ETS has just made changes to the free TOEFL study materials it provides.

This change eliminates:

  • All of the TOEFL Quick Prep Collections
  • The TOEFL Interactive Sampler
  • The TOEFL iBT Test Questions PDF

These have been replaced with:

The TOEFL iBT Free Practice Test seems to be the same as Quick Prep Volumes 3 and 4, but modified to match the new version of the test. The second speaking question, though, is new. This is probably because the Quick Prep version referred to students using a “Walkman” in the cafeteria. That’s a pretty old reference!

The iBT Practice Sets include SOME of the content from the TOEFL Quick Prep volumes 1 and 2. Like the Quick Prep sets, they include no audio tracks… you can merely read transcripts of the spoken parts.

The New PDFs are a combination of stuff from the Quick Preps, the TOEFL edX class and the old PDFs. Of course there are no audio files.

It is great that ETS has provided some updated materials, but is is disappointing that the free test is a less accurate simulation of the test center experience than the old TOEFL Sampler program. There are no timers in the listening and reading sections, and in the speaking section a sample answer is played before students even get a chance to deliver their OWN response.

 

Official Guide to the TOEFLI want to finish off my series on the 5th edition of the Official Guide to the TOEFL by listing everything in the book that is wrong or just misleading.

This is the kind of information that I think is very important for both students and teachers. I remember when I started preparing students for the TOEFL and put too much trust in textbook publishers. I ended up teaching useless lessons with inaccurate material.

While I have noted quite a few problems with this book, it is worth noting that the Official Guide is still the most accurate prep book for the TOEFL. Yes, the stuff from third-party publishers is way worse. I’ve considered writing lists of all the stuff wrong with those books, but it seems like it might be a waste of both my time and my money.

Anyways… here’s what I spotted:

Chapter 2: Reading

Each of the practice sets (Page 60-67, 69-73) have 13 questions. On the real test there are 14 questions per set. Students using these sections to time their ability to complete a set should adjust their clocks accordingly.

Chapter 4: Speaking

The description of speaking question 1 (page 166) says that students “will be asked to speak about a person, place, object or event that is familiar to you.” The example question fits this description. However, the real test includes at least three other styles of questions which are not mentioned. Descriptions can be found here.

Likewise the description of speaking question 2 (page 168) insists that students “will be presented with two possible actions, situations or opinions… and will be asked to say which of the actions or situations you think is preferable.” The example question fits this description. However, the real test includes at least three other styles of questions which are not mentioned. Descriptions can be found here.

Notably, the “advantages and disadvantages” styles in questions one and two are not mentioned anywhere. They are described at the links above.

Chapter 5: Writing

The sample integrated writing question (page 196-198) does not match the structure used on the real test. On the real test the reading will have four paragraphs. In the book it has two. On the real test the lecture will have four “paragraphs.” Here it has three. On the real test the reading points and lecture counter-points are presented in a “mirror” style and come in the same order. Here that is not the case. Students can consult this guide for a proper depiction of the integrated writing question.

Page 198 suggests that sometimes the lecture will support the argument made in the reading. On the real test that never happens.

Pages 217-220 contain a collection of 40 sample independent writing questions. About 12 of them are of a style that does not match what is used on the real test. Since the book does not describe the three main styles, students should read this blog post that does.

The Practice Tests

The integrated writing question in practice test one does not match the real test. Again, the structure does not match what is used by ETS nowadays. The reading contains just three paragraphs, and the lecture does not rebut the reading’s arguments in the proper order.

The rest of the practice tests seem fine.

This will be the last in my series about updates to the Official Guide to the TOEFL (5th Edition).

Let’s start with chapter 4 (speaking):

Page 171: The reading part of speaking question 3 is now described as 80-110 words long. In the fourth edition it was described as 75-100 words long.

Page 175: The reading part of speaking question 4 is described as 80-11- words long. In the fourth edition it was described as 75-100 words long.

Flannel shirts have been removed from many of the illustrations in this chapter.


Next, chapter 5 (writing):

It must be noted that the sample integrated writing question on page 196 is still wrong. It does not match the structure used on the real test.

Page 207: The warning “be sure to use your own words. Do not use memorized examples” has been added to the end of the sample independent writing question/

Page 208: Same as above.

Page 208: The following tip is given (to explain the warning used above):

“When you develop your response, do not use examples or reasons that you memorized word-for-word previously (at school, for example). Raters will not consider examples or reasons expressed in a completely memorized language to represent your own writing.”

