Wednesday, September 28

TOEFL Pay Sites - Buyer Beware!

Google TOEFL and you'll get a lot of TOEFL web sites. The free stuff is great. But what about TOEFL pay sites? How do you know which TOEFL pay sites are good, which are just using material from TOEFL texts - and which are a rip off? 

Here's how. Do a test. Before you sign up for a TOEFL pay site, ask a scoring question, for example: "Dear TOEFL Pay Web Site. Before I sign up, I have a question. What scoring strategy can I use to increase my integrated essay score from 4.0 to 5.0?" Or, "What scoring strategy can I use to increase my speaking-task-six score from 20 to 25?” 

Remember: TOEFL is all about scoring. That means the answer you get back should be scoring based. If not, buyer beware.

The Pro

Monday, September 26

ETS and the Profit Game

In my TOEFL texts and in my TOEFL classes, I stress that TOEFL is a game. That game is designed by Educational Testing Service (ETS).

ETS claims to be a "non profit organization." However, financial information for the year ending 2007 paints a very different picture. ETS is definitely in the profit game. How does ETS make a profit? By designing a game people will play for a fee. That game is TOEFL. Below are two quotes describing how ETS plays the profit game - and wins.

For the year ending 2007, ETS, a non profit company, earned an 11% profit.

The CEO of ETS, Mr. Kurt Landgraf, earned $997,608.00 for the year ending 2007, seven times higher than the industry standard.

Remember: The TOEFL test costs $170.00. I predict it will go up to $185.00 in early 2012.

The Pro

Saturday, September 24

Calculate your TOEFL Score - for free!

Okay, so you want to know your TOEFL iBT score, but you don't want to give ETS $170.00 to find out. What can you do? Use the Pro's unofficial TOEFL iBT score estimator. Sounds complicated. It's not. All you have to do is write an independent essay for 30 minutes, then have it scored by an objective rater. Easy, right?

So let's say you scored 3/5. Converted, that's a 20/30 writing section score. Now this is the interesting part: If you scored 20/30 on your independent essay, you will score the same on the listening section, the reading section and on the speaking section. 

Yes, your section scores might vary a bit. Let's say you scored 22/30 on listening, 21/20 on speaking, and 19/30 on reading. That means you will score in the 80-range if you took the TOEFL iBT. Probably in the 75 - 85 range.

The Pro's method of score estimating is very accurate. Very. Why? Because I record all my TOEFL students' practice scores and average them at the end of the semester. For example, Anna averaged 100/120 on in-class practice tests. At the end of the semester, I said, "Anna, if you take the TOEFL iBT tomorrow, I predict you will score in the 95-105 range."

What happened? Anna scored 103. Amazing, huh? And Anna is not alone. Peter averaged between 85-95/120 on in-class practice tests and scored 88/120 on the official TOEFL iBT. The list is endless.

Remember: This is a real-world, TOEFL Pro strategy. You will not find this strategy anywhere else. Why not? Because the Pro is all about scoring. What do TOEFL students want? Scoring strategies.

Not convinced? Take at look at the official TOEFL scores for the year ending 2009 (see scores). Notice how consistent they are? That means that Lionel in Gabon probably scored 18/30 on his independent essay, and he scored the same - or almost the same - on the other three test sections.

Remember: The level of your English language proficiency is consistent across four disciplines: reading, listening, speaking, writing. Never do I see a writing score of 28/30 and a reading score of 18/30. Never. If you write English proficiently, you will read, speak, and hear it proficiently. Conversely, if you do not write English proficiently...Well, you get the picture.

Want to know more TOEFL iBT scoring strategies? It’s all in the book.

Thursday, September 8

Click here and read how my new TOEFL book represents a new direction in TOEFL iBT preparation

Remember - TOEFL is not pass or fail

"How much do I need to pass the TOEFL test?"


"What happens if I fail the TOEFL test?"

The Pro hears these test-taker questions all the time.

