Some people can see what you cannot see.

Some students make complaints about their slow progress or virtually no improvement in their TOEFL scores.  Teachers would just assume students talk to themselves and turn blind eyes (ears?) to their complaints.  Which side is to blame, students or teachers? Here is one consideration to determine yourself which is to blame.

Some students follow one teacher’s writing strategy. First, write this, and then introduce three reasons … a very common type of writing. They have learned how to do it and do nothing but to follow the format as if they were copying it (probably worse than plagiarizing).

OK, if you follow this one strategy, and you get 30 (out of 30) in the writing section, and if this were true, the average score of the Japanese test-takers’ scores would be 30. But in reality, it is way too lower. But most of them (I would say more than 90% of them) know this basic idea of a well written essay. How come?

The thing is that their structure may serve as a positive contributor to a better score, but what about other factors to a good essay? They may not have followed prescriptive grammar. Their word choice is terrible because their vocabulary is too small to contain a good word in the first place. They do not show enough examples to substantiate what they believe to be true.  Well, since only one example, if convincing, is enough, they do not show one single example to validate their opinion. How about this case: most of the sentences they write just do not make sense.

In general, what matters lies not so much in what the teachers emphasize as what the teachers do not point out. When in class, it would be easy if the teacher emphasizes the entire structure as something to be paid attention to. On the other hand, they cannot always point out all the grammar points, appropriate word choices, or convincing evidence that are necessary to make a good essay. The problem is that the students, not knowing that what the teacher does not say is more important, stick to what is articulated in class, only ending up feeling disappointed to receive a not-up-to-par score.

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