No book recommendations today.  Sorry.  My personal reading was mostly fiction this month.  But, as usual, I did plow through a few magazines. 

First up, I read the September issue of “History Today.”  I enjoyed:

Next, I read the October issue of the same magazine.  In that one, I liked:

Both of these magazines contain a lot of great long-form articles… but alas they are for subscribers only.

Finally, I read the  Fall 2021 issue of Modern Dog (oh yes I did).  I spotted:

I think I’ve got one more issue of “History Today” and one more issue of “Modern Dog” coming before my subscriptions run out. Stay tuned!

Continue reading “You Should Read More – Part 15 (of 100)”

The TOEFL Home Edition is a wonderful addition to the TOEFL family of tests.  According to a recent presentation given by ETS it has been taken more than 500,000 times since March of 2020. Students all over the world have enjoyed the flexibility that the home edition provides, especially in today’s tumultuous times.

That said, I do get messages from students with scores that have been put “on hold” or have been cancelled. Test takers must understand that this is always a possibility when taking a remotely proctored exam.  Fortunately, with some planning and effort the chance of something like this happening can be reduced.  Today’s blog is about what you can do to have a comfortable test experience and ensure that your scores are not delayed.

Part One – Before the Test

Read the Instructions from ETS

Okay, this one might be too obvious.  That said, I get a lot of e-mails from people who clearly haven’t read the instructionsHere’s a link.  Read that page word for word.  Read it three times.  It describes system requirements, it links to the software you need to download, it talks about what your room should be like and what you can wear.  Don’t get these instructions from third-party YouTube videos, since the test has changed a few times since it first launched and many videos are out of date.

Test Your Computer and Equipment

Make sure your computer equipment is working properly before you take the test. The easiest way to do this is to run the ProctorU online equipment test.  But don’t stop there!  You should manually test your microphone. Make a test recording using something like “Voice Recorder” (Windows) or “Voice Memos” (Mac OS) and actually listen to it. How does it sound? If your audio quality is poor, you should get a new microphone. Microphone problems are a major cause of cancelled scores. Remember that the online equipment test just checks if your microphone is receiving input; it does not test the actual quality of its recordings.

Test Your Writing Materials

Writing on a whiteboard or a transparent sheet can be tricky at first.  Experiment a bit with different surfaces, markers and erasers before you begin the test. Figure out what you feel most comfortable with. I highly recommend that you get a whiteboard with a nice thin marker.  A thick marker will lead to constant erasing.

Shut Down Background Apps

Shut down everything else that is running on your system before you start the test.  Certain types of applications could cause your scores to be put on hold. The proctor is supposed to shut down everything, but don’t depend on them to do that.  Do it yourself!

Put a “Stay Out” (and “Shut up”) Sign on Your Door

Before starting the test put a sign on your door telling everyone else in the house to leave it closed at all times.  The sign should also tell people to avoid talking to you at all times.  Remind everyone that even if your test is scheduled to last three hours, you might still be taking it four hours later, or five hours later.  They should not assume that you have finished and that it is okay to open the door or to talk to you.  I’ve gotten many reports about test scores being cancelled after a well-being mom decided it was okay to open the door!

Part Two – During the Test

Follow the Instructions

It is awkward to write this, but here goes.  I’ve gotten several reports that uniformed proctors have allowed students to break the rules… and thus caused scores to get cancelled.  Don’t let this happen during your test.  Don’t take an 11 minute break just because the proctor says it is okay.  Don’t start the test without showing ID just because the proctor says it is okay.  Don’t drink water during the test just because the proctor says it is okay.  Those things are all against the rules.  Doing them could result in a score cancellation.

Don’t Touch Your Phone

You might use your phone at the beginning of the test to give the proctor a “mirror” look at your screen before starting the test.  After you do that, follow the proctor’s instructions and put it away.  Don’t touch it after that.  Most importantly, don’t pick it up when you begin your break.  Leave it right where it is during the break!  I have received several reports about test scores being cancelled because a student absent-mindedly picked up their phone while stepping out of the room to take a break. To avoid this possibility, you could just use an actual mirror to show the proctor your screen at the beginning of the test.

Look.  Straight.  Ahead.

Keep looking forward.  Don’t stare off to the side or up at the ceiling as you think about hard questions.  Keep looking forward.  If you look away from the screen for even a moment, you could trigger the automated anti-cheating software.  That could result in your scores being put on hold.