First of all, you can't pass or fail the TOEFL test. This is, without a doubt, the biggest misconception about TOEFL. I repeat: TOEFL is not pass or fail. TOEFL is simply a form measurement. TOEFL (as designed by ETS - Educational Testing Service; see photos of ETS) measures English language proficiency on a scale from 0-120, 120 being the most proficient. Each of the four test sections (reading, listening, speaking, writing) is scored from 0-30. The four test sections are then added up for a total score out of 120.

                        30/30 (reading)
                        30/30 (listening)
                        30/30 (speaking)
                   +   30/30  (writing)    

                        120/120 = final TOEFL iBT score

Why 120? Why not 100? I have no idea. ETS has always had a funny way with numbers. 

Remember: ETS is not a college or a university or a U.S. government institution. It is a private, profit-making company based in Princeton, New Jersey USA. Because ETS is a business, a lot of their test-related information - like "How exactly do you score that again?" - is proprietary. Proprietary means it is a business secret so go away.

Remember: TOEFL is not pass-fail. TOEFL simply measures English language proficiency across four disciplines: reading, listening, speaking, writing.

The Pro

Tuesday, September 6

iBT or PBT? Which should you take?

PBT means paper-based test. The PBT is the original TOEFL test started back in 1963. There are four sections: listening, structure, reading, writing. 

With the popularity of computers, the PBT changed to the CBT, the computer-based test. The CBT was replaced in September 2005 by the iBT, the internet-based test. The CBT is no longer available. That means you have two choices: the PBT or the iBT. Which is right for you?

First, check with your school, agency or institution to find out which TOEFL score they require, PBT or iBT. Most North American schools, agencies and institutions accept only iBT scores. Why? Because the iBT tests speaking proficiency (why test speaking read the article). North American schools, etc., want to know if you can speak English. 

Remember: The PBT does not test speaking. 

Also, the iBT is arguably the more difficult test.

Why is the iBT harder than the PBT? 1) Because of the speaking section, and; 2) because you must write two essays. The PBT has only one essay. Also, with the PBT you can look at the listening section answers as you listen. For the iBT listening section, however, you see the answers only after you listen. Much harder.

So what should you do? Don't take the PBT simply because you've heard it is easier. Take the iBT. Only take the PBT if the iBT is not available. And remember: check with your institution first. Don't take the PBT, then apply, and find out that Princeton only accepts the iBT. You will waste your time and your money.

The Pro

Thursday, September 1

Rhetorical Strategies for the TOEFL iBT

A carpenter uses a hammer to build a house. A painter uses a brush to paint a portrait. Speakers and writers use rhetorical strategies to develop, support and analyze fact-based and opinion-based arguments. What is the TOEFL iBT? It's all arguments. Why all arguments? Because argument development and analysis is the foundation of the English-speaking educational system. That means to get a high TOEFL iBT score you must know basic argument development. Start to learn about argument development by learning these basic eight rhetorical strategies. You will use these eight rhetorical strategies for all four sections of the TOEFL iBT.

1. NARRATION: (Chronology)        

She got up at seven. After that she had breakfast, then caught the nine o’clock train downtown.

2. DESCRIPTION: (Person or Place)

His room was tiny, his faded green plant dying, his desk cluttered with empty cups and late assignments.
3. ILLUSTRATION: (Giving Examples)

Google is just one of many search engines.
4. COMPARE/CONTRAST: (Similarities/Differences)

Mary tried the apple pie and decided the cherry pie was sweeter.
5. CAUSE/EFFECT: (Action + Result)

Bill studied hard and passed the exam.

6. CLASSIFICATION: (Dividing into groups)
There are three kinds of wine: red, white, and rose.

7. DEFINITION: (Dictionary Style)
A good student does his homework.

8. PROCESS: (Putting Steps in Order)
Writing consists of three steps: prewriting, writing, and revising.

Remember: To get high TOEFL score, you must know these eight rhetorical strategies. Rhetorical strategies are tools speakers and writers use to support and develop fact-based and opinion-based arguments. What is the TOEFL iBT? All fact-based and opinion-based arguments. What to learn more essential TOEFL scoring strategies? It's all in the book.

Do you agree or disagree...