show only the reading and listening parts because they are multiple choice questions. But the answers can be so different on the writing and speaking sections. So why hide it ?

ETS agents only reply with template answer. I don’t know if these agents can properly read emails. After 5 exchanges , I am redirected to toefl@ets.org  to request a correction of my exam. Judging by the template answers the ETS agent reply , I seriously doubt they can get a B1 on the Reading.


Thank you for contacting the TOEFL Program.

Dear  ,

It’s great to hear you took the TOEFL® test!

We received your request for a score review – unfortunately, your scores can’t be reviewed because you have already requested that they be sent to at least one institution or agency.

As stated on the TOEFL website at www.ets.org/toefl/ibt/scores/scoring and on the Score Review Request Form, our policy is that scores cannot be reviewed if the test taker has selected any institution or agency as a score recipient.

Furthermore, our Score Review service is not available for the Reading or Listening sections of the TOEFL iBT® test. Those sections are scored by computer and validated by the ETS® Score Quality Control process. The Reading and Listening sections are graded and validated in several stages, and the scores can’t be put through our review process.

If you decide to take the test again to try to improve your scores, be sure to check out all the free and priced test preparation products at www.ets.org/toefl/ibt/prepare.

We’re sorry we can’t be of more help!

ETS is committed to improving your customer service experience. Please take a moment and complete a short Customer Service Survey at: http://surveys1013.websurveyor.net/wsb.dll/bfried/VOTCE.htm?WSB36=TOEFL

Thank you in advance for your participation.
Maria xxxx
Case ID xxxxx


How qualified are TOEFL examiners ?

OK by reading above , I guess I will never see my corrected essays. It is no use to waste my time . If the monkeys behind @ets.org email cannot read and answer by their own words , I don’t blame them. What about the people who score the test : writing and speaking ?  The examiners must have at least a higher command of English . I checked the requirements for the scoring job opportunities ( note this is not specific for TOEFL )

The Online Network for Evaluation (ONE) is ETS’s proprietary software application that enables Raters to score test-taker responses and/or other submitted work via secure Internet access. Raters typically score from their homes or offices, in accordance with ETS guidelines. Online scoring sessions may occasionally be conducted at regional sites.

The process for each testing program includes:


To certify and score using the ETS Online Scoring system, prospective Raters must have computer equipment that meets the minimum hardware and software requirements.

So the raters are just a bunch of people working from home. There is no need to have a bachelor, no English certification required ( TEFL certification ) . The English teachers I met in China and Germany aren’t the smartest crowd, yet they have at least a bachelor. I have nothing against them, some are very smart ( one was a former investment banker). But these guys/gals recruited by ETS have no fuck*** credentials. There is no requirements for them to speak fluent English. Just have a computer and internet connection, and you can score any TOEFL listening and writing tests. I wonder where are located the ETS scorers ?  If I were the CEO of ETS , I would put the bare minimum for all raters at least 26 out of 30 on the Writing or Speaking sections.

On top of that, ETS charges US$80 to review the speaking or writing part . My guess estimation is that it takes no more that 30 minutes to score each section. Sorry ETS ( Educational Testing Service ), I think the test takers deserve more respect from you. Especially when you charge US$245 for a 4h test in Europe. I got excellent customer service for as cheap as US$10. ETS has the monopoly of the TOEFL, it is just a lobbying and money sucking machine.

So next time, I will look at IELTS . At least the IELTS speaking part is done in the presence of an academic examiner. ETS, don’t count on me to take your GRE. I prefer the GMAT.

36 thoughts on “Why TOEFL is a money making machine and ETS doesn’t respect You

  1. Indeed TOEFL is a fraud money making game.I had issues with the score reporting,been four months and still did not recieve my report.Here I am in a position where I could not apply to three univeristies just because I did not receive my score reports.I mean seriously the ETS officials don’t even give you a tracking number or something through which you could track your report.Really disappointed with the services provided by them.They probably consider your report a worthless piece of paper,since there is no tracking mechanism aswell.i PAID FOR taking the exam and I HAVE THE RIGHT TO MY SEE/KEEP/HAVE ACCESS atleast to the ORIGINAL SCORE REPORT.It’s funny how the organization with years of service have such an absurd process.Also you cannot by yourself send the universities your report instead the TOEFL,greedy people will charge you a fee for sending the official report.My career was at stake if suppose I had not got that admit as the ONLY choice I had to go on with.This is how they earn from you provide you the worst service!
    Trust me I have gone through this and would want no one to go through the same experience.GO FOR IELTS and see for yourself ,there are plenty of sites where test takers have shared their experience of TOEFL and IELTS.i could not find many negative reviews for IELTS.They send you the scanned copy which is ACCEPTED BY UNIVERSITIES and you would save a lot of money if you’re thinking of applying to many univerisities.

