I read a couple of non-fiction books this month which I liked a lot.

First up, I reread my favorite travel book, “Shadow of the Silk Road” by Colin Thubron.  Followers of this column will note that I’ve spent the past few years slowly working my way through his expansive bibliography.  I think I will finish that journey in 2023.  I do recommend this particular book to anyone who enjoys travel, or who wants some challenging academic reading material.  The book, like everything by Thubron, functions as both a travelog and a collection of short historical sketches of the regions he moves though.  You can find it on Amazon or in the Open Library.

I also read Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed,” in which she describes her experiences holding a series of low-wage jobs in the United States in the late 1990s.  Though the world has changed quite a lot in the decades since the book was published, it seems as timely as ever given the inflation we went through in 2022 and the recession that seems to be looming.  The book is mostly descriptive, but if you stick around for the final couple of chapters you’ll find some really insightful analysis.  Find it on Amazon or in the Open Library.

Meanwhile, I stumbled upon an article in Science News about the private sale of fossils in the United States.  Experienced TOEFLers will recognize this very topic from one of the three ETS books.  As I’ve said before in this column, dinosaur-related topics seem to show up on the TOEFL (and in prep materials) quite often.

Lastly, I read the May 2021 issue of Scientific American (this one came from the discard bin at my local library) and a few things stood out:

That’s all for this month.  I will travel in January so expect an early column next month.  I’ll probably start with notes from my last two issues of “Scientific American.”

I got a bunch of emails/DMs from people panicking because they can’t download PDF score reports for scores that have already been reported. If my memory is correct, the same thing happened during the holiday season last year. In my opinion, the generation of those reports ought not be affected by holidays.

But there ya go.  If you are still waiting for your PDF score report, just keep waiting.  I think the ETS offices will be open again tomorrow.

I’m going to bed now.  I’m tired.

I read today that the Educational Testing Service (ETS) has reached a settlement with the US Attorney’s office “to resolve allegations of discrimination in violate of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.”

It is frustrating for me to see other testing providers winning plaudits for making education more accessible, while ETS is settling an ADA case… again.

The settlement agreement describes the case thusly:

“While the complaints varied by the particular circumstances, they all involved candidates with disabilities who stated that they were denied testing accommodations on the GRE and Praxis examinations, and/or that ETS delayed providing a final response to a request for a particular testing accommodation, thus preventing the testing candidate from taking the relevant ETS-administered examination with the needed testing accommodation. Furthermore, Complainants alleged unnecessary delays or confusing requirements to obtain and utilize needed testing accommodations.”

You can read the settlement agreement at the link above. If nothing else, read the accounts of the nine complainants. I found some of the quite shocking. The last two involve issues with at-home testing, which is something I have followed over the past few years. The details of the final complainant, in particular, made me see red:

“Approximately one month after ETS made at-home testing available to those in need of certain accommodations, A.C. was able to schedule an examination with the previously granted accommodations. During Complainant A.C.’s at-home examination, ETS’s third-party online proctor service appeared unaware of the previously granted accommodations and closed A.C.’s examination when he attempted to take an approved break. A.C. ultimately spent several hours with technical support seeking permission to return to his examination. When he was able to return, he did not use any of his approved additional breaks for fear of having his examination closed a second time. In light of the disruptions to his examination, A.C. sought to retake the GRE before the normal 21-day waiting period. ETS did not grant him permission to do so.”

As I’ve written here too many times, we should always strive to do better when it comes to at-home testing.

Anyway. The settlement agreement details four pages of actions ETS must take. The complainants will receive monetary relief of up to $10,000 USD. ETS management must attend an Americans with Disabilities training course. Attendance will be taken and provided to the United States.

Update: I spoke to a test-taker in India who was offered the chance to appeal.  Maybe decisions are now made on a case-by-case basis, or maybe things have changed in recent days.  Time will tell.

It looks like my interpretation of the new TOEFL bulletin was correct.  It appears that there have been changes to how score cancellations due to statistical analysis are handled.  It looks like test-takers outside of the USA are no longer offered refunds or the chance to appeal their scores.

