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Understanding the TOEFL Test


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Title: Understanding the TOEFL Test

Understanding the TOEFL Test
  • What the scores mean

Jennifer Morris, M.A. International Writing
Specialist Western Oregon University
TOEFL Testing Options
Continuous administration world-wide by
Educational Testing Services (ETS)
  • Paper-based test (TOEFL pBT) The paper-based
    test is still used in countries where computer
    access is limited.
  • Internet-based test (TOEFL iBT)
  • The TOEFL test measures ability to communicate
    in English in colleges and universities.
  • It is the most widely accepted English-language
    test in the world.
  • ETS (2008)

TOEFL Internet Based Test (iBT)
  • TOEFL Internet-based Score Scales

Skill Listening Reading Speaking Writing Total
Score Range 0-30 0-30 0-30 converted from
0-4 score scale 0-30 converted from 0-5
score scale 0-120
TOEFL iBT Total Score Requirements
Western Oregon University 61
University of Washington 57 Portland State
University section minimums16/30 14/30 60
University of Oregon 61 California State
University System 61
Oregon Institute of Technology 68 Southern
Oregon University 68 Eastern Oregon University
minimum 14 each section 70 Oregon State
University minimum 15 on each section 71
Level Determination by Section
  • WOUs admissions policy is 61 on the TOEFL iBT
    with no section requirements.
  • An average of 15.25 (30) per section

Low 0-14
High 22-30
Low 0-14
High 22-30
Reading Listening
Weak 0-9
Fair 18-25
Good 26-30
Weak 0-9
Fair 18-25
Good 26-30
Fair 17-23
Good 24-30
Fair 17-23
Good 24-30
Levels as determined by ETS
  • International Writing Specialist Writing Center
  • M.A. Applied Linguistics and TESOL
  • 15 years working with international students
  • Instructing and developing curriculum
  • Conversation Taiwan and Japan
  • Composition and discussion Tunisian and French
    students in UK
  • Business English instruction Osaka, Japan
  • Composition, speaking, and listening Hokkaido
    University, Japan
  • Writing and grammar Palm Beach Community
  • Editing
  • 3 years rating TOEFL writing section
  • Anonymous student-writer and country of origin
  • Over 50,000 essays read and scored

TOEFL iBT Writing Section
  • Students write 2 short essays (less than 300
    words each)
  • 30 minutes for each task
  • Both tasks are independently rated by 2 ETS
    certified raters using a holistic scale of 0-5
    and the scores are averaged

Sample Prompt and Responses
  • Prompt Tell the Truth
  • Students read the following
  • Read the question below. You have 30 minutes to
    plan, write, and revise your essay. Typically, an
    effective essay will contain a minimum of 300
  • Students respond to the following
  • Do you agree or disagree with the following
  • Always telling the truth is the most important
    consideration in any relationship.
  • Use specific reasons and examples to support
    your answer.

Writing Test Rubric (ETS) High Range
  • An essay at this level largely accomplishes all
    of the following
  • effectively addresses the topic and task
  • is well organized and well developed, using
    clearly appropriate explanations,
    exemplifications, and/or details
  • displays unity, progression, and coherence
  • displays consistent facility in the use of
    language, demonstrating syntactic variety,
    appropriate word choice, and idiomaticity, though
    it may have minor lexical or grammatical errors

  • An essay at this level largely accomplishes all
    of the following
  • addresses the topic and task well, though some
    points may not be fully elaborated
  • is generally well organized and well developed,
    using appropriate and sufficient explanations,
    exemplifications, and/or details
  • displays unity, progression, and coherence,
    though it may contain occasional redundancy,
    digression, or unclear connections
  • displays facility in the use of language,
    demonstrating syntactic variety and range of
    vocabulary, though it will probably have
    occasional noticeably minor errors in structure,
    word form, or use of idiomatic language that do
    not interfere with meaning

Writing Test Rubric Mid to Low Range
  • An essay at this level is marked by one or more
    of the following
  • addresses the topic and task using somewhat
    developed explanations, exemplifications, and/or
  • displays unity, progression, and coherence,
    though connection of ideas may be occasionally
  • may demonstrate inconsistent facility in
    sentence formation and word choice that may
    result in lack of clarity and occasionally
    obscure meaning

  • An essay at this level may reveal one or more of
    the following weaknesses
  • limited development in response to the topic and
  • inadequate organization or connection of ideas
  • inappropriate or insufficient exemplifications,
    or details to support or illustrate
    generalizations in response to the task
  • a noticeably inappropriate choice of words or
    word forms
  • an accumulation of errors in sentence structure
    and/or usage

