The other day, I woke up to TWO emails from random strangers letting me know that their TOEFL scores were cancelled due to something resembling an accusation of plagiarism. The emails themselves weren’t strange – I get weird emails all the time since I am the only a few people writing about the minutiae of standardized language tests online.

What’s fascinating is that back in the day (say, 2021 and earlier) I would get ONE such report each year. Now I get multiple reports of score cancellations due to plagiarism each month. Sometimes multiple reports in a single week.

I don’t have access to the data, but I suspect something is different than before.

In each case, the test-taker gets the exact same un-specific notification:

“In the quality control process, the ETS Writing staff noticed that your response(s) to the integrated/independent Writing task did not reflect a response to the assigned task. This was noticeable since the responses for which you receive a score should be your own original and independent work. Further reviews determined that a portion of your Writing response(s) contains ideas, language and/or examples found in other test taker responses or from published sources.”

No further information is provided, even when specifically requested.

In all but one case, the students have denied (to me) committing actions along these lines.

There have been suggestions that AI is used to detect plagiarism nowadays, but I haven’t gotten a confirmation of that.

I don’t know if any of this matters, but it might be interesting to test-watchers.

I recently cleaned up another one of the AI-generated TOEFL integrated writing questions and uploaded it to YouTube with a complete reading, lecture and sample essay.  Enjoy!

Okay, everyone is probably sick of reading these… but I’ve got a couple more writing questions I made with ChatGPT.  I’ll post them both here, and then start dumping my creations on YouTube or something.  But I will use the blog to share whatever I can come up with for the other section.  Sorry!

Here’s a reading about the colonization of asteroids:

The idea of colonizing asteroids has long been a topic of fascination and speculation in science fiction and popular culture. In recent years, however, the idea of asteroid colonization has become more realistic and feasible, thanks to advances in technology and space exploration. There are many potential benefits to colonizing asteroids, and these benefits make the pursuit of asteroid colonization a worthwhile endeavor.

One of the most obvious benefits of asteroid colonization is the scientific potential. Asteroids provide a unique environment for scientific research due to their small size, low gravity, and lack of atmosphere. Research conducted in these environments could provide valuable insights related to many different academic fields. Not only that, but asteroids could also serve as stepping stones for future missions to other destinations in the solar system, such as Mars or the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

Another benefit of asteroid colonization is the potential for economic growth and development. Natural resources mined on asteroids could create new industries and job opportunities, which would generate significant revenue for both governments and private companies. Asteroid mining could also reduce the need for resource extraction on Earth, which could help to preserve our planet’s natural environment.

In addition to economic benefits, asteroid colonization could also have important implications for the long-term survival of humanity. Asteroids could serve as potential refuge for humans in the event of a large-scale disaster on Earth, such as an asteroid impact or a nuclear war. Even if such a disaster doesn’t occur, asteroids could provide valuable information regarding the origins and evolution of the solar system, and how life emerged here in the first place.

 

Here is me reading the corresponding lecture:

 

And here is a transcript of the lecture:

While some people argue that starting colonies on asteroids could have many benefits, this claim is not necessarily supported by evidence. In fact, there are several reasons why starting colonies on asteroids may not provide the advantages that are often claimed.

One reason why asteroid colonization may not provide significant scientific benefits is our lack of knowledge about asteroids. Despite decades of space exploration and study, our knowledge of asteroids is still limited. We don’t know how many asteroids exist, what resources they contain, or what conditions are like on their surfaces. Until we have a better understanding of asteroids, it’s very difficult to predict what scientific benefits colonization might provide.

Next, we can’t exactly predict the economic benefits of settling on asteroids. While asteroids are known to contain valuable resources, such as metals and minerals, it’s not clear how much of these resources exist on asteroids, or how much they would be worth when transported back to Earth. It’s not clear whether mining for resources in space would be more cost-effective or efficient than simply getting them through conventional methods here on earth.

Finally, asteroids are just not suitable for long-term human settlement right now. Most asteroids are small and do not have enough mass to generate significant gravitational pull. This means that any human settlements on asteroids would need to be designed to cope with the challenges of low gravity, such as serious difficulty moving around and possible damage to our bones and muscles. These challenges could make living on asteroids extremely uncomfortable and dangerous in the long run.

Well, I’m a little bit obsessed now.  I generated another TOEFL-like integrated writing question using ChatGPT.  I spent about half an hour on this one, generating the passages and revising them to be more TOEFL-like.

