Response to Magoosh’s article “How to Predict your TOEFL Score: Speaking” by David Recine

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David Recine, a TOEFL preparation expert at Magoosh who has a BA in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin and a MA in TESL, wrote an article titled “How to Predict your TOEFL Score: Speaking.” In the article, he outlines a detailed approach on how students can forecast what score they will receive on the speaking section of the exam.

First of all, Recine advises students to use the official rubrics to self-score speaking responses after having completed them. In addition, he encourages students to post their speaking responses on discussion boards and hope to get feedback from others. Finally, because self-scoring and post responses for others may not be accurate, he encourages students to consult tutors who will most likely get the most accurate feedback of the options provided.

Second of all, once students have had their speaking practice tests scored, Recine instructs students to average the scores of all their speaking tasks by giving each speaking task an equal weight in relation to the other tasks completed. In other words, students should add all the scores together and then divide them by the number of tasks completed.

Third of all, once the students have an average task score for the six speaking tasks, Recine shows students how to get a percentage score that they got on their practice section for TOEFL speaking. For example, if a student determined that s/he scored 90% on the six speaking tasks that were evaluated, then s/he can take that percentage out of a possible 30 pts. Hence, 90% of 30 = 27 pts.

In the conclusion of the article, Recine admits that other variables such as how difficult or easy the speaking task is may create variable results when students try to guess what their score is before test day.

To add to what Recine said, I would like to caution students when they are estimating their TOEFL speaking scores. Toward this aim, students should try to simulate actual TOEFL testing conditions when they are taking a speaking practice test and should consider consulting a TOEFL iBT specialist so that they get accurate TOEFL speaking score feedback.

The TOEFL test is like running a marathon in that it is an English test that can last up to five hours depending on whether or not the test taker practices the TOEFL tutorials before taking the actual TOEFL exam. In fact, many runners can run 42 km in less time that it takes students to complete a TOEFL exam. For example, in my last marathon, when I was 45 years old, I ran the California International Marathon in 2 hours and 51 minutes. Similarly, test-takers begin the speaking section of the exam after having already spent two hours completing the reading and listening sections of the exam. Therefore, students are likely to be mentally tired after beginning the speaking section since they have spent so much time answering the questions during the reading and listening sections of the exam. In addition, that other students at the TOEFL test center will be completing speaking tasks at the same time creates a rather noisy environment. As a result, I would like to add three important things that students should consider.

1. To realistically gauge their TOEFL speaking scores, students should take a speaking practice test within a full-length TOEFL iBT practice exam so that they can simulate what it feels like to complete the speaking section after having already taken two hours completing the reading and listening sections. Taking a full-length TOEFL practice test helps students develop the strength and the concentration needed for a rigorous exam such as the TOEFL exam. Students who do not complete a few full-length practice tests beforehand will likely be too mentally tired to concentrate when they begin the speaking section and will not get their desired results. When I was preparing for my marathon, for instance, I did not just go out one day and race 42 kms. I actually practiced running the marathon distance 3-4 times before I actually raced the distance. Likewise, students who take full-length practice tests will be better prepared the day that they take the actual TOEFL exam. A web site that I have my students use when they take full-length iBT practice tests is ScoreNexus. This web site offers realistic, full-length TOEFL iBT practice tests, and the speaking and writing practice tests are graded by TOEFL speaking and writing specialists who score 1000’s and 1000’s of these tasks on a monthly basis.

2. Since there is often a lot of noise and distractions from other test-takers in a jam packed TOEFL testing center, when students complete speaking practice tests, they should complete them with a television or radio turned on in the background. That way the students practice reading and decoding the speaking prompts with distraction so that they can learn to concentrate under similar testing conditions.

3. Despite what Recine recommends, I warn students against trying to self-assess or have other students or friends assess their TOEFL speaking proficiency. Think about this for a minute. If you were having headaches and suffered dizziness, would you ask a friend to determine whether or not you had brain cancer? Or, if you were not sure about whether or not your transmission in your car needed repair, would you try to diagnose the problem yourself if you had never had any training in automotive repair? In both cases, you would consult either or medical doctor or an automotive repair technician since they have vast experience addressing the issues you are facing, right? Thus, instead of trying to figure out what your TOEFL speaking score is yourself, consult a TOEFL speaking specialist who has years and years of experience helping students reach their desired subtotal scores in the speaking section.

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The author of this article is Michael Buckhoff, the founder, owner, and materials writer for STEALTH, the Online TOEFL Course “The 7-Step System to Pass the TOEFL iBT.” Buckhoff’s course replaces the need for intermediate level or higher international students to study in an English language program, and it is a better alternative to test prep programs such as Magoosh, TestDen, or ETS’s TOEFL Preparation Course because STEALTH gives students to opportunity to complete pronunciation, speaking, and writing practice tests.  In addition, after students complete these practice tests, they will get 3-6 minutes of audio feedback from a language specialist, and subscribers to STEALTH will also get their writing practice tests scored as well.