It’s June!  Time for another “You Should Read More” column.

A few interesting tidbits in the April 10 issue of “Science News.”  Like:

I enjoyed an article about the negative health effects of forest fires in the April issue of National Geographic.

Finally, I got my first issue of “History Today” magazine (the June issue).  I really enjoyed an article about English king Alfred the Great and whether he actually was great.  Alas, you’ll need a subscription to read that one (which you can get really, really cheap over here).  There are couple of free articles from this month, though:

  • Women and the Birth of England’s Stock Market discusses how women got heavily involved in the first British Stock Market.
  • Blood, Stone and Holy Bones discusses the concept of Holy Relics (that is artifacts of Christian saints) and how travelers to the Middle East  related to them in the middle ages.  I recall writing a very long essay on this topic when I was in university.

Before I close, I must mention that I published another TOEFL book review this month!  You can find my comments about Barron’s TOEFL Writing over here.

 

In 2018, ETS published a report on the use of their e-rater technology in assessing the GRE essays.  I am a stupid man and it is hard for me to read academic articles.  But I still return to this article now and again to see what I can find. 

My “TOEFL Gangnam Style” series of blog posts this month inspired me to take yet another look at the article to see if it had anything to say about the topic of memorized essays.  I was pleased to find that it did explain this phenomenon somewhat.  Regarding how ETS’s human raters treat this kind of “shell text,” when grading GRE essays it reports (emphasis mine):

The raters also found the use of shell text along with the text that is part of the writing prompt/question prevalent across the essay responses of test takers from China, particularly for argument, resulting in three-paragraph-long responses but suffering from lack of ideas and poor language. The raters identified instances of the use of generic (non-content-specific) statements, syntactic repetition at the beginning of each paragraph, repetition of ideas around generic statements or prompt text, and lack of cohesion in the essay after the first few memorized sentences as cues to shell text. The raters understood that test takers from China frequently use shell text, but they do not view shell text as problematic or as a negative style of writing. They emphasized that they are trained to be neutral to the use of shell text and that they look for original ideas and content beyond the shell text in the response to determine the appropriate score. In some cases, they expressed the idea that  the examinees are able to use shell text cleverly to enhance the structure and framework of their responses without compromising originality, cohesion, and content .

How about that?  That’s the first I’ve heard about how ETS raters handle templates.  I repeat:  “they are trained to be neutral to the use of shell text.”

But more interesting:

Presently, human raters are trained in scoring to identify and treat any shell text neutrally while scoring the essay response. The e-rater lacks any such training presently and may be overscoring essays with the heavy presence of shell text.

Yeah, it probably is.

For TOEFL teachers, the thing to take away from the article is that the shell text (template) is not tricking the human raters into giving higher scores.  They are treating that text neutrally.  It is the e-rater that may be getting tricked, as it reports that Chinese students are getting much higher scores from the e-rater than from the human raters.  That’s the point!

The article suggests that e-rater could be adjusted to include some kind of shell-text detection to lower this discrepancy.  I do not know if that has been implemented since the research was done.  Keep an eye on Chinese and Korean writing scores when the TOEFL score data for 2020 is reported this summer.

Anyways, this study was done with GRE essays, so take it with a grain of salt.  To me, it seems to explain some of what was observed in the original “Gangnam Style” article in Assessing Writing that inspired this whole blog series.  But I could be wrong.  

NoteA much older article confirms that Chinese students get higher e-rater scores than human scores on the TOEFL, but it doesn’t talk about shell text.  It also points out that Korean students get higher e-rater scores as well (but the difference is slighter).

(you can also read parts one, two, and three  of this series!)

The TOEFL was successfully revised in 2019.  The changes introduced at that time created a better experience for test-takers and score users.  That said, there are a few things that could be improved about the overall TOEFL experience.  Here are ten things I think ought to be done to improve the TOEFL. 