(here is my original blog post about this process)

As before, here is the required disclaimer:

“The author generated this text in part with GPT-3, OpenAI’s large-scale language-generation model. Upon generating draft language, the author reviewed, edited, and revised the language to their own liking and takes ultimate responsibility for the content of this publication.”

Here is the reading:

Machu Picchu is a 15th-century Inca citadel situated in the Andean Mountains of Peru. This ancient site has puzzled historians and archaeologists for centuries, with many theories proposed as to its purpose. Archaeologists have put forth three possible reasons for the construction of Machu Picchu.

One possibility is that Machu Picchu was built as a permanent royal estate for the Inca emperor, Pachacuti. As the ruler of a major empire, Pachacuti would have needed a luxurious and impressive residence. Located at the top of a mountain, with breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, Machu Picchu would have been an ideal location for such a residence. Anyone coming to meet with the emperor would have been impressed by his apparent power and wealth.

Another theory is that Machu Picchu was built as a ceremonial and religious center. The Inca were a deeply religious people, and their empire was filled with temples and shrines dedicated to their gods and goddesses. Machu Picchu, with its impressive stonework and intricate carvings, may have been built as a sacred site for religious ceremonies and rituals. 

A third possibility is that Machu Picchu was built as a defensive fortress. Located at the top of a mountain and surrounded by steep cliffs, the site would have been very difficult to access, but easy to defend. This strategic location, combined with the strong walls and terraces of the citadel, would have made Machu Picchu a perfect military stronghold. Invading armies would have found it a very challenging target.

Here is me badly reading the lecture:

 

Here is a prompt:

Summarize the points made in the lecture, being sure to explain how they oppose specific points made in the reading passage.

Here is a transcript of the lecture:

The author’s ideas about the purpose of Machu Picchu  are certainly interesting, but each of them has a few flaws.

A problem with the idea of Machu Picchu as a royal residence is its remoteness. While the site is located in a beautiful area, it’s far from the center of the Inca empire and would have been difficult to access. This would have made it impractical as a residence for the emperor, who probably needed to be close to the political and administrative centers of the empire. For this reason, the site may have been a temporary vacation home for the emperor, rather than a full-time residence.

Next. While the idea that Machu Picchu was built as a ceremonial and religious center is a popular theory, it is not without its flaws. One challenge to this idea is the lack of evidence of religious activity at the site. While the citadel contains impressive stonework and many elaborate carvings, there are no clear indications that it was used for religious ceremonies or rituals. In contrast, other Inca sites, such as the Temple of the Sun in Cusco, contain clear evidence of religious activity, including altars, offerings, and other religious artifacts.

Lastly, it is difficult to claim that Machu Picchu was built as a defensive fortress.  While the citadel contains strong walls and terraces, there are no clear indications that it was used for military purposes. Very few actual weapons or military tools have been found there. The Inca were known for their elaborate military practices, and the remains of their soldiers and weapons have been found at many other Inca sites. The absence of clear signs of military activity at Machu Picchu suggests that it was not used for defensive purposes.

 

Everyone is talking about ChatGPT this week. I wonder: could this technology be used to create a test of English fluency?

Possibly.  In about twenty minutes I was able to generate a TOEFL integrated writing question that looks okay.  I spent about five minutes generating the reading and lecture script, and about 15 minutes revising them to be slightly more “TOEFL-like.”  I used a few extra minute to record the lecture, though I realize now I should have used an AI to generate that as well.

The result isn’t perfect, but it’s fairly close and can certainly be used as practice material.

(Update: I generated an even better one)

The twenty minutes I spent on this compares favorably to the 200 person-hours we used to spend creating this stuff when I worked for a major publisher.  

Before I share the results, here is the standard disclaimer:

“The author generated this text in part with GPT-3, OpenAI’s large-scale language-generation model. Upon generating draft language, the author reviewed, edited, and revised the language to their own liking and takes ultimate responsibility for the content of this publication.”

Here is the reading.  Of course, I took on a topic related to humans vs automation:

Over the past few decades, robots have become an increasingly important tool in space exploration. These machines offer a number of benefits that make them ideal for use in this field. Overall, there are three key benefits of using robots in space exploration.