Score of 3
When we were children, we were taught to tell
truth. Telling truth and being honest also become
the criteria of judging a person. I do think that
most people prefer to live in a world of pure
truth and it is also the best wish of all kind
hearted people. However, what we have to face is
not the dream land. Telling truth all the time
could only exist in our dreams. In another word,
lies could not be avoided. I will illustrate my
opinion with the following facts. In the business
world, always telling truth equals to commit
suicide. For example, when competitor company is
asking the content of a tender or the cost of a
major product, telling truth is nonsense.
Furthermore, we could learn from old collegue
that to keep the business secrete is to keep the
position. For those people whose profession is
politics, lies is their favorite language. In
order to stablize the mood of anxcious people,
some times president has to tell lies to comfort
the peolple so that no more serious result will
hapen. Among friends, allways telling truth
will also cause lots of avoidable confllicts. For
example, when a 49 years old lady ask her froend
whether she is beautiful or not. If the answer is
No (truth for sure). We could imagine the
accompanied results. This is why we are using the
term white lie to find the suitable reason to use
minor lies. However, despite all these
difficulties, we should always try to be honest
and tell truth as much as we could. In lots of
situation, to tell truth can strengthen the
relationship and deepen the communication and
understanding among people. Especially among
family memers, telling truth is quite necessary
for every one. A family full of lie will bankrupt
immediately. In a word, in different situation,
we should tell different words.
Writing Test Rubric Very Low Range
  • An essay at this level is seriously flawed by one
    or more of the following weaknesses
  • serious disorganization or underdevelopment
  • little or no detail, or irrelevant specifics, or
    questionable responsiveness to the task
  • serious and frequent errors in sentence
    structure or usage

An essay at this level merely copies words from
the topic, rejects the topic, or is otherwise not
connected to the topic, is written in a foreign
language, consists of keystroke characters, or is
What would you score this essay?
Telling the truth is the most important
consideration in any relationship between people
once you are going to deal with this person
because you first of all must trust in this
person, second nobody likes to be treated as a
fool, and the truth makes a solid relation
perdure. Firs of all, the trust is going to
keep a relation going on with confidence and
confidence is something really important and
youre going to trust in a person only once. If
you lose the trust in someone I think that you
will never more be able to trust in this person
again. Will you trust a very important value to
someone that has already stolen you? I bet you
wont. Second, nobody like to be seen as a
fool. Its not nice been as a glown. Its not a
good sensation to be kept in lies while there
many people who know the truth. Can you imagine
the sensation of been betrayed? How can you look
at someones face that betrayed you? A
relationship, in this way, wont be nice and
trustful. Once I saw that for a relationship be
solid you must trust in person at the point of
let yourself fell back in the person arms. I
mean, you trust that the person is going to be on
your back to hold you on. It wont be possible
with a person that lies to you. The truth means
that you cant lie and if you cant lie you wont
be able to betray, once you wont be able to hide
anything. If you cant betray youre going to
have a perfect relationship. The truth is really
the basis of a relationship. As a conclusion, I
think that the truth is really important in a
relationship because it gives you some safety in
this relationship, the sensation that you wont
be betrayed..
Realistic Expectations Vocabulary Ranges
  • 5 year old native English speaker
  • 4,000 to 5,000 word families
  • Average native English speaking university

17,000 to 20,000 word families
  • 20-year old non-native English speaker

Fewer than 2,000 word families Nation, I.S.P.
(1997) and Hinkel, E. (2004)
English Assessment Options
  • TOEFL Test of English as a Foreign Language
  • IELTS International English Language Testing
  • British-based test that has gained popularity in
    the U.S.
  • TWE Test of Written English
  • Formerly a component of the Computer-Based TOEFL
  • TOEIC Test of English for International
  • Used for workplace English skills
  • MELAB Michigan English Language Assessment
  • Similar to TOEFL but administered only in the
    U.S. and Canada

Innovations in the Writing Center
  • Spring 2009
  • Partnership between Business Faculty and Writing
  • As a result of this supplemental lab, students
  • Receive targeted writing help for each assignment
  • Gradually increase their discipline specific
    vocabulary and progressively reduce grammar
  • Understand how to correctly cite and synthesize
  • Expanding to include partnerships with the Art
    Department and Master of Information Systems

Innovations Continued
  • Fall 2009
  • Partnership between Writing Center and Academic
    Advising to provide acculturation for students
    entering directly into degree programs or
    transitioning from IEP
  • As a result of this course, students will
  • Understand expectations of American university
  • Find and utilize available and appropriate
    resources on campus
  • Understand their strengths in English with
    regards to the 4 skills writing, reading,
    listening, and speaking
  • Be able to choose appropriate courses for their
  • Develop study skills for success in their major
  • Understand the use and correct citation of sources

International Student Support Needs
Writing Center
Writing Center Support
2 faculty members 2 professional staff
3 professional tutors 12 student tutors from
across disciplines
  • Students
  • In-person and online tutoring
  • Day and evening hours
  • Writing workshops
  • Faculty
  • Writing assignment design assistance
  • One-on-one professional writing guidance
  • In-class visits and whole-class workshops
  • Professional development workshops
  • Supplemental writing labs

What faculty and staff can do
  • Put the Writing Center on your syllabus and
    resource lists.
  • Recommend study groups in your classes.
  • Create a mentoring group in your disciplines to
    provide guidance for students.
  • Invite me to your discipline meetings to discuss
    issues and workshop solutions.
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