Of course I am neither a linguist or a tech-bro, so I’m not qualified to comment on actual test content, so my suggests are about everything but the test itself.

I’m going to share this list with fellow teachers and students to see what they would change about the test experience.  I’ll publish their ideas in a few weeks time.

  1.  Eliminate the $20 fee for sending scores after the test administration.  This fee seems a bit excessive.  The scores are sent via the Internet, so the markup must be astronomical.  How much can it cost ETS to send these?  The fee looks particularly bad now that we’ve learned that TOEFL Essentials scores can be sent to an infinite number of schools at no cost… using the same system.  
  2. Fix the Official Guide to the TOEFL.  The writing content in the book is pretty bad.  The sample integrated writing question in chapter six isn’t accurate.  Nor is the sample integrated writing question in sample test one.  I appreciate that the big list of sample independent prompts was cleaned up a bit in the sixth edition, but there is still room for improvement there.  This bad content has been carried through from the first edition of the book, published 16 years ago.  Some of this content is leftover from the TOEFL CBT.  On a more positive note, as of the latest editions the two official tests books are now full of perfect tests!
  3. Get rid of the cancel scores button.  This is something that ETS seems really proud of.  I often hear them mentioning how this sets them apart from all other tests.  But what’s the point?  When it is better for students to send no scores than to send low scores?  I can’t think of a situation where it will be a good idea to cancel the scores.  Meanwhile, the only time I ever hear students talking about this feature is when they accidentally click the button and are panicking about how to reactivate their scores.  And cancelling the scores robs them of the opportunity to learn their writing and speaking levels.
  4. Implement a modern support system.  ETS ought to use Zendesk or some similar service to streamline their user support.  Too often my advice to students is to just call the support number and wait on hold for a few hours.  Not only that, but the answers to common questions are spread out over way too many individual pages on the TOEFL website.  Some of them are buried in the Information Bulletin PDF file.  I think they even have a fax number still operating.  There is room for a more responsive and modern system, like Duolingo uses for their test.
  5. Provide More Practice Tests.  I believe  that Cambridge provides 68 practice IELTS tests across its range of official publications.  In contrast, ETS provides 14 in its books.  And some of those 14 tests are pretty darn old.  Why not produce a new collection of samples once per year, as Cambridge does?  Students would be happy and the test would become a lot more transparent.
  6. Active.  Noise.  Cancelling.  Headphones.
  7. Rephrase the word count recommendations.  Once of the most common misunderstandings I hear from students is that there is a word count “limit” in each of the essay tasks.  I think this misunderstanding is due to poor phrasing in the writing section directions.  Even just including a line like “there is no penalty for exceeding this word count” will clear this problem up right away.
  8. Make the test prep more fair.  ETS has licensed out more than fifty practice tests (the famous TPO sets) to big Chinese companies like KMF and New Oriental.  That means that for a very low fee students in China can easily access a ton of accurate practice materials via responsive online platforms.  I believe that ETS has also licensed their e-rater and SpeechRater technologies to Chinese firms, giving Chinese students  low-cost access to automated scoring for their practice TOEFL responses.  In contrast, students in the rest of the world have access to just four practice tests ($45 each) plus a few partial tests.  I don’t think this is fair.  I think that everyone should have the same access to official practice materials and retired tests.
  9. Be a bit more transparent about the e-rater and SpeechRater scoring engines.  I suspect that I have read more research into these technologies than anyone outside of New Jersey (editor’s note: weird flex, but okay), and they are still a bit of a black box to me.  I don’t even know how the human rater and the AI raters are weighted.
  10. Modernize the voucher system.  I want to start a TOEFL scholarship where I give a voucher to some lucky student every few months.  Sometimes I just want to buy vouchers for favored students.  But to do that I need to scribble my credit card number on a piece of paper and fax it to Princeton.  And any vouchers that I get are locked to specific countries.  Come on, guys.  Figure it out.