First, robots are able to operate in environments that are too dangerous or inhospitable for humans. For example, robots can be sent to explore the surface of Mars, where the temperature, radiation levels, and atmospheric conditions are hostile to human life. Robots can also be used to explore the depths of the ocean or the interior of volcanoes, where humans would be unable to survive. By using robots, we can gather valuable data and samples from these extreme environments without putting human lives at risk.

Second, robots are able to perform tasks that are too difficult or complex for humans to do. For example, robots can be equipped with specialized tools and sensors that allow them to conduct experiments or make measurements that are beyond the capabilities of human astronauts. Robots can also be designed to move in unique ways, such as crawling, swimming, or flying, which allows them to access areas that would be difficult or impossible for humans to reach. This can enable robots to gather data and samples from locations that would otherwise be inaccessible.

Third, using robots is less expensive than sending human astronauts to space. They are able to operate for long periods of time without needing to rest, eat, or drink. This makes them ideal for missions that require sustained exploration over many months or even years. For example, a robot could be sent to a distant planet or moon and do its work without costly supplies being sent from earth.

Here is the lecture audio:

 

Here’s a prompt:

Summarize the points made in the lecture, being sure to explain how they oppose specific points made in the reading passage.

And here’s a transcript of the lecture:

There are a few problems with the claim that robots are always more useful than human astronauts when it comes to space exploration.

First, while it’s true that robots can operate in dangerous environments, their ability to deal with problems is somewhat limited by their design and programming. The fact is, Robots may not be able to respond to dangerous situations that are unexpected or to adapt to conditions they are not specifically designed for. So… if a robot encounters a unique situation on a distant planet it may be unable to continue its mission. In contrast, human astronauts have the ability to think and problem-solve, which allows them to overcome challenges and adapt to new situations.

Second, robots may not be able to provide the same level of scientific data as human astronauts. While robots can be equipped with sensors and instruments that allow them to gather a wide range of data, they can’t make the same connections as humans. Since robots are limited by their programming and technology,  they may not be able to notice or interpret subtle patterns in the data that they collect. In contrast, human astronauts have the ability to think, reason, and make connections, which can lead to amazing breakthroughs and insights.

Lastly, robots are more expensive to develop and operate than you might think. Building a robot that can function in the harsh conditions of space isn’t cheap. It requires special materials and technology, which can drive up the cost. In addition, once a robot is launched into space, it may be difficult or impossible to repair or upgrade it. This means that a tiny malfunction may destroy the whole mission. In contrast, human astronauts can be trained to troubleshoot and repair equipment, which can help to extend the life of a mission.

It seems like ETS might be taking plagiarism in the TOEFL writing section a bit more seriously than before.

In February of this year, the following sentence was added to the “Why and How ETS Questions TOEFL Scores” page:

“When there are concerns regarding plagiarism in the Writing section, the scores from the test administration are automatically canceled.”

Since then, I’ve been contacted by quite a few students whose scores have been cancelled for this reason.  In every case, the decision has been final, and no appeal process has been provided.  The entire test is cancelled, and no refund is offered.  Before this year I was never contacted about this issue.

Each time, the student gets an email like this:

I am writing to advise that the test scores issued in your name for August 21, 2022 have been canceled. In the quality control process, the ETS Writing staff noticed that your response(s) to the integrated/independent Writing task did not reflect a response to the assigned task. This was noticeable since the responses for which you receive a score should be your own original and independent work. Further reviews determined that a portion of your Writing response(s) contains ideas, language and/or examples found in other test taker responses or from published sources.

Everyone seems to get an almost identical form letter, without many details.  It is not indicated which of the essays was in violation of the misconduct policies.  Nor does it really indicate exactly which of the possible violations was spotted.

Due to the vagueness of the letter, I’m not really able to provide much guidance other than a reminder to not plagiarize when you write an essay.  Don’t memorize examples.  Don’t rephrase examples that other people have written.  Don’t memorize long stretches of content.

It is worth mentioning that when asked, the students with canceled scores have insisted that they didn’t plagarize, or use any “templates” or “shell text” at all.

Part of me wonders if this change is a response to journal articles like this one by Sugene Kim out of Nagoya University who wrote about how plagiarism is a common approach to TOEFL test preparation in South Korea.  

I like the change, of course.  Plagiarism is terrible for everyone involved.  It would be nice to have a bit more information about what is detected in each case, of course.

If this has happened to you, by all means contact me.

