Changes in the Practice Tests
And, finally, this series comes to an end with some words about the practice tests in the 6th edition of the Official Guide to the TOEFL. Note that I could have missed a few changes since I didn’t cross-reference every single word in the tests.
Basically, though, tests 2, 3 and 4 are exactly the same as before but with a few questions removed to match the new format introduced in 2019. Test 1 has a totally new speaking section, and the rest of the content is the same as before (but, again, shortened).
- There is a longer explanation at the beginning of the reading section in each test. The description now describes how students can use the “back” button during the test to move between questions. It also mentions the possibility of a dummy set. Those are both welcome. I hope the test center version includes this longer description as well.
- Important: the raw to scale conversion charts for the reading and listening sections have changed. This had to happen, of course, since the number of questions is different. But it is worth noting that every test now has the same chart, and it include a range of scaled scores for each single raw score. Some of the ranges are pretty huge. For example, a raw reading score of 17 can result in a scaled score of 13 to 19 points. This confirms my earlier speculation that there no universal conversion chart is possible, and that the conversion differs from test to test. I added photos of these charts to my article about the conversion process.
- Important: you will see below that there are far fewer vocabulary questions on all of the tests.
Changes To Test One
- The removed reading questions are the following types: vocabulary, vocabulary, negative factual (set one); vocabulary, reference, sentence simplification (set two); vocabulary, vocabulary, reference (set 3). Note that only three questions were deleted, because in the previous edition these sets didn’t have enough questions. It is great to see that error finally corrected!
- One lecture has been deleted in the listening section.
- All four speaking questions are new! This is welcome, as the old “academic lecture” question (number 6) seemed a bit non-standard to me.
- The integrated writing question is still flawed. That sucks.
- There are longer and more detailed descriptions of good speaking answers. This mimics the design of “Official iBT Tests Volume 1.” This is a very welcome change, but the same content was not added to tests 2 to 4.
Changes to Test Two
- The removed reading questions are the following types: vocabulary, factual information, vocabulary, factual information (set one); vocabulary, vocabulary, vocabulary, factual information (set two); sentence simplification, vocabulary, vocabulary, negative factual (set three).
- One lecture was removed. Thankfully, the one selected for removal was too short. This makes the test a bit more accurate!
Changes to Test Three
- The removed reading questions are the following types: vocabulary, vocabulary, factual information, vocabulary (set 1), negative factual, factual information, vocabulary, vocabulary (set 2); factual information, vocabulary, vocabulary, vocabulary (set 3)
- One lecture was removed.
Changes to Test Four
- The removed reading questions are the following types: factual information, vocabulary, vocabulary, factual information (set 1), vocabulary, vocabulary, factual information, rhetorical purpose (set 2), vocabulary, vocabulary, vocabulary, inference (set 3)
- One lecture was removed.
- You must now download the audio and practice tests using an “access code” that can only be entered TWICE. That means you had better save the file somewhere. Make sure you have a reliable Internet connection, as the download is about 600 MB, and slow.
- The practice test uses the same terrible software it has always used. It looks like it is from 2003. ETS should do better. I’m surprised it doesn’t say “Made with Macromedia” somewhere.
I’ll write a general review of the book for Goodreads. Finally, I will move on to the two new Official Test Collection books. I won’t examine them so closely and will probably just upload a short article that summarizes the changes in each.