  2. Would agree with many comments here. Know several raters for TOEFL Speaking and they are quite unhappy with treatment by management in receiving no raises for many many years and no benefits offered AT ALL. Do you want that scoring your test. Get shift cancellations constantly and not compensated for committing to a work schedule weeks in advance. That’s a crime!! Team morale at all time low and people looking for better jobs that offer a better package. Need changes in everything!

    • @Jay , you know several raters from Kansas ? I checked your IP address.
      Do a simple math, how many man hour is needed to correct 1 TOEFL test ? max 1h for speaking and writing.
      For the same price, I can afford an intensive German class for a month : 4 times *3h per week, 4*4*3 = 48 hours in a month for around 220 euros.
      9 students sit in the class. The company and teachers still make a decent living without any gov. support.
      The profits of ETS go deep in the pocket of the owner but not for the raters.

      Shame, Shame, Shame
      “Due to its legal status as a non-profit organization, ETS is exempt from paying federal corporate income tax on many, but not all, of its operations”


      • Yes. Basically paying close to minimum wages in some states, for such a supposedly “high stakes test.” Makes you realize what management thinks of their raters and how they value them. The raters are key cogs and equivalent to the players of a professional sports team. Without them there you got nada and a terrible product. Better treat them right if you want them to perform. There is no loyalty amongst the raters who score these tests & a very low motivation as well. A recipe for disaster!

  3. I absolutely second that, and I say that as someone who got a high score on the TOEFL. The TOEFL is a test that was whether done for you to fail as many times as possible so the ETS can profit from that, or they just don’t give a fuck about making a good test and will just let you keep talking to a machine like an idiot instead of hiring examiners to do that. That’s why I always say that if you have the chance, take the IELTS, and don’t even lose your time with the jackasses from the ETS.

    • I completely agree with you. I received my scores a few days ago just to be completely frustrated about my 89 total score, I needed 90. I have a Cambridge B2 and I’ve been learning English since 3 years old (I am 21).

      I study the 3rd year of user interface and user experience design, so I think I have quite an amount of knowledge to state the following.
      In the first place, the UX/UI design of the shitty toefl program they use at test centres can lead to serious distraction and confusion and it is intentionally designed to mislead and reduce you attention span. For instance, in the reading part where you have two columns of elements, your eyes get tired when changing between text lines so often, so your comprehension is severely affected and thus of course you won’t completely understand the text. That would not be a problem if they used an 16:9 aspect ratio instead of the obsolete 4:3 they use, so the text lines would be larger and your eyes would not have to frequently change between lines, and your brain would not waste energy trying to find where the next line starts.
      Now, the font they use isn’t the best either, it is extremely thin, which reduces percibilty. In other words, makes it harder to represent for the cheap laptops with shitty screens they use and makes it harder for you to read.

      Also, at least in Mexico, their testing conditions are just an insult to common sense. How the FUCK was I supposed to deliver a rich and proper speaking with a face mask covering my mouth and reducing my voice level and quality ? With an old dell laptop with its windows vista stickers still in it?

      At the end, I ended up paying for both reviews. It feels kind of a bribe, or that I’m committing some kind of official ETS FRAUD ® . So… I suppose 200 + 160 dollars is the price for English then.

      Perhaps my English is not perfect but I read you and understood everything, you read me and I want to think you understood my ideas, isn’t that the main purpose of language?

      Those pendejos of ets just exploit international students And must be stopped. I hope one day the just go bankrupt or they leak all the tests and its answers so their exam would not hold any value anymore.

      Seriously, I speak Spanish, French and German, too. It is 100000 times better to learn a new language instead of wasting money and time and stressing out with a test designed to make you fail, not to actually measure you English proficiency.