Use “since then” to talk about an action that started at a specified point in the past and is still happening today.  As in:

“I met Julie when I was in university.  We have kept in touch since then.”

This means that I am still in touch with Julie.

I should not say:

“I met Julie when I was in university.  We have kept in touch until now.”

The problem is that “until now” implies that I just stopped keeping in touch with Julie.  

I can’t find a good reference in a grammar book, but to my ear “until now” always means that the action has just stopped.  As in:

“Until now, I have gotten good grades.”

This means that I just stopped getting good grades.  

Basically, “until now” implies that a change has happened at the present time.

For more information about how to use “until now” check out this blog post.

As I’ve discussed many times, the TOEFL writing rubrics can be hard to fully grasp. They require a certain amount of decoding, in my opinion. I have already explained the concepts of idiomaticity and syntactic variety, and in today’s post I will explain “lexical errors.”

“Lexical” just means related to words.  As Vocabulary.com points out, anything can be lexical.  A linguist has a lexical job.  Solving a crossword puzzle is a lexical activity.

A “lexical error” is an error related to word usage… but not in a grammatical sense. That said, there is a fine line between grammatical and lexical errors.  They look very similar.  They are also very similar to issues of idiomaticity.

To get a sense of the most common lexical errors, I will refer to a list by Süheyla Ander and Özgür Yıldırım, from an article they published in 2010. Note that this is not a comprehensive list.  There are certainly other types of lexical errors your students may make.

1. Wrong Word Choice. This is when a student uses an incorrect word which makes it difficult to determine the meaning of a sentence.  For instance, a student might write: “If they have an open mind, a student is more likely to alleviate their classes.”

A single confusing word makes it impossible to understand the intended meaning.  This isn’t a grammatical error, nor is it really an issue of idiomaticity (where it just sounds unnatural).  It is simply impossible to figure out.

2. Errors of Literal Translation.  Closely related to the above, this is when a student literally translates their own language into English and ends up with an incorrect word choice.  A Korean student might write “I ate my medicine.”  A Turkish student might say “Many people live this problem.”

3. Errors of Omission or Incompletion. This is when a student omits a word and the omission changes the meaning of a sentence or makes it impossible to determine the intended meaning.  For instance, a student might write: “Mr. Kent visited a foreign university in the UK and me when I was transferred to London two years ago.”

The student wanted to express that he was helped by Mr. Kent when he was transferred to London, but he omitted that key verb.

4. Misspellings.  This should be obvious.  Spelling does matter on the TOEFL, at least a little bit.

5. Errors of Redundancy. This is when a student needlessly uses or repeats words or phrases.  A common redundancy on the TOEFL is something like: “In my opinion, I believe that students should be required to attend all of their classes.”

There is no grammatical problem here, but “I believe” is redundant and unnecessary.

Another one is an opening line like: “Many people feel that learning to speak English is more difficult.”

This is a grammatically correct sentence. But since no comparison is being made, the comparative “more” is unnecessary.

6. Errors of Collocation. This one overlaps a lot with idiomaticity. It includes errors like “do mistakes” instead of “make mistakes.”  Or talking about a “studying environment” at a college instead of an “academic environment.”

7. Errors of Word Formation. This is when a student uses the wrong form of a word (for instance, a noun when they should use an adjective).  Like: “Thanks to his kindness act, I got to school on time.”

 

There you go. I think you can grasp now how lexical errors differ somewhat from grammatical errors.

 

Earlier this year I helped a student prepare for the ALP Essay Exam. I couldn’t find much information about the test online, so I thought I would write a few notes here.  I might revise this post in the future, so stop by in the future for updates. If you need tutoring for the ALP Essay exam, you can contact me.

What is the ALP Essay Exam?

The ALP Essay Exam is used by Columbia University to assess the writing skills of students.  It is often used to determine if students have the language skills necessary to take classes at the university. It can also be used to determine if students should take supplementary writing classes (in addition to their regular schedule of classes). Test-takers have 105 minutes to write a standard (four or five paragraph) argumentative essay about a specific topic.  The essay must be based on the contents of two short academic articles.

You can read about it over here.

What Does the ALP Essay Exam Look Like?