Page 212: The warning is also given.

Page 217-220: This is interesting. The 4th edition contained 185 sample independent writing prompts that were described as being used on the test. These were likely from the old CBT version of the test, as they were also in the first edition of the guide, which was written even before the iBT version had been given 185 times.

The problem with this list has always been that it contains questions that don’t match the three main styles used on the test (agree/disagree, preference, multiple-choice).

The list of 40 now contains 20 questions from the 4th edition, and 20 new questions.

22 of the questions are agree/disagree style questions, which is the most common style nowadays. The remaining 18 are a mix of preference, multiple choice, and incorrect styles. Two of the questions are really long prompts, which is a recent trend. These are both new.


Moving on, a quick look at the practice tests included with the 5th edition:

  1. The new test included in this edition is TPO 18. That means it is a very, very old test. That sucks.
  2. The order of listening questions has been adjusted. This is mostly to stick “why does the professor say” questions to the end of each set, but there are other changes as well.
  3. The new warning has been added to each independent writing question.
  4. The sample integrated writing question in test one is still an incorrect style. That drives me crazy. It has been 14 years since the first edition of the book came out!

Alright, here’s a list of changes to Chapters 2 and 3 of the Official Guide to the TOEFL (fifth edition).

Starting with Chapter 2 (reading):

Page 37: the book now mentions that you can skip questions and come back to them later.

Page 38: The 5th edition says there are 12-13 “Basic Information and Inference Questions” per set. The 4th edition said that there were 12-14.

Page 38: The 5th edition says there are 3-5 Negative Factual questions per set. The 4th edition said there were 3-6.

Page 38: The 5th edition says there are 1-2 inference questions per set. The 4th edition said there were 1-3.

Page 38: The 5th edition says there are 3-4 vocabulary questions per set. The 4th edition said there were 3-5.


Next, lets move to Chapter 3 (listening):

Page 127: There is a slightly different explanation of the answer to the sample type 3 question.

Page 132: The tips for solving the organization questions are phrased slightly differently.

Page 139: Some 1990s style hair and clothes have been removed from the picture.

Page 140, 150, 157, 161: The “why does the professor say this” question has been moved to the end of each practice set. I’m told that this is how the real test is currently designed.

Today I want to start a series of posts that list all of the changes to the 5th edition of the Official Guide to the TOEFL (compared to the 4th edition, of course).

ETS doesn’t really publicize changes to the test, but a careful examination of their resources is a good way to discover what is new, and how to help students best prepare for their big day.

Today’s post will be about changes to the first chapter of the book (titled “About the TOEFL iBT Test.”)


 

First, regarding the part of that chapter about the reading section:

Page 9: Under the heading “Reading Question Formats” a new format is mentioned which is: “multiple choice questions with more than one answer (for example, two correct answers out of four choices)

Page 10: Under “features” the “paraphrase questions” section has been removed. It used to read: “Questions in this category are multiple-choice format. They test your ability to select the answer choice that most accurately paraphrases a sentence from the passage.

Page 10: Under “features” the “summary question” is now called the “prose summary question.”


Next, regarding the part of that chapter about the speaking section:

Page 18: The reading part of question three is now described as 80-110 words. Formerly, it was 75-100 words. The listening part no longer has a word count mentioned (formerly it was 150-180 words).

Page 18: The reading part of question four is now described as 80-110 words. Formerly, it was 75-100 words. The listening part no longer has a word count mentioned (formerly it was 150-220 words)

Page 18: The listening part of question five no longer has a word count mentioned (formerly it was 180-220 words).

Page 18: The listening part of question six no longer has a word count mentioned (formerly it was 230-280 words).

Next, regarding the part of that chapter about the writing section:

Page 20: The article for question one is now described at 250-300 words. Formerly it was 230-300 words. The lecture for question one is now described as 250-320 words. Formerly it was 230-300 words.


Finally, regarding the rest:

Page 22-24: The score report is described differently, and the newer score report is pictured.

Page 25: The tips for reading skill building are rephrased.

Page 29: The tips for speaking practice are rephrased. There is a typo here. Come on, ETS. Get your head in the game.

Page 35: The TOEFL Sampler is now free for everyone. Fun fact: ETS actually emailed me back in the day when they wanted to promote this. The TOEFL sampler kind of sucks.

Page 36: The book now mentions that you might not get a QWERTY keyboard at the test center. It says you might get a local keyboard and a separate template to show you where all the keys are. That also kinda sucks.