It is a great day for the world, everyone!  The new TOEFL Bulletin has been published.  You know, one of my great regrets in life is that I wasn’t active as a teacher back when ETS distributed hard copies of this document.

The new version and (for now) the old version can be downloaded here.

Here’s what’s new in this year’s edition (I have omitted superficial and minor changes):

Page 5: The TOEFL Home Edition is described.

Page 7: ProctorU is mentioned in the list of contacts.  It also suggests that users can contact ETS via the chat function on their website.

Page 9: The word “drinks” was changed to “beverages.”  

Page 9: There is another reference to the home edition.

Page 11: Western Union is no longer offered as a payment option.  This matches changes to the ETS website a few months ago.  The link to the score posting dates has been removed.  

Page 12: The test frequency has been adjusted to reflect the Home Edition.

Page 12: The new guide mentions that “late phone registration” closes five days before the test date.  The old version didn’t mention phone registration. 

Page 12: The guide no longer links to “toeflgoanywhere.com”.  It seems like ETS has largely stopped using that site.

Page 13:  ETS will now collect sales taxes for things like late registration and score reviews. I suppose this is an effective fee increase. Previously, students were supposed to send the sales tax to their local government themselves.  LOL.

Page 13:  There is now a long paragraph about credit card failures.  I suspect ETS has seen statistics about how often purchases fail.  It might help.

Page 14:  No more Western Union.  I understand that Western Union is not great (to say the least) but it is too bad that students no longer have this option.

Page 15:  The line “test center staff can’t make schedule changes for you” has been removed.  Weird.

Page 16:  More Home Edition references.

Page 23:  More Home Edition references.

Page 29:  Scores are now reported “6-10” days after the test.  The old version says that they are reported “6” days after.

Page 30:  Scores now range of “0” to 30 points instead of “1” to 30 points.  This is a correction.

Page 32:  A reference to requesting score reviews by fax has been dropped.

 

 

 

ETS has just uploaded a chart to convert between TOEFL iBT and TOEFL Essentials scores.  I’ve copied it here for you, but be sure to check out the main TOEFL Essentials Page for more information, including conversion charts for each section of the test.

Soon I will start a list of schools that accept the test, and I will maintain it until ETS publishes their own list.

Bloomberg recently published an interesting article about a “crackdown” on private education in China.  According to Bloomberg’s report “the country’s education ministry plans to create a dedicated division to oversee all private education platforms for the first time, according to people familiar with the matter.”  As a result, the “mega-IPOs” of several private education firms have been delayed.

The move “centers not just on reckless pricing or advertising but also on the widening divide between the haves and have-nots — those who can afford to load up on extra lessons. To that end, officials laid out a plethora of restrictions this month including limiting the after-school tuition fees companies can charge.”

Bloomberg also suggests that this is part of a larger effort to curb the power and influence of large tech companies, noting that the “government in general is keen to curtail the growing influence of internet giants like Tencent and Alibaba, among the industry’s biggest backers, through a series of regulatory probes and record fines.”

I spoke to a teacher at one of the these large education firms, who noted that the restrictions mostly focus on tutoring centered on domestic education, and that preparation for tests like the TOEFL, SAT and GRE has not been affected to date.   

Echoing the comments from Bloomberg, this teacher noted:

“like 40% of all students are taking extracurricular courses to stay ahead, while the other 60% are busting their balls trying to catch up… [and] have complained about this since god knows when.” 

The changes, he said, will “drastically impact the income” of his employer.

I also spoke to the owner of a small private tutoring center with just a handful of employees.  He noted:

“I don’t really know how it could be enforced though. Some people feel it’s just not realistic, but the government tends to get what it wants here, so people are definitely nervous.”

This nervousness has encouraged him to accelerate efforts to bring more of his work online.

That said, he noted that the government’s move

“might mean everyone is fair game, no matter what kind of program they offer. It’s such a huge part of the economy though, so I am still struggling to see why they would target this industry at a time when the global economy is still shaky.”