Part Three – After the Test

Wait 6 to 10 Days for Your Score

Your score will arrive 6 to 10 days after you take the test (not counting the day of the test). Your PDF score report will be available 2 days after that. Your recipients will get the scores a few days after that. Be patient.

If there is a delay, ETS will send you an email.  You can contact the Office of Testing Integrity to request additional information.

 

 

According to yesterday’s earnings call, revenue for the Duolingo English Test in Q3 2021 was $6,695,000. At $49 a pop, we might extrapolate that the test was taken 136,000 times in July/Aug/Sept. The actual number is probably a bit higher than that due to discounts and freebies.

This is up from $5,607,000 in Q3 2020.

Here are the historic revenues:

Q3 2021 – 6,695,000  
Q2 2021 – 4,833,000
Q1 2021 – 5,035,000

Q3 2020 – 5,607,000
Q2 2020 – 4,598,000
Q1 2020 –    753,000

(I don’t have a number for Q4 2020)

Okay, so here’s my report on changes to the TOEFL Bulletin between July 2021 and October 2021.

I’m only going to list substantive changes (and ones that make me chuckle). Most of these relate to the new Paper Edition of the test, of course.

Page 5: The TOEFL iBT is now accepted at 11,500 institutions (up from 11,000)!

Page 5:  Test centers are no longer described as “ETS approved.”  They are now described as “authorized.”  This one made me chuckle a lot.

Page 5:  The Home Edition is now in China!

Page 5:  The Paper Edition exists!

Page 6:  Instructions for getting a large-print copy of the Bulletin from ETS Disability Services were removed.  This makes me sad.

Page 7: The Bulletin no longer recommends contacting ProctorU by email or live chat if you have problems immediately before the test.  Wise.

Page 10: You cannot register for the Paper Edition on the app.

Page 11:  The Bulletin no longer recommends getting “the most current information” in the app.  Now they just tell you to use the website.  Smart.

Page 12:  More paper edition stuff.  I can’t really summarize it all here, but I’ve blogged on it here and there.  But note that there is no score review process for the Paper Edition.  This is interesting.  I am not totally sure why that is.

Page 13:  The “returned payment fee” is now listed in the chart.  But I think the amount is the same.

Page 13:  It now lists Australia, Canada, Colombia, Nigeria, Turkey and the United States as jurisdictions where taxes are added to the price of the test at checkout. That matches what I reported in August.

Page 13: Fee increase! We have a fee increase!  There’s a fee increase over here! The “declined payment” fee has increased from $20 to $30.

Page 16:  There is a reminder to check your equipment before taking the home edition.

Page 18:  In India you can use your Aadhaar card.  But damn it, someone needs to tell all the proctors about this change.  I’ve gotten too many reports about it being rejected on test day.

Page 21:  A bunch of new ID notes for Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, India, and the EU.

Page 27:  Score cancellation stuff for the Paper Edition.

Page 27: Note that refunds are now provided in the currency you paid for the test in.  Previously, refunds were in US dollars.

Page 29:  Important change!  Important change! Score reports are sent to recipients “within 11 business days.”  Previously this was done “within 11 days – or sooner.”

Page 34:  The bulletin now says that scores can be cancelled by ETS “when, in its sole judgement, there is substantial evidence that the score is invalid. Scores can be cancelled as a result of test taker behavior or irregularities that affect testing integrity.”  Yeah.

Page 35:  There is a line about how frequent reuse of testing devices and locations could cause score delays and cancellations… and your eligibility to take future exams.

 

The third quarter earnings call for Duolingo will stream live tomorrow (November 10). I won’t watch the livestream since I’m not a shareholder (too poor) but I imagine it will include the latest registration numbers for the Duolingo English Test.

In case you are wondering, there were 340,000 registrations for the DET in 2020. There were slightly less during the 12 months ending in June of 2021.

In comparison, the TOEFL iBT Home Edition was taken about 500,000 times between March 2020 and some undisclosed time in the recent past (according to a recent webinar for stakeholders).

Many users have recently reported problems logging into their TOEFL accounts. This is probably because they also have a GRE account. I’ve been reading daily reports of this for the past 2.5 weeks.  It took me until today to reproduce it myself.

Here is a description of the problem and a couple of solutions.

You cannot be signed into both your TOEFL account and your GRE account at the same time. If you try to log in to your GRE account when you are already logged into your TOEFL account you will get this error:

“It appears that you have encountered a glitch with our Sign In system”

If you try to log into your TOEFL account when you are already logged into your GRE account you will get this error:

“authnsvc.ets.org took too long to respond.”

