Rumor has it that…

I am taking a TOEFL text this weekend. I only wish I were taking it to get the score to apply for a graduate school. I already have one particular graduate school in mind – I am hoping to finally attend it after I have retired in 15 years’ time 😉 Until that time, I will be reminded of it from time to time to enjoy a daydream. As I often say to my students and clients, I will never give up on this one. Well, then what am I taking the TOEFL this weekend for? As a matter of fact, I will have to see if the rumor is true or false.

Recently a little change in the way questions appear on the screen, as well as some minor details, reportedly has been made. The thing is that these reports come from a casual conversation with a limited number of test takers. I cannot believe it yet. How can I? Many students don’t even remember what they said in the speaking section or in the writing section. It would be unbelievable if they remembered the titles of the passages in the reading section. (So don’t worry, ETS test proctors. Test takers won’t tell anyone what the test questions were, because they can’t!)

It is, therefore, time that I took the test myself. When I take a test, I have a specific purpose of going all the way to the test center (This time it will take a couple of hours to get there. I booked a bit too late. Had no choice.)

Some of the purposes that I have had so far include…

  1. What if I write more than 700 words for the Independent Writing whose “ideal” response will be 300 words?
  2. What if I write as little as 250 words for the Independent Writing?
  3. What if I write more than 450 words for the Integrated Writing whose “ideal” response will be 150~225 words?
  4. What if I spoke like a typical Japanese citizen who couldn’t care less about the actual pronunciation?

… and many more.

As a TOEFL instructor, it is crucially important to know the fine line between the response that carries 5 out of 5 and that of 4, 4 and 3, or 3 and 2. That’s where my students are working hard to overcome. It is my job to indicate the passing line to all those test-takers so that they can prepare and get the maximum score with the minimum effort. That is when I am paid.

This weekend, I will sacrifice the time to study myself, but in return, I will receive another set of secrets of the actual TOEFL exam. Yes, there are lots of open secrets in the test. My job is to create a range of covert strategies out of open secrets. Lots of oxymora


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