Important Update from 2020: ETS is now maintaining its own list of schools and organization that accept TOEFL MyBest Scores. I probably won’t update my own list anymore. You can find the official list as a PDF file right here.
The following institutions have stated publicly that they will accept TOEFL MyBest Scores. Note that this list could be out of date. It is best to contact the school you are interested in directly.
Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Source: “If you wish to send us “MyBest Scores”, we will accept them. All TOEFL scores we receive will be made available to the program reviewing your application. “
Miami University. Source: “We accept MyBest scores for the TOEFL. This means that the highest scores for each section from different TOEFL exams will determine a combined highest sum score.”
Carnegie Mellon School of Design. Source: “the School of Design also accepts MyBest scores for TOEFL iBT. “
Shoreline Community College. Source: “MyBest scores are accepted.“
University of British Columbia College of Graduate Studies. Source: “The College of Graduate Studies accepts MyBest Scores.”
Northwestern (Graduate School). Source: “GS accepts the “MyBest scores”. A new reporting structure released by ETS in August 2019. These scores may be entered in the TOEFL section on the “Test Scores” page of the application form.”
University of Arizona (Graduate College).Source: “Individual MyBest scores must also be dated within 2 years of the enrollment term to be considered valid.”
CalArts. Source: “CalArts accepts “MyBest” scores delivered directly from ETS.”
San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Source: “SFCM will consider accepting the MyBest scores. We must have all score reports the MyBest scores are from submitted with the application, and the scores must be from within the past two years.”
The TOEFL Bulletin was updated sometime this month. Normally I would list the line-by-line changes here, but those appear too numerous to list. The policy changes, meanwhile, are just what has already been discussed here already. Let me know, though, if there is something you want me to dig into. This edition of the bulletin is valid until June 2020. Here’s a link.
One thing that did catch my eye is that score review still takes up to three weeks. While students have reported getting those results really quickly (in three days) I guess ETS doesn’t want to make any official promises.
There are four problems with this book every year. They are:
It isn’t updated very much.
It needlessly complicates the test.
The practice questions and sample are terribly inaccurate.
The online resources are not as promised
I’ll deal with these one at a time.
First of all, though this is the “2020-20201” edition of the book, it is pretty much the same as the 2008-2009 edition from 11 years ago.
The online content seems even older, and looks to be the same stuff that was on the CD-ROM of the 2007-2008 edition. The publisher has deleted the stuff that was dropped from the test this year, but everything else (the strategies and the samples) is almost entirely the same. The contents badly need to be replaced with new material, especially the samples which don’t reflect what students get on the actual test. The samples were bad even when the book was first published, but now that a decade has passed, the errors are much less forgivable.
Secondly, the book is way too complicated. The book includes 69 strategies for mastering the reading section. I counted another 69 numbered strategies for the writing section (not to mention the fact that number 16 is broken down into 16A through 16E). That’s just too much crap. This aspect of the book needs be culled.
Thirdly, and most importantly, the questions in the book are inaccurate. As always, that’s the aspect I want to focus on most of all in this review. Let’s get started.
The book starts out okay with a few decent samples of articles used in the reading section (pages 19, 25), but then pairs these with inaccurate sample questions. Instead of matching a question with a specific paragraph, students are required to read through the whole article looking for the paragraph that matches the given question. This becomes a major problem on page 32 when a NOT/EXCEPT style question refers to details that are actually spread out over three paragraphs. That means the student is actually required to use all three paragraphs to answer the question, rather than using just a single paragraph as on the real test. This is replicated on page 54 where students have to look through four long paragraphs to properly answer an inference question that would be specific to only a single paragraph on the real test.
It should also be mentioned that beyond the problems with question designs, most of the sample articles are somewhat weak overall. On pages 35, 51, 66 and 94 students are given articles that are generally longer than the real test, and with fewer paragraphs. This means that the paragraphs are really long, some stretching out to about 300 words. This bothers me as students really need to become familiar with hunting for answers in short but dense paragraphs.
This is probably the strongest section of the book. The conversations and lectures are about the same length as what is used on the real test. The delivery of the voice actors is somewhat monotone and lacks the natural quality of the actors on the real test, but that’s a minor complaint. The questions themselves are not as accurate as the ones in the Official iBT Tests Collection, but they are pretty close. I might actually recommend this chapter to someone who needs a bit of extra practice and has already worked through everything in better books.
Mostly bad here. The sample independent speaking questions on page 168 are all terrible. Instead of using proper agree/disagree or preference choices it just lists 15 yes/no questions. Kaplan should know by now that “Do government workers need privacy?” is not how a TOEFL speaking question is phrased.