Solution 1:

To permanently avoid this problem you should manually log out of the other account. Don’t just close the window, but actually click the “sign out” button. Each time you finish using your TOEFL or GRE account you should manually sign out of it.

Solution 2:

You can also try using an incognito or private browser window to log in.  But you will have to repeat this every time you want to log in.

Note that sometimes neither solution will work.  I’m sorry.  If that happens you should call ETS.  Students have reported that their customer support team has been able to solve the problem.

 

(This post was updated November 11, 2021)

Another month, another list of recommended readings!

I ended my subscription to National Geographic, so there won’t be any more recommendations from that magazine after this month.  Same for Science News.  Moving forward, I want a bit more variety in this column!  I should mention that National Geographic has sent about ten letters to my home over the past couple months, begging me to resubscribe.  I wonder how much money they’ve spent on that.

Anyways, I did read the July and August issues of National Geographic this month.  A few articles stood out:

I also read a few books this month!  First up, I read yet another travel book by Colin Thubron.  This time I tackled “Among the Russians,” an account of his trip by car through the Soviet Union in the early 1980s.  While I have been hesitant to recommend his other travel books because of their “fancy” use of the English language, this one is a totally different beast.  The English here is functional and academic without being needlessly poetic.  I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who wants a bit of academic reading practice (and also loves travel).  You can get it for free on the Open Library or for cheap on Amazon.

I also read “None of the Above” by David Owen.  This book is an investigative look at the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and the SAT test from the early 1980s. The book is still relevant today as it is 2021 and it looks like the SAT test is finally on its last legs. If you’ve ever been frustrated with ETS, this is the book for you!  In addition to being informative, it is also very funny. Consider its opening lines:

“The not-for-profit are different from you and me. Tennis courts, a swimming pool, a baseball diamond, a croquet lawn, private hotel, four hundred acres of woods and rolling hills, cavorting deer, a resident flock of Canada geese. I’m loving every minute here at the Educational Testing Service, the great untaxed, unregulated, unblinking eye of the American meritocracy.”

The book is long out of print, but you can borrow it from the Open Library.

Okay, that’s all for now.  Now that I’m done with my science mags, I will start diving into my history mags for the next few months.  Stay tuned.

Well, since no one else has created one, I’m going to use this post as a TOEFL FAQ.  I’ll add to it gradually over time and will bump it to the top of the blog every now and then.  If there are any questions you think should be added, just leave a comment.  If my answers are faulty you should also leave a comment.

Please note that I am not associated with ETS, the owners of the TOEFL Test.  I’m just a guy on the Internet who gets asked the same questions day after day after day.

Q: How do I change my name in my TOEFL account?

You should call ETS support by phone. You can call them at +1-609-771-7100 or 1-877-863-3546.  They will likely ask you to email a copy of a document confirming the new name. Changes will show up in the account in a few days.  (source)

Q: When will I get my TOEFL scores?

If you take the test at a test center, you will get them six days after you take the test.  If you take the test at home, you will get them between six and ten days after you take the test. (source)

Q: When will score recipients (universities) get my TOEFL scores?

The ETS website and Score Bulletin contain somewhat conflicting information.  The TOEFL website suggests that they will get scores 6 to 10 business days after you take the test.  The TOEFL bulletin suggests that it could take 11 business days. (source and source)

Q: How do I know if schools have received my scores?  Is there some kind of confirmation? 

There is no confirmation from ETS.  You should ask the schools yourself.

Q: If I pay for extra score recipients after taking the test, how long will it take for them to get the scores?

3-5 Business days. (source)

Q: When will my TOEFL paper score report arrive?

Paper scores are mailed from ETS 10 to 12 business days after you take the test. (source) They are mailed using regular post so the delivery time mostly depends on your local mail service. Test-takers in certain Asian countries can pay extra for express mailing. (source)

Q: When can I download the PDF Score report?

The PDF score can be downloaded from your ETS account two days after your scores are provided. (source)

Q: Are the unofficial reading and listening scores scaled or raw scores?

They are scaled scores.

Q: Do the unofficial reading and listening scores ever change?

The unofficial reading and listening scores are considered “unofficial” so they could change.  However, it appears that they almost never change.  

Q: I ran out of time during the writing section, and didn’t click the “submit” button to send my essay.  Will it be graded?

Yes.  Whatever is on your screen when time runs out is submitted automatically.