There are a few good TOEFL books.  There are a lot of bad ones.  I hope this article helps you make the right choices.   I’ll update and revise this list throughout the year as new books are released. At the end you can find a list of stuff I don’t like, and a list of stuff that will be published in the future.  You can also skip to my master index of TOEFL book reviews.

Last Updated: December 19, 2021

For an Overview of the Test…

The Official Guide to the TOEFL (6th Edition)  is  the book with the best overview of the test.  Everyone who is studying for the TOEFL (or teaching for the TOEFL) should have a copy. It describes all four sections of the test and the question types in each section.  It also includes plenty of examples and four complete practice tests.  Note that is also contains a few errors and inaccurate sample questions (particularly in the chapter on integrated writing and the first practice test).  For a closer look at the test, check out my complete review.

 

For an additional overview of the test, I recommend a couple of online TOEFL courses from our friends at TST Prep. Sometimes a course is better than a book, of course.  First up, check out their Score Builder Program, which is a twenty hour course covering the entire test.  The program also includes ten practice test and a bunch of extras.  A cheaper alternative is their TOEFL Emergency Course, which is a bit shorter.  In both cases, try the coupon code “goodine10off” to get a 10% discount on your purchase.

 

Finally, I recommend Barron’s TOEFL iBT (17th edition).  This book has improved quite a lot in the past couple of editions, and I think it can be a valuable study tool.  The accuracy of its practice tests and questions isn’t as good as the above two sources, but there is quite a lot of content in the book.  It contains eight complete practice tests along with additional practice questions.  It also contains decent chapters on vocabulary and grammar.

For Practice TOEFL Tests…

First up, I recommend Volume One and Volume Two of the Official TOEFL iBT Tests Collection.  Each book contains five good practice tests.  The most recent editions (look for their green covers) were heavily revised by ETS, and finally represent perfect practice tests! Everyone preparing for the TOEFL must complete these practice tests. All of them!

Next I recommend the ten practice tests sold online by TST Prep.  These are the best practice tests you will get from a third-party publisher.  Again, try the coupon code “goodine10off” for a 10% discount.  Note that they are the same tests you will find in the Score Builder Program mentioned above. 

As a special bonus, they’ve also got one test available as an e-book on Amazon.  I’m credited as an editor on that test!

For TOEFL Reading…

I really like Kathy Spratt’s “Mastering the Reading Section for the TOEFL iBT“.  Now in its third edition, this book is viewed by most students and teachers as the definitive TOEFL reading book.  Indeed, it’s the only one I recommend.  It covers all of the TOEFL reading question types and provides strategies that might help you solve them.  It is updated for the new TOEFL.

 

For TOEFL Listening, Speaking and Writing…

Well, there isn’t much available for these sections of the test.  There are a few old scraps you might check out, though.  They are:

For TOEFL Vocabulary…

I don’t usually recommend TOEFL vocabulary books.  I don’t think that studying vocabulary lists is helpful, and the new TOEFL introduced in 2019 has fewer vocabulary questions. That said, students always ask me to recommend books.  I generally suggests that they get “Essential Words for the TOEFL” from Barron’s.  I like the difficulty level of the words, and it contains a bunch of realistic practice questions.  As an alternative, you might check out McGraw-Hill’s “400 Words for the TOEFL.”  It contains practice questions as well.

For TOEFL Grammar…

Don’t buy a “TOEFL Grammar” book.  Just get the 5th edition of English Grammar in Use from Cambridge University Press. This book has been around forever, and it is still fantastic.  After getting a copy, you can check out my list of  recommended units to study.  if you want even more content,  Cambridge sells a supplementary book with more practice questions.  Note that this book is also published as “Grammar in Use – Intermediate.”

For lower level students (writing scores below 20), I recommend something a bit easier like “Basic Grammar in Use.”

