Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Is(n't) the TOEFL a wonderful test?

Argh!! 40 minutes again!!! Will I ever make it in 30 minutes?


Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: The TOEFL test is a wonderful test! Use reasons and examples to support your response.

Personally, I have to admit I would never say that “the TOEFL test is a wonderful test”. With that I do not intend by any means to criticize the test or to say that the test is not a valid way to prove the level of English of students interested in this language for academic purposes. Much on the contrary, I believe the TOEFL test is one of the most interesting and advanced tests if compared with other proficiency exams. However, I still believe that saying that it is wonderful test is a little bit too excessive for me, which would make me disagree with the statement. My reasons to disagree can be summarized in two groups: the reasons that are not inherent to the TOEFL itself, and the reasons that are inherent to the TOEFL.

The first group actually consists in only one reason: for students there is no such thing as a wonderful test. This, as you can see, has nothing to do with the TOEFL itself, but rather with fact that the TOEFL is a test. The word “test” evokes in the students a whole range of feelings and sensations that are far from being wonderful. First of all, the stress that accumulates during weeks or months before taking the test. Then, the hours of hard study spent in libraries or at home rather than out with friends. Also, we cannot forget the fear that on the day of the test something bad will happen: will the clock alarm work? Will the bus come on time? Will I get there late? Will I feel good during the test? What if I have bad day? Of course, all of these fears accumulated will not let you have a nice rest before the test.

Within the second groups of reasons that would not make me say that the TOEFL is a wonderful test, we find those features of the test with which I disagree. First of all. one of thing that I really cannot understand in the TOEFL is the timing. Specially in the speaking and writing parts, the timing plays a great role in the final score. It is really hard to write a well-done essay in thirty minutes, specially because, according to the topic you get, you might need a lot of thinking to write 350 words. Also, having 20 to 30 seconds to prepare a well-organized speech is not enough. It seems that it obvious the student will have a lot of things to say on the topic, but that is not always true. A second complaint that I have about the TOEFL is on the speaking part. Most of the test takes into account the use of English for real communication, but I do not see how this could apply to the speaking part. In the first place, the very idea of preparing your speech before talking is against what happens in real (and spontaneous) communication. I do understand that a monologue in the form of a speech is interesting to evaluate the students’ academic preparation, however, also in the academic environment, we do not participate orally only through speeches. We do take parts in dialogues, that is one of the most important uses for the oral language. This important aspect of the oral language seems to be completely disregarded in the TOEFL. My final complaint is about the price. I believe that 150 dollars for a test that is valid only for a few years is simply too much money. It should be a little cheaper, considering all the people that take it all around the world.

Saying that the TOEFL test is wonderful would be simply too much for me. I do believe that the test is well done and it takes into account a real use of language much more that other proficiency tests; however, I still believe there are some things that could be improved in the test. Also, I couldn’t agree with the statement because of my position towards the TOEFL: I am student that is living all the negative feelings and sensations that tests bring to students. I could never say that the test is wonderful in this state of mind.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thanx 4 the ideas I was stuck on this TOEFL qn, Thanx a span u have a good way of expressing your ideas