      Next time, you could also look for and non-disposable certification such as the Cambridge B2 or C1. Sure, they are harder but it’s no like that 2 years from now you would forget absolutely everything about English.

  4. I received my report with a missing photograph. I had literally a blank picture for my identification photo on the report. It looks like a fake TOEFL report so I emailed ETS and they replied ” we had a technical issue and your photo was not captured”.
    They basically said if I want to have a photo on my report I have to cancel my current report and retest !!!!
    Remember, it was THEIR problem. THEIR “technical issue” and now I have to correct that mistake and retest to get my photo on the damn report. ETS.org is a joke you cannot even get a reply that is not copy/paste. What a waste of time,money and resources.

  5. Toefl is just a FUCKING stupid testing machine and can ETS please go bankrupt so that students do not need to pay so much money for a SHIT like Toefl???

    • I agree completely such arrogant insensitive organization that claims itself to be NGO they are exploiting poor students from across the globe

  6. Absolutely a waste of time and money. It’s more of a human degrading exam than an English exam. It has nothing to do with English skills. It’s just a way of ripping people off of money and universities are into this together with ETS sharing % together.

  7. I had entered names of 4 institutes for my TOEFL scores to be sent to.I had re-checked this a couple of days after filling in the institute codes. I am ABSOLUTELY sure that I had correctly entered the institution codes.

    Now that the institutes have not received the scores, I logged into my TOEFL account to check if I had entered the institution codes correctly. I found that section completely blank probably implying that I had not entered the institution codes at all. My TOEFL test was delayed by about 1hour 20 minutes (the TOEFL staff had technical issues). I am certain that the TOEFL website has technical issues more frequently than they think and they have deleted my score recipients intentionally or unintentionally.

    I complained to the TOEFL admin, got no reply. I complained on an online forum and I finally got a reply where they are playing dumb. They refuse to understand that they had a technical issue and they are forcing me to pay $80. Any advise will be appreciated.

  8. I used to score for TOEFL. I have a masters degree and a decade of teaching experience. We follow a rubric and all tests are at least double scored and if there is a discrepancy in the score, they will be looked at by a supervisor. That said, ETS has no respect for us as raters. They just cut TOEFL and GRE rater pay to “keep in line with the industry.” I score for a number of companies and I am not expected to do such in-depth reading for, say, the common core science exams as I am for the GRE or the TOEFL writing portion. I stand behind the qualifications of the people who score the exam, but I have left the company because they quite obviously do not care at all about long-time employees and their dedication to their jobs.

    • Thank you for sharing your candid experience, Samantha.
      It’s painful to hear that ETS keep the exam price high and pay the rater low.

      A friend of mine was in similar situation as yours, she is now freelancing.

  9. TOEFL speaking and writing tests are graded by a machine and human raters, but they do not spend more than few minutes to grade it. I have students who are good in writing and speaking but receive low grades in those sections. The reading and listening part is also getting harder. ETS is a money making machine and I would like to call it a fraud. The problem is that, they are monopoly, they cannot do whatever they want. The victims are the international students,immigrants and foreigners who have no voice in US nor representation.
    I am suggesting to open up a petition to require ETS to modify its grading policy.

    • Have just got my score (88%) and i need 90% for the university – clearly my writing skills are not “fair” and even higher than “good” after so many years of speaking in the conferences and writing white papers.

      I have a feeling they have just looked at the requirement of the university I am going to (my bad! people if you can – never mention the instituation – just request the score for yourself) and failed me just 2% below to make me retake the test and make more money.
      There is no recourse against fuckers.

      I am just furious!

      • I too have a similar experience. University requirement is 100 and I got 99. Now, I need to pay the money and retake the test for this 1 point. And the University I am applying do not even accept MyBest Score of TOEFL.

  10. ETS is pure Money making company. The foremost reason to hide everything is they outsource the test to BPO companies to do corrections for a cheaper cost.

  11. lol. You are totally correct and from my perspective, this compliant essay is worth 29 points in a TOEFL test! And the remaining point is to keep you humble.

  12. I took Toefl and did not complete the reading portion so I thought I will only score 17 or 18. I got my results and on reading I scored 22. I took the test again so I could improve scores on reading. This time I completed all of the questions on reading. I got my scores and it is 22 again. How is this possible. Before I just did 30 questions I was not even able to finish. How can I get same scores with totally different attempts?