You’ll get a question about a serious topic.  Don’t expect something basic and simple like the IELTS.  Instead, expect something that might actually be studied in a first-year university class.  You might get something about gentrification, affirmative action, the use of standardized testing… that sort of thing.  The question might look like this:

“Please read the two passages below.  The authors have differing opinions about the topic of gentrification in the United States. Which author do you agree with, and to what extent?  In your essay you should support your opinion, and challenge the opinions of the author you disagree with.  You have 105 minutes to complete your essay.”

The passages should be fairly short.  Maybe just a paragraph or two, excerpted from a longer article.  They will have opposing opinions on the same topic. The author of each one will be credited

If the topic is gentrification, they might look like this:

“One of the most significant benefits of gentrification is the improvement of housing. Ordinarily, housing presents enormous challenges in the management of urban centers. Therefore, gentrification seems to solve this challenge because it favors the improvement of housing within the gentrified community. In addition, it is believed to stabilize declining areas. In most cities, suburban areas are known to experience degradation leading to the emergence of slums. This phenomenon is caused by the increased strain on urban infrastructure and services. Therefore, gentrification addresses an array of urban management challenges by reducing suburban sprawl and strain on the existing infrastructure.

Another positive effect of gentrification is the increase in property values. As a result, property owners reap high income from real estate investment, and this serves as a means of attraction for potential businesses. It is also suggested that gentrification leads to a significant increase of local fiscal revenues. Moreover, gentrification has led to the rehabilitation of property with little state sponsorship. Therefore, an increase in property values and local fiscal revenues promote economic development of gentrified areas. Economic development is also enhanced by an increase in purchasing power in the centralized economy, although it is uneven.

It is also believed that gentrification leads to increased social mix and reduction in crime rates. This phenomenon has been evidenced in gentrified cities such as London, Atlanta and Washington, DC.

-Caroline Mutuku

and:

Gentrification usually leads to negative impacts such as forced displacement, a fostering of discriminatory behavior by people in power, and a focus on spaces that exclude low-income individuals and people of color.

During gentrification, poorer communities are commonly converted to high-end neighborhoods with expensive housing options such as high-rises and condominiums. As property prices increase, the original residents of the neighborhood are forced out in a variety of ways. First, with an increase in the prices of buildings, the gap between the price of the building and the income that the landlord gets from renting the building grows bigger; landlords thus increase rent prices, which forces out the low-income residents. As building prices continue to increase, the problem exacerbates because it becomes even more profitable to convert these apartment buildings into non-residential areas. Additionally, since investors can earn more money from selling buildings, real-estate dealers have less incentive to improve the buildings. The real estate dealers instead sell the buildings at higher prices. This cycle of rising building prices continues until only large and well-financed investors are able to continue.

Displacement… is disproportionately borne by low-income individuals of color, many of whom are elderly individuals.  Physical frailty makes it more challenging for elderly individuals to resist the actions that landlords take to remove tenants. Researchers have also found that elderly people are more intensively affected by social changes around them; for example, many older adults cited loss of friendships or community networks as a reason to move. 

-Emily Chong

How to Structure the Essay

The structure is fairly easy.  Write an introduction that provides some background on the topic and a clear thesis statement that states your opinion on the topic.  Then write two or three body paragraphs.  Each one should focus on a specific argument in support of your argument or the rebuttal of a specific point in the article you don’t agree with.  Finally, write a conclusion that sums of what you’ve just created.  Aim for 400 to 600 words in total.  Easy, right?

How to Get a Good Score

Getting a good score isn’t so easy.  To award you a high score, the rater needs to see an argument, but they also need to see the use of fairly sophisticated writing techniques.  The list below is drawn from the official ALP website, and a few other sources used in ALP classes at Columbia.

Remember that your essay must also quote from the sources when appropriate.

Remember, also, that in addition to this advanced stuff, your essay needs to show mastery of basic stuff.  That means basic transitions (therefore, however, in addition) and a mix of all three sentence types (simple, compound, complex).  You also need nearly perfect grammar to get a high score.

Sample Paragraphs

I can’t teach you the basic stuff here, but I can show you examples of the advanced concepts mentioned above.

Here’s a sample paragraph from an essay I wrote about mental health.  I’ve underlined parts that use the above techniques.  In order, they are: parallel structure, using the article, appositive, noun clause in subject position, inversion. 