Q: I accidentally cancelled my TOEFL scores at the end of the test. How do I reinstate them?

Try this:

  1. In your TOEFL account Click “view all my tests”
  2. From the drop down menu select “past.”
  3. Under Actions/Score Status” column locate the test date and time.
  4. Click the “reinstate scores” link
  5. Follow the instructions on the screen.

You will pay $20 to get your scores reinstated.  The above link might not be available immediately after you take the test.  If you don’t see it, wait a day or two.

Q: After I pay to reinstate my scores, how long will it take for schools to get them?

Your test will be scored and sent to recipients within three weeks. (source)

Q: My TOEFL score is “on hold.”  What does this mean?

It means that your test is being reviewed due to some abnormal event during the test.  It mostly happens after students take the TOEFL Home Edition. You will get an email from ETS explaining this.  For more information about the review of your test, you can call the Office of Testing Integrity.

Q: How long does it take for “on hold” scores to be checked by ETS.

According to the e-mail sent to students, “most of these routine reviews are completed in 2-4 weeks. In rare cases, the review may take longer. “

Q: My status is “scores not available.”  What does this mean?

It means that your scores are not available yet.  Don’t worry.  Everyone gets that status before their scores are available.  It is normal.

Q: Can I have water or some other drink during the TOEFL Home Edition?

No.  No food and drink are permitted during the TOEFL Home Edition.  Even if the proctor says it is okay… don’t do it. (source)

Q: I am getting an error when I try to pay for the TOEFL.  It says “Error 481” or “Error 101.”  What should I do?

Payment errors are common.  The easiest solution is to use PayPal, since it has a totally separate billing system.  You can also try paying in a different browser, or paying over the phone like it is the 1980s.

Q: Can I use my user name and password from my GRE account on the TOEFL page?

No.  You must make a new account for TOEFL.

Q: Can I take the TOEFL Home Edition using Windows 11?

According to ProctorU’s social media team, you can take the TOEFL Home Edition using Windows 11.  However, the ETS website says that you must use Windows 10 or 8, so that’s what I recommend. (source)

Q: I need to cancel my TOEFL test. Will I get my money back?

You can cancel your test up to four days before the test date.  You will get 50% of your money back. (source)

Q: I have an emergency.  Can I cancel my test after that?

According to the ETS social media team, you can call ETS and make a request to cancel your test after the deadline. A refund may be granted. You can call them at +1-609-771-7100 or 1-877-863-3546.

Q:  The TOEFL is really hard.  I don’t know how to prepare.

That’s more of a comment, really.

A few weeks ago, I published an article over on EdAgree about how to develop academic English skills that will come in handy on the TOEFL.

Here’s a bit from the introduction:

The TOEFL test probably includes more academic language than any other major test of English proficiency. This means that preparing for it can be challenging, but also very rewarding. Students preparing for the TOEFL test shouldn’t just practice their English skills in general, but should focus on specific academic skills. For this reason, I strongly recommend that students start preparing for the TOEFL test as early as possible.

In this guide, I will quickly describe each section of the TOEFL test and suggest a few strategies for developing related academic English skills. The advice here will be most beneficial for people who have six months or more to prepare for the test, but I think there will be useful information for all readers.

If that sort of thing looks interesting to you, be sure to check out the whole article .

When application deadlines are approaching, people always send questions about when the schools they selected will get their TOEFL scores.

The answer is not exactly clear.  ETS says a few things.

On this page, they say:

Score reports are sent to your designated score recipients approximately 8–16 days after your test date.

On this page, they say that it depends on the system used by the school:

ETS® Data Manager: 6–8 business days 

Scorelink® Service: 8–10 business days

And, finally, in the most recent TOEFL Bulletin, they say:

Official score reports for the TOEFL iBT test will be sent to your designated recipients within 11 business days after your test.

I suppose this means they could arrive as long as 16 days after you take the test.  That seems to be the longest possible wait mentioned by ETS.  If you are on a tight deadline, keep that in mind.  They could get sent sooner than that, but don’t count on it.

Note, also, that scores for tests taken at a test center are reported to students more quickly than tests taken at home. It could be true that schools get those scores more quickly as well. 

 

 

Every few months, students report getting a “502 Bad Gateway” error when opening the ETS Secure Test Browser to take the TOEFL Home Edition.  I am not sure what causes this, but it goes away eventually.  It also affects the home edition of the GRE. There is no solution available.  You just have to wait until it goes away.  Sorry.