I was contacted today by a student who took the TOEFL test in August 2022 and October 2022 outside of the USA. His October scores were canceled because that test “showed inconsistent performance” compared to the August administration.

This sort of thing happens often enough that I get emails about it all the time. What’s interesting is that, unlike past test-takers, this test-taker wasn’t offered a chance to appeal to the Board of Review, to get a refund, to get a free reschedule or even to access the statistical analysis of his scores (the “score data summary”). The scores were just canceled.

This is an unfortunate change, in my opinion.

Note that test-takers in the USA are likely still offered the above options.

I’ll have you know that today is the 75th birthday of the Educational Testing Service.

ETS is an interesting organization. Love it or hate it, most people will agree that at one point ETS had a very fundamental and profound impact on American society. I think there is a case to be made that founding president Henry Chauncey was one of the most influential Americans of the 20th century. Domestically, anyway.

In previous decades ETS created and administered all of the major university admissions tests. Not only that, but the guy who cut your hair might have taken an ETS test to get his barber’s license. And the person who gave you golf lessons down at the club may have also taken an ETS test before getting his job.

I think this this anniversary won’t be noted in the press, which is an indication of the diminished stature of the organization today. ETS has divested itself of those occupational tests, and has lost the contracts for many of the standardized academic tests it doesn’t own outright (most recently it quietly wound-down most of its involvement in the SAT).

But ETS remains significant in other ways. If nothing else, it certainly is wealthier than ever before. The TOEFL remains important. The GRE somewhat important. The TOEIC is a phenomenon in Korea and Japan. And given the very important case regarding affirmative action currently before the Supreme Court of the USA it may be worth reflecting on the work of ETS over the past 75 years.

Interested parties may enjoy “The Big Test,” a book by Columbia University’s Nicholas Lemann. It traces the “utopian experiment” that was standardized testing. Another great book is “Henry Chauncey: An American Life” by Norbert Elliot of the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The authors of both books made use of ETS’s extensive archives.

“Rest of World” took a deep dive into the world of cheating on online standardized tests, including the PTE, IELTS, TOEFL, GRE and Duolingo English Test.

They note:

“A university student in the central Chinese province of Henan told Rest of World in November that she recently hired a company to help her with the Toefl test by sending answers to her phone during an at-home exam. The company initially asked for 18,000 yuan ($2,548), but she bargained it down to 15,000 ($2,124). The student said she felt bad for cheating, but she was eager to obtain a high score before the application deadlines for the fall 2023 master’s programs in the U.S. “I think everyone struggles [with ethics],” she said. “It’s not a good thing after all.” 

Helping others cheat on state exams is a criminal offense in China. But test-prep professionals say Chinese authorities have little interest in how they exploit the security lapses of international tests. On social platforms including WeChat, Xiaohongshu, and Douban, test-prep agencies openly advertise cheating services for other online-proctored exams such as GMAT, the PTE Academic exam, IELTS Indicator, and the Duolingo English Test. One company contacted by Rest of World offered cheating services for the LSAT, a rigorous exam required by most law schools in the U.S., charging 40,000 yuan ($5,662) to obtain a score of 160 out of 180, and 60,000 yuan ($8,494) to hit 170, good enough for a Harvard Law School applicant.”

Representatives from testing organizations counter that they are working hard to reduce cheating and provide secure platforms. 

This is a subject I have never felt comfortable writing about on the blog, but it matches what I’ve heard over the past couple of years.  Cheating is not limited just to China, of course.

I updated the TOEFL and Duolingo Score requirement tracker for December, and discovered that Carnegie Mellon reduced its Duolingo English Test score requirement down to 125.  This after increasing it to 135 in November.  Weird.

School

Spring 2022

DET / TOEFL

August 11
DET / TOEFL

September 4
DET / TOEFL

October 10

DET / TOEFL

November 16

DET / TOEFL

December 14

DET / TOEFL

MIT

120 / 90

120 / 90

120 / 90

120 / 90

120 / 90

120 / 90

U of Toronto

120 / 100

120 / 100

120 / 100

120 / 100

120 / 100

120 / 100

Cornell

120 / 100


120 / 100

120 / 100

120 / 100

120 / 100

120 / 100

UBC

125 / 90

125 / 90

125 / 90

125 / 90

125 / 90*

125 / 90*

Emory

120 / 100

120 / 100

120 / 100

130 / 100

130 / 100

130 / 100

U of Arizona

100 / 70

100 / 70


100 / 70

100 / 70

100 / 70

100 / 70

Carnegie Mel.

