Magic at the test center

Could you give me sample responses of today’s speaking class?

This is one of the hardest questions to answer, because I would respond negatively to this request…at least as far as familiar topics are concerned.

Describe the most beautiful building you have ever seen.

The first building that you come up with is, let’s say, the Eiffel Tower (located in Paris). Then you develop your point of view on this structure: what it looks like, how tall it is, whether you have been there or not, what part of it is the most impressive, etc. When you have no time left (out of 45 seconds), your response is over.

So far, so good. The rest of the class will be spent on how you can improve your response. There are some words, phrases, or factual information that you should / could have used to get a better score. You may also need to improve your pronunciation. That way, you will be able to respond much better to a similar (or exactly the same) prompt the next time you take the actual TOEFL test. (Questions of independent tasks repeat themselves.)

At this point, the problem is ….should a sample response be distributed to students so that they can read it aloud and assimilate it – the purpose of which is to repeat it at the test center?

Probably,  you haven’t done it yourself, or you haven’t taken the test yet if you make such a request.

There is a magic sentence you will hear at the test center that resets your memory, and your prepared sample response will be gone as soon as you hear it. Instead, your instinct will always arise to compromise your ability to stay cool and think logically.

OK, what would my sample response be? I would introduce the Kinkaku-ji (the Temple of the Golden Pavilion) in Kyoto to let students know how they can develop their idea. However, if you try to learn the sample by heart, you should be in for a disaster.

You see a prompt at the test center. “Describe the most impressive building….” You say, “Yay! I know the answer! It’s Kinkaku-ji!” Now, you try to remember what you have once learned by heart…only a part of it emerges from your hippocampus, but still you keep struggling. Then you hear this magic sentence.

Now begin speaking after the beep.


All your struggle to search for the memory ends with the beep. Everything will be gone. You will have to start thinking again from scratch when the clock has already started.

I know it.

Take a sample response just as a sample. What is more important is to improve yours.


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