The TOEFL exam is big business and millions and millions of students have taken this exam. In addition, many Online TOEFL Courses offer preparation for the test to help students reach their academic English proficiency goals. However, before enrolling in an Online TOEFL Course, several questions should be asked. If customer support does not answer these questions or if they answer “no” to any of these questions, then students should not join this course.
Does the course allow students to post independent and integrated speaking practice tests? If so, how many practice tests can students submit each week and what type of feedback will these students get? Ideally, students should be able to post independent and integrated speaking practice tests each week, and a qualified TOEFL iBT speaking specialist should be providing feedback in the form of audio and video comments. Moreover, the TOEFL iBT speaking specialist should score the speaking practice tests based on the independent and integrated speaking rubrics that ETS (Educational Testing Service) has created. Many Online TOEFL Courses do not allow students to post and get feedback on their TOEFL speaking. Instead, students can see model responses of speaking practice tests. However, as the saying goes, “Seeing is good, hearing is better, but doing is best.” How can these students solve delivery, language use, and topic development problems if they are not able to complete practice tests and get feedback?
Does the course allow students to post independent and integrated speaking practice tests? If so, how many writing practice tests can students submit each week and what type of feedback will these students get. For example, in addition to getting a score, will the TOEFL iBT writing specialists error correct the essays that are being submitted and at what cost to the students? Error correcting essays is time consuming and requires expertise in writing, grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, and so on. Therefore, students should expect to pay a fair price for an error correcting service.
What are the qualifications of the materials writers for the Online TOEFL Course? What are the qualifications of the TOEFL iBT writing and speaking specialists? Someone who designs an Online TOEFL Course has to have not only extensive knowledge of the format of the TOEFL exam but also vast knowledge of second language acquisition so that students who complete the Online TOEFL Course will be able to meaningfully improve their academic English language proficiency. Furthermore, a TOEFL iBT writing and speaking specialist has to be able to diagnose problems in pronunciation relating to consonant sounds, vowel sounds, syllable division and grammatical word endings, sentence rhythm, intonation, thought groups and blending. Or, what if a student has grammatical problems such as correctly forming adjective, adverb, or noun clauses? Will the iBT speaking and writing specialist have the training to diagnose these errors and be able to help students overcome these language-use issues? Whether it is the materials writers or a TOEFL iBT speaking or writing specialist, these mentors should have a minimum of a Master’s in English, TESL, or Linguistics from a credible university. Since these TOEFL speaking and writing mentors improve their feedback over time, ask the Online TOEFL Course how many years these teaching professionals have been preparing students for the TOEFL exam. If they have had fewer than five years of experience, students should search elsewhere for more experienced TOEFL preparation professionals.
Of course, students can ask more than these questions, but the bottom line is this: if students are not allowed to post speaking and writing practice tests regularly and get feedback from qualified TOEFL iBT speaking and writing specialists and if the materials writer, speaking mentors, and writing mentors do ot nhave at least Master’s Degrees with English or some closely related field, then students should consider using another Online TOEFL Course.
Good luck in your search for an Online TOEFL Course!
Michael Buckhoff, founder, owner, and materials writer of “The 7-Step System to Pass the TOEFL iBT”