125 / 102

125 / 102


125 / 102

 125 / 102

135 / 102

125 / 102

Brown

125 / 100

125 / 100

125 / 100

130 / 100

130 / 100

130 / 100

U of Utah

105 / 80

105 / 80

105 / 80

105 / 80

105 / 80

105 / 80

Rice

120 / 100

120 / 100

120 / 100

120 / 100

120 / 100

120 / 100

UCLA

120 / 100


120 / 100

120 / 100

120 / 100

120 / 100

120 / 100

Columbia

125 / 105


125 / 105


135 / 105

135 / 105

135 / 105

135 / 105

Dalhousie

115 / 90

115 / 90

115 / 90

115 / 90

115 / 90

115 / 90

City College of SF

85 / 56

85 / 56

85 / 56

85 / 56

85 / 56

85 / 56

De Anza College

95 / 61

95 / 61

95 / 61

95 / 61

95 / 61

95 / 61

Imperial College London

115 / 92

115 / 92

115 / 92

115 / 92

115 / 92

115 / 92

U of Chichester

95 / 79

95 / 79

95 / 79

 -- / 79

 -- / 79

 -- / 79

 

Teachers who work with students in Japan will appreciate this new article in “Language Testing in Asia.” It uses results from the TOEFL (and other tests) to create profiles of language learners in that country. Not surprisingly, the profiles match what our experience tells us.

I like this section at the end:

“When the uneven profiles come from true skill imbalance, learners and teachers may need to decide whether to focus on weaker or stronger skills for further study based on their contexts and needs. While one direction is to improve a weaker skill, a stronger skill could be further improved to compensate for the weaker one.”

Note the last part.

About a third of the students I work with nowadays are from Japan. Most of them come to me for help with the writing section. After looking at their score history I usually offer to help with the speaking section as well. The response is often something like “It is impossible for a student from Japan to score more than 23 in the speaking section, so I’m not going to work on it any more.” Even though their target is 110 overall, they’d rather just max out the other sections than “waste time” on the speaking prep. It’s an interesting approach.  It may be a correct one.

 

Welcome to the TOEFL Coupon Code Tracker.  I’ll post all of the coupon/voucher codes I can find here.  Codes that are shared on the Official TOEFL Facebook page will be posted directly, but otherwise I’ll send you directly to the sources for the codes so you can show them some love.  The most recent codes are at the top of the list.   Note that I also track GRE coupon codes, but they are pretty rare.

Update:  Students in India should try BNB20 to get a $20 discount on their TOEFL registration.  I think this one is only good for India, but it could be worth trying if nothing else works.  Let me know in the comments if you can get it to work.  I got it from this weird YouTube video.

Update: Use the code SOCL20 to get a $20 discount.  Again, I don’t know when this code expires and I don’t know how many times it can be used.  I got it from a guy on Facebook.  But it works right now (January 28, 2023) and it seems to be good around the world.

Update: Use the coupon code FB20 to get a $20 discount.  I don’t know when this one expires.  I don’t know how many times it can be used.  I got it from a random dude on Twitter.  But it works right now (January 9, 2023).

Update:  Use the TOEFL coupon code EDUSA30 to get a $30 discount on registrations completed before January 6, 2023.  Test should be completed before November of this year.  Read the terms and conditions.

Update: Use the coupon code TOEFLNEW to get a $30 discount on TOEFL registrations completed before January 4, 2023.  Read the terms and conditions.

Update: Use the coupon code TST30TOEFL to get a $30 discount on TOEFL registrations completed before December 31.  Read the terms and conditions before use.  This one comes from TSTPrep, so be sure to give them some love.  The code can only be used 500 times, so don’t dilly dally.