Upcoming TOEFL Books

There isn’t much on the horizon, but a few things are worth mentioning:

Stuff I don’t Recommend 

  • Princeton Review’s “TOEFL iBT” – Decent, but the alternatives are much better.
  • Barron’s “TOEFL iBT Writing” – Bad practice questions
  • The two Kaplan branded TOEFL books – Bad.  Need to be updated.
  • Best My Test – Not Great
  • EduSynch – Weirdly similar to Best My Test
  • Nova’s “Speaking and Writing Strategies for the TOEFL”  – Curse of Knowledge?

 

Buried in an article in the “Learning English” section of Voice of America is some news about which schools will accept the new TOEFL Essentials Test:

Some schools like Temple University Law School, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the University of San Francisco have told ETS they will accept results from the new test. And ETS said it will publish a list of universities that intend to accept the Essentials test after the first phase of testing.

That’s nice.  In the near future I will start a blog post that lists schools which will accept the test.

Ha ha.  I am a TOEFL essay machine now.  This took about three minutes to create using my fake essay template, and I think it looks pretty decent.

The prompt is:

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? It is better for children to grow up in the countryside than in a large city. Use specific reasons and examples to develop your essay.

The Essay is:

A lot of people today think that we should live in the city.  However, I strongly believe that it is much better for kids to live in the country for two reasons.  First, it leads to a lot of great job opportunities.  Second, it vastly improves our health and wellbeing, which a lot of people are struggling with nowadays.  To be fair, a lot of older people have the traditional view that cities are the best place for young people to live.  That said, I think this viewpoint is outdated and quite useless in today’s society.

First, life in the countryside can improve our range of job opportunities in the future.  As I implied above, people my parent’s age (and older) think that living in the countryside is actually quite dangerous.  When I was young and they had a lot of influence over my world view, I actually had the same opinion.  At that time, I thought the lack of businesses in the country would actually make it harder for me to get a job, and so I was hostile toward it.  However, after I entered college and my social network broadened, I realized the unique benefits of rural life.  Now I realize that the presence of agriculture can help us find employment in high paying fields.  For example, my young cousin makes a lot of money because he works in a field related to growing organic crops.  His experience changed my perspective, and now I am focusing on farming at university in the hope of achieving the same thing.

Second, life in the countryside has a noticeable effect on our physical health and maybe even our mental health.  I actually read a story about this in the Village Voice Newspaper a few months ago.  It pointed out that if we properly use hiking trails we can avoid the poor health that a lot of people are dealing with nowadays.  The article claimed that 75% of Americans think that the best way of staying fit is making use of rural sports.  Medical experts who reviewed the study results agreed, and suggested that rural lifestyles will have an even greater impact in the future because of the clean air in the countryside.  Consequently, I strongly feel that benefiting from life away from crowded cities is a fantastic way to stay healthy.

In conclusion, I think that it is best for young people to live in the countryside.  This is because it can lead to gainful employment, and because it has a positive impact on our minds and bodies.

(you can also read parts one, two,  and four of this series!)

Okay, I’m having fun with the Gangnam style TOEFL template I generated yesterday.  This time I tackled the second prompt in my collection.  Obviously it has a lot of overlap, since both deal with the Internet.  Next time I think I will delete the final sentence from the introduction. It lays the template on a bit too thick.  I’ll replace it with nothing, and just jump to the body after the thesis statement.

The prompt is:

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? It is better to use printed materials such as books and articles to do research than it is to use the internet. Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.

The “fake essay” is:

A lot of people today think that using online materials for research is a bad idea.  However, I strongly believe that using the Internet for research is wise for two reasons.  First, it leads to a lot of great job opportunities.  Second, it vastly improves our health and wellbeing, which a lot of people are struggling with nowadays.  To be fair, a lot of older people have the traditional view that websites are unreliable.  That said, I think this viewpoint is outdated and quite useless in today’s society.