Young people are able to discuss their mental health challenges with others, and are willing to reach out for help when necessary. As the article by Smith indicates, 62% of millennials are comfortable with this. Proof is easy to find. Many organizations have taken up the suggestion of the Center for Workplace Mental Health and created departments which help workers cope with issues as they arise. In addition, employee benefits now include financial support for outside counseling and psychological care.  Even more indicative of this trend  is the recent emergence of businesses which profit from the desire that young people have to discuss their mental health. Several new smartphone apps, services jokingly referred to as “Uber for Counseling,” have made a lot of money connecting people with therapists. With just a few clicks, we can be connected with a therapist and receive their assistance via voice or text. The benefits are clear; when people are willing to talk about issues that challenge them, and there are people willing to listen to them, they can be given strategies that mitigate the negative effects or perhaps eliminate the issues altogether. Rarely do people today find themselves in an environment where they have absolutely no one to turn to.  This is quite a shift from even just a few decades ago, when sufferers of mental illness often felt lost at sea.

Next is part of a paragraph about reparations.  I’ve underlined an example of fronting, and an example of an appositive.  Note the extensive quotes from the article, which are integrated into my own sentences.

While long-term solutions to today’s problems must certainly involve political and economic changes, the political and economic systems are slow to change. With great enthusiasm, conservative journalist Frank Williamson says that “the political interests of African Americans… are best served by equality under the law.” Williamson, an experienced political writer, knows that politicians have been working towards “equality under the law” for decades, and are still far from achieving it.

Here is an introductory paragraph from an essay about inclusive language.  Note how I’ve underlined a parallel structure, fronting, and another parallel structure.  Note that I ended with a clear thesis statement.

They say that people change over time, and that language changes along with them. Nowadays, thanks to the spread of the Internet, language seems to be changing at a more rapid pace than ever before. Rarely do we go a week without reading an article or seeing a social media post that uses a term or phrase that is totally new to us. Many of us want to be supportive of marginalized groups, and we want to express our opinions clearly without being lost in a sea of jargon. Personally, I feel that our choice of words is very important, but we must be careful to avoid being overly judgmental of people who can’t keep up with the newest words.

Wrapping Up

Okay, so that’s a broad look at what the ALP test looks like and what you need to do.  For more help, or tutoring, feel free to contact me. To keep up with the latest changes to this test, contact Columbia University.

 

Our friends at EdAgree have just launched another wonderful tool.  If you create an account at EdAgree, you can now have your practice essays reviewed by the same e-rater technology used to grade the TOEFL test!  This service is provided free of charge.

To access this opportunity, first create an account on EdAgree.  This will involve answering a few questions and providing some personal information.

Once you have logged in, look for the “English Writing Practice” button the right side of the user dashboard:

Click that, and then click “start.” You can select a question prompt from the drop down menu or select “check my essay” from the bottom of the menu to just paste in your own writing.  Click the clock icon and you’ll have thirty minutes to write your essay.  You don’t need to use all of the time.  Click “submit” when you finished.

To experiment, I pasted in one of my essays, based on a classic TOEFL prompt about using books or the Internet to do research.

My essay was immediately given a score of 98%:

That’s not a perfect score, so I clicked “detailed results” to get more specific feedback.  I got a screen that looked like this:

I can click on each of those green buttons (grammar, usage, mechanics, style, organization & development) to get specific corrections and comments.  In my case, the e-rater detected no grammar, usage or mechanics errors so nothing is displayed   However, it did detect a “style” problem: I repeated the word “online” three times.  Perhaps that is too many times!  Check it out:

Next I clicked the “organization & development” button and confirmed that the e-rater could detect all of the traditional elements of an essay: background information, a thesis, main arguments, supporting details and a conclusion:

Users can also use that menu to highlight all of their transition words (I used 20) but I will let you explore that on your own.

So there you go.  Some free e-rater practice, thanks to our amazing friends at EdAgree.  A few things are worth mentioning here in closing:

  • This is a writing tool, and it is not explicitly designed to be a TOEFL tool.  Don’t use it to predict your TOEFL score.  Converting the score out of 100 to a score out of 30 and calling that a TOEFL score is probably a bad idea.
  • Some of the provided prompts are TOEFL prompts.  Some are not.  Again… this isn’t designed by EdAgree to be solely a TOEFL tool.
  • The tool seems to be somewhat weak at distinguishing between background materials and a thesis statement.  Sometimes it fails to detect an obvious thesis statement.
  • The tool wants three sentences in the conclusion, but that doesn’t seem to affect the score.
  • This is very similar to the “Criterion One” product sold by ETS.