Update: Use the coupon code TOEFL2023 to get a $30 discount on TOEFL registrations completed before January 4, 2023.  This code is direct from ETS!  It can only be used 1000 times, so don’t delay.  Check out the terms and conditions.

Update: Participants in the EdAgree Virtual University Fair on December 13/15 of this year will receive a TOEFL coupon code.  I recommend signing up even if you don’t plan to attend in person, as the contents will be available online after the fact, and I think the code is sent by email later on.  They will also give away a free TOEFL registration to one lucky participant.  Click to register.

Update: According to the Official TOEFL Facebook page you can use the code GUILIA30 to get a $30 discount on TOEFL registrations completed before December 14.  Be sure to read the terms and conditions. Only 500 people can use the code, so it might not last until December 14.  Use it while you can.

Update: Study in USA will probably give away a $30 code at this free online event on November 30 .  Register now to attend.  If ETS publishes the code on their social media after the fact I’ll share it here as well.  Be sure to follow Study in USA on Eventbrite when you register, as many of their events include a code.

Update: ETS just released a bunch of “Black Friday” coupon codes for the TOEFL iBT.  Students in Brazil, Canada, Colombia, and the United States can save $47 if they register before November 28.    In Brazil, use code TOEFLCYBERBR.  In Canada use TOEFLCYBERCA.  In Colombia use TOEFLCYBERCO and in the United States use TOEFLCYBERUS.  Each can only be used by only 500 people. Click for terms and conditions.

Update: I think that all attendees of the free EdAgree Test Prep Workshop on November 29 will get a $30 coupon code for the TOEFL iBT.   You can find registration details over here.  You probably have to attend (online) to get the code, but I recommend registering even if you don’t plan to attend since it might also be sent via email.  I won’t share the code here unless it goes out on social media.

Update:  According to the Official TOEFL Facebook page you can save $30 by using the coupon code “SPORTS30” if you register before November 18, 2022.  Check out the terms and conditions.

Update:  Study in the USA has a new worldwide code that is valid until October 21.  It isn’t on social media now, so you should visit their site to get it.  Just click and scroll to the end of the article.

Update:  According to ETS Japan, students in Japan can use the coupon codes “ETSJ1026” and “TOFURE1026” to save $46 when they register in October.  I think they have an unlimited number of uses.

Update: According to the Official TOEFL Facebook page, you can use the coupon “COLLEGE30” to get a $30 discount on TOEFL iBT registrations, and “COLLEGE10” to get a $10 discount on TOEFL Essentials registrations.  This will be valid until September 29, or until the maximum number of uses has been reached.  Also be sure to check out the terms and conditions.

Update:  According to the Official TOEFL Facebook page, you can use the coupon code “JULIANA30” to get a $30 discount on TOEFL registrations completed before September 22 of this year.  Be sure to read the terms and conditions.

Update: You can use the coupon code “CHOICE30” to get a $30 discount on TOEFL registrations completed before September 7.  You don’t need to take the test before then… you just need to register for it. Once again, this code comes from a partnership between ETS and Study in the USA, so be sure to check them out.   You should also read the terms and conditions.

Update: You can use the coupon code “JENNIFER30” to get a $30 discount on TOEFL registrations made before August 23.  This code comes from a partnership between ETS and Study in the USA, so be sure to check them out.  You should also read the terms and conditions.

Update: ETS Japan has distributed a bunch of codes for use in Japan.  Try SAYAKA22TOEFL (link) or TOFURE22TOEFL (link) or ETSJ22TOEFL (link) to get $61 off your registration until September 15 (or while supplies last).

Update: You can use the voucher code “DARREN30” to get a $30 discount on TOEFL registrations until July 26, 2022. Just enter the code at the final screen in the registration process. Go ahead and read the terms and conditions over here. This code was provided through a partnership with Study in the USA, so be sure to visit them.

I saw on the official TOEFL Facebook Page that if you enter the promo (voucher) code “VALERIA30” you can get a $30 discount when you register for the test.  This seems to work in all countries and for both the TOEFL iBT and the TOEFL IBT Home Edition.  Note that the stated expiration date is July 14, so use it soon.  Read  the terms and conditions over here.