First, using the Internet for researching topics can improve our range of job opportunities in the future.  As I implied above, people my parent’s age (and older) think that the web is actually quite dangerous.  When I was young and they had a lot of influence over my world view, I actually had the same opinion.  At that time, I thought relying on unreliable online sources would actually make it harder for me to get a job, and so I was hostile toward it.  However, after I entered college and my social network broadened, I realized the unique benefits of cutting edge research that is published online.  Now I realize that learning about the latest academic developments online can help us find employment in high paying fields.  For example, my young cousin makes a lot of money because he works in a field related to crypto-currency.  His experience changed my perspective, and now I am focusing on emerging web-based technologies at university in the hope of achieving the same thing.

Second, medical websites have a noticeable effect on our physical health and maybe even our mental health.  I actually read a story about this in the Village Voice Newspaper a few months ago.  It pointed out that if we properly use websites that report on health trends we can avoid the poor health that a lot of people are dealing with nowadays.  The article claimed that 75% of Americans think that the best way of staying fit is making use of the Internet.  Medical experts who reviewed the study results agreed, and suggested that websites will have an even greater impact in the future because of the number of doctors who are online.  Consequently, I strongly feel that benefiting from online research is a fantastic way to stay healthy.

In conclusion, I think that researching online is beneficial.  This is because it can lead to gainful employment, and because it has a positive impact on our minds and bodies.

(you can also read parts one,  three and four of this series!)

There is a wonderful article by Sugene Kim (Nagoya University of Commerce & Business) in this month’s issue of “Assessing Writing” that describes TOEFL writing tutoring in Korea.  I’ve written about how Korean students prepare for the TOEFL a few times (see this article from last year), and Kim’s article touches on some of the same themes.

Kim describes how Korean tutors use templates to prepare students for both of the writing tasks.  But these aren’t templates like the ones on this site.  The templates prepared by Korean tutors are almost complete essays.  The template might come out to 300 or 350 words, and the student simply plugs in 20 or 30 words that match the given topic.  The article includes interviews with students who confirm the effectiveness of this method.  The tutors produce totally personalized templates for each student so they are much harder for ETS to detect.  The article describes how the most successful tutors become stars in education sector.  One is referred to by students as “the Writing sniper.”  Of his work, the interviewee notes:

“He gives lessons based on his own templates, which are famous for ‘mesmerizing’ ETS essay raters.  Most of his former pupils are known to have experiences a dramatic score increase after taking his classes.”

The article doesn’t exaggerate.  I am based in Korea, and one of my close friends in the TOEFL-prep industry is  a star tutor.  His business is booming and he gets results.

A sample template (complete with student annotations) is available in the article.  Personally, I don’t teach this way but if I was going to write a “Korean Style Template” it would look something like this:

Introduction

A lot of people today think that [opposite of thesis].  However, I strongly believe that [thesis] for two reasons.  First, it leads to a lot of great job opportunities.  Second, it vastly improves our health and wellbeing, which a lot of people are struggling with nowadays.  To be fair, a lot of older people have the traditional view that [opposite of thesis].  That said, I think this viewpoint is outdated and quite useless in today’s society.

Body 1

First, [topic] can improve our range of job opportunities in the future.  As I implied above, people my parent’s age (and older) think that [topic] is actually quite dangerous.  When I was young and they had a lot of influence over my world view, I actually had the same opinion.  At that time, I thought [aspect of topic] would actually make it harder for me to get a job, and so I was hostile toward it.  However, after I entered college and my social network broadened, I realized the unique benefits of [aspect of topic].  Now I realize that [specific aspect of topic] can help us find employment in high paying fields.  For example, my young cousin makes a lot of money because he works in a field related to [specific aspect of topic].  His experience changed my perspective, and now I am focusing on [aspect of topic] at university in the hope of achieving the same thing.