  13. This is a company of scammers. The only objective of this company is to steal your money. This company requests $250 per exam and after the exam, they will send you a score by mail and you have to “TRUST” the work of these INCOMPETENT people. I received a completely UNFAIR score in the speaking and writing tests, and when I called to request a copy of my exam, they told me that I cannot see/review MY OWN exam, and if I want to be scored with JUSTICE, I have to “PAY $160 MORE!!!!!” you don’t have the right to view your mistakes and know WHY you got the score that they said you got. They will give you a BAD SCORE with the only intention to gather more of your money.

    They are thieves protected by the security services, acting as if they are following the security rules, but they are NOT!!! The PROMETRIC Test Center of Charlotte is a shame, during the LISTENING test I could not hear anything, everybody was talking while I was trying to do my listening test, I raised my hand, just like the security guard told me, and nobody came to help me and fix the problem. The score of the LISTENING wasn’t JUDGED RIGHT and doesn’t correspond with my listening level of English.
    This company will make you do the test over and over until they steal all your money!!!! You cannot complain or request to do only your listening test again, due to they didn’t provide a room with a reasonable level of quietness. The authorities must run a noise test for the test room during the exams. Furthermore, the authorities should NOT APPROVE these centers to do the TOEFL listening test. On the other hand, ETS must give a FAIR score with the $250 that each student pays at the very first time, instead of requesting 160 MORE DOLLARS to give a student a FAIR score in the speaking and writing test. Nevertheless, this CORRUPT, UNFAIR AND FAKE company will never give you a fair score on the first time, they will make you do the test over and over until they accumulate enough amount of money from each student!!! I DO NOT recommend this MACHINERY OF CORRUPTION!!!

  14. I agree and recently I am a student impacted by their arrogance. I gave a test and the speaking section did not record owing to a unknown technical mic issue ? I did not realize (nor was it clear from communication) it is a retest for 3 hours all over again. I mean how less valuable is my time than theirs? Why should me as a student and a pregnant mother bear the cost of nanny + commute + painful 3 hours for their mistake. Why can’t TOEFL just be scored for my speaking abilities in retest?

    And why should a score expire ! Once I know a language I know it for rest of my life!

  15. I needed 1 point and had attended 4 attempts. They take the money and demotivate the students, who are really good in English. I wish that the universities should have their own English exams or interviews to recruit students.

  16. My husband has been taking the TOEFL for pharmacy countless times over 5 years. He has paid for private tutors and classes. They keep failing him by 1 point! We paid the $80 to revise the score and they just take your money and say it’s correct. They never change the scores. The requirement for pharmacists are ridiculous they don’t even accept my best score. My husband is from Egypt, went to an English school, both his sisters are English teachers they have helped my husband on top of the tutors and classes. And the TOEFL scores are always failed by 1 point. They have made thousands of dollars from us. This is clearly just a scam to get as much money as possible from immigrants.The TOEFL has ruined my husbands career, our future. It’s so sad and disgusting.

  17. TOEFL and ETS are the biggest SCAM I ever had. I tried to take an ibt TOEFL a few months ago and failed to be logged in into the exam (I didn’t see a single question or even exam instruction) and was told to contact ETS by my proctor for a reschedule. After a month of waiting and desperately trying to find a solution with ETS … you know they cannot talk with used customers – super busy scamming other people… I was accused of cheating by their security integrity specialist (they don’t even try to prove their words, you just supposed to take it as granted and piss off). The drama is that proctoU an organization who was supervising my failed exam attempt is backing me up saying that I did nothing wrong and I should ask ETS for a refund or reschedule. All in all, I paid $220 for nothing and am still wasting my time in an attempt to return the money 😔

  18. Scheduled an online toefl ibt test, proctor could not log me in due to their technical error. Passed me to another proctor and he had me waiting 3 hours in front of my computer and then proceed to exit from my test session.

    The reply i received from ETS was that my CPU usage has exceeded the maximum limit and it was my fault that the test could not be delivered. I have passed my final equipment test and did not made any changes to my laptop prior to starting the test. I have send countless messages in the chat box to the proctor while waiting but i received no response.

    ETS is a global scam company. Their proctoring system is a joke and their proctors has minimum english communication ability.

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