Cheating

Have you seen this new announcement by ETS?

There seems to have been a big (and organized?) cheating case in the TOEIC test center and the UK government got pissed off. This was initially revealed by a BBC report.

Ha ha, some people may suspect that Britain just wanted to replace TOEFL with IELTS, which is originally made by the British. After all, ETS announced that they would retrieve both TOEIC and TOEFL, even though there was no report that TOEFL was just as inherently subject to cheating.

Whatever was the reason, anyone who has ever taken the TOEFL test knows one important fact about TOEFL: you are, in effect, allowed to cheat on TOEFL.

At the test center, you can hear other test-takers responding to Speaking prompts. If they are doing a good job, you can even take notes!!(Who knows?!)  You can (and have no choice but to) watch the computer screen of the test-taker who sits next to you. You may not want to watch it because you cannot concentrate on your answers or you just don’t want to be influenced by other people’s answers; however, your neighbors’ PCs just come into view. No one will blame you for whatever you may end up doing, because no one can afford to be inattentive.

What is the message, then, of this test called TOEFL?

As I understand it, it implicitly says, “Are you sure you can make it? OK, just display your ability to us. Even if you were allowed to cheat on the test, you would find it hard to get out of the test center with flying colors.” Every time I hear my students’ reflections on their test experiences, I think this way. It is a very strong test, and it is not for the faint-hearted. I know many people who took notes when they eavesdropped other people speaking, but I know very few people, virtually none of them, improved the scores that way.

If you have set your goal to get a score of the TOEFL, you should know that your foe is far stronger than you think. By the time you take on this foe, you will have to get equipped with all the possible ammunition, protective gear, and strategies.

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