Body 2

Second, [topic] has a noticeable effect on our physical health and maybe even our mental health.  I actually read a story about this in the Village Voice Newspaper a few months ago.  It pointed out that if we properly use [topic] we can avoid the poor health that a lot of people are dealing with nowadays.  The article claimed that 75% of Americans think that the best way of staying fit is making use of [aspect of topic].  Medical experts who reviewed the study results agreed, and suggested that [topic] will have an even greater impact in the future because of [aspect of topic].  Consequently, I strongly feel that benefiting from [topic] is a fantastic way to stay healthy.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I think that [thesis].  This is because it can lead to gainful employment, and because it has a positive impact on our minds and bodies.

 

Okay, so I might use this to answer a prompt about the Internet ( Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Overall, the widespread use of the internet has a mostly positive effect on life in today’s world) thusly:

A lot of people today think that the internet is harmful.  However, I strongly believe that internet access is beneficial for two reasons.  First, it leads to a lot of great job opportunities.  Second, it vastly improves our health and wellbeing, which a lot of people are struggling with nowadays.  To be fair, a lot of older people have the traditional view that the internet is damaging.  That said, I think this viewpoint is outdated and quite useless in today’s society.

First, the internet can improve our range of job opportunities in the future.  As I implied above, people my parent’s age (and older) think that the internet is actually quite dangerous.  When I was young and they had a lot of influence over my world view, I actually had the same opinion.  At that time, I thought websites would actually eliminate jobs, and so I was hostile toward them.  However, after I entered college and my social network broadened, I realized the unique benefits of online communications.  Now I realize that the Internet can help us find employment in high paying fields.  For example, my young cousin makes a lot of money because he works in a field related to online commerce.  His experience changed my perspective, and now I am focusing on information technology at university in the hope of achieving the same thing.

Second, the Internet has a noticeable effect on our physical health and maybe even our mental health.  I actually read a story about this in the Village Voice Newspaper a few months ago.  It pointed out that if we properly use the Internet we can avoid the poor health that a lot of people are dealing with nowadays.  The article claimed that 75% of Americans think that the best way of staying fit is making use of fitness applications.  Medical experts who reviewed the study results agreed, and suggested that the Internet will have an even greater impact in the future because of new developments.  Consequently, I strongly feel that benefiting from the Internet is a fantastic way to stay healthy.

In conclusion, I think that the Internet is beneficial.  This is because it can lead to gainful employment, and because it has a positive impact on our minds and bodies.

But it isn’t as easy as that. A few things are worth mentioning:

  • At first glance, it seems like this template might be useable with only about 10% of the prompts on my sample page.   The star tutor will give students a bunch of templates to cover the whole range of possible prompts.  They will also get them to mix and match body paragraphs covering a range of benefits (jobs, health, quality of life, family bonds, relationships, etc.).
  • I spent about 10 minutes writing this template.  It isn’t great, but I think it demonstrates the point I am trying to convey.  The star tutors work harder to provide much better templates for their students. 
  • As the article points out, students take the test many times.  The system doesn’t always work.
  • As I mentioned in a blog post last year, ETS seems to be penalizing students for fake surveys and research nowadays.  Professor Kim didn’t mention this, but anecdotal evidence I’ve heard seems to corroborate my claim.

What does this all mean?  I don’t know.

(you can also read parts two, three and four of this series!)

The Open Library now offers a copy of Compass Publishing’s “Mastering Skills for the TOEFL iBT Advanced (Listening).”  You can borrow it for an hour, or for a couple of weeks with a free account.  Here’s a link.  You can quickly access the audio files from the publisher.

This is a great book full of accurate listening content that will be new to 99.9% of people reading this blog.  The book is from a Korean publisher, which means its content is way more accurate than most TOEFL books and websites.

Even if you ignore the skill building content, this is a great opportunity to complete two full listening practice tests.  And, as you probably know, everyone ought to complete all of the practice tests they can get their hands on.

I check Open Library every day for new TOEFL books.  Most of the time I am disappointed with the selections, but I got really excited today when I saw this one!