The book does have a decent type 2 speaking question on page 174 about parking on campus (a very common topic!) but quickly jumps into a terrible question on page 180 where the reading is a job posting rather than an announcement of some change on campus.
It then includes a completely wrong type 3 question which illustrates a concept using three examples, rather than 1 or 2 like on the real test (page 182/183).
The chapter finishes with a massive type 4 question, which includes a lecture probably twice as long as what would be used on the real test.
The integrated writing here is all bad as well. The authors of the book just don’t understand how the reading and lecture are structured on the real test. On test day, students get a four paragraph reading that has an introduction followed by three body paragraphs, each of which includes a unique and specific point. That is followed by a lecture which begins with an introduction and challenges each of those three points in turn (and in the same order). I call this a “mirror” structure. If you look at the samples on pages 233 and 255 they are nothing like this. The sample on page 253 almost figures this out, but the listening fails to rebut the reading’s points in the right order.
The section on independent writing is equally weak. It includes a bunch of opened-ended questions (268, 287, 288) that aren’t used on the real test. It fails to include any multiple choice questions, which are used very often these days.
The Online Resources
The above problems are also present in the online tests. In the reading section students again have to hunt around the whole article to answer many of the questions, instead of being told to focus on a single paragraph as on the real TOEFL. The articles again include freakishly long paragraphs that don’t match the real test. Not only is this inaccurate, but it really messes up any chance students have of learning proper time management in this section.
The listening content is okay, while the speaking and writing content is marred by the same sort of problems I identified above. The questions all have a superficial resemblance to the real test, but never quite achieve an acceptable level of accuracy. Notably, speaking Q3 in the first test asked me to “explain the major differences” between what was in the reading and the lecture. There’s just no excuse for that.
Just as frustrating is the clunkiness of the online test software. Users are unable to quickly skip ahead to desired sections. If you wish to study only writing? Too bad, you are going to have to sit through the reading, listening and speaking sections. This represents a step back from when Kaplan offered the same tests on CD.
Speaking of taking a step back, it must be mentioned that the practice tests don’t record student answers, so they cannot listen to what they said for review purposes. This functionality was provided 11 years ago when the same tests were provided on CD.
I noticed also that Kaplan failed to record new instructions for the shortened speaking section, so the questions are now misnumbered. The same is true in the lectures provided online. That’s just laziness. In addition, the timers in the practice test are all wrong, and don’t reset between questions in the speaking and writing sections. So, for example, if you only use 10 minutes to answer the first writing question you’ll have 40 minutes to answer the second writing question. This needs to be fixed.
Finally, the cover of the book promises “4 Practice Tests” (and an insert clarifies that they are all provided online) but there are only three tests provided. Last year’s edition had the same problem. I find that kind of sleazy.
Don’t get this book. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Kaplan needs to get serious about updating their material. They haven’t done a proper update since 2008. There are so many good resources they can use to study the design of the TOEFL that were not available when this material was first created. They need to take advantage of them.
Students can now register for the TOEFL just two days before taking the test. The deadline used to be four days before taking the test. Just note that any registrations that occur within seven days of the test will include a 40 dollar late fee. I’ve pasted in the graphic used by ETS to promote this change.
I guess it is good that ETS is providing a lot more flexibility (only one week wait time between test attempts, faster score reports, much faster score reviews, etc).
As always, complete your registration over here at ETS.
This week I was lucky enough to again have an opportunity to attend a workshop hosted by ETS for TOEFL teachers. Here is a quick summary of some of the questions that were asked by attendees of the workshop. Note that the answers are not direct quotes, unless indicated.
Q: Are scores adjusted statistically for difficulty each time the test is given?
A: Yes. This means that there is no direct conversion from raw to scaled scores in the reading and listening section. The conversion depends on the performance of all students that week.
Q: Do all the individual reading and listening questions have equal weight?
Q: When will new editions of the Official Guide and Official iBT Test books be published?
A: There is no timeline.
Q: Are accents from outside of North America now used when the question directions are given on the test?
Q: How are the scores from the human raters and the SpeechRater combined?
A: “Human scores and machines scores are optimally weighted to produce raw scores.” This means ETS isn’t really going to answer this question.
Q: Can the human rater override the SpeechRater if he disagrees with its score?
Q: How many different human raters will judge a single student’s speaking section?
A: Each question will be judged by a different human.
Q: Will students get a penalty for using the same templates as many other students?
A: Templates “are not a problem at all.”
Q: Why were the question-specific levels removed from the score reports?
A: That information was deemed unnecessary.
Q: Is there a “maximum” word count in the writing section?
Q: Is it always okay to pick more than one choice in multiple choice writing prompts?