Saturday, February 19

Test Center Problems

The TOEFL test costs $170.00. For that price, on test day you should a get private cubicle, right? If not a cubicle, then a nice quiet work space, right? After all, your future is on the line. You've studied hard, for months, years even; you've spent a lot of money on books and classes, and just given ETS $170.00 - or more.

But then, on test day, you find the test center crowded and noisy. Why noisy? Because ETS allows staggered starts. That means when you are doing the reading section, the people around you might all be doing the speaking section. Noisy? You bet. I've had students walk out because of too much background noise. ETS says their headphones are noise-cancelling. Don't believe it. ETS should provide sound-proof cubicles for each test-taker. ETS has the money; they made an 11% profit (see profit).

So what should you do if you have problems on test day and you want a refund? First, remember that ETS is not in the business of refunding money. If you exit the test before you are finished, ETS will suspect you weren't doing well and decided to pull the plug and try again another time. This happens. ETS knows the game. 

However, what if your computer suddenly dies (true story), or if the smell from the Chinese food restaurant next door is so strong you can't concentrate (true story), or if the cardboard partition the test center was using to separate computers falls on top of you (true story), or if the noise-canceling headphones cancelled nothing (true story)? If you have a problem, talk directly to the test-site manager. Give him/her all the details. Get his/her name. Get the number of your computer. Get everything, every detail to support your claim. Tell the site manager to send a written report of your problem/claim to ETS (make sure you get a copy, signed by the site manager). 

Why so much evidence? Because ETS demands proof that you did in fact have technical difficulties; that proof comes not from you but from the test-site manager (the official witness). You should also send the same claim info to ETS. Get the phone number and email address of the ETS contact person from the test-site manager. If you still have a problem - and you do not know what to do - contact the Pro. The Pro knows what to do. 

Remember: An American would not tolerate less than perfect test conditions. A dissatisfied American test-taker would scream and shout, and demand a refund. That is the American way. Unfortunately, foreign-born test-takers are afraid to speak up. Don't be. Demand the best. For $170.00, you deserve nothing less.