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by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on October 12, 2011
ETS announced on October 7th that starting November 1, 2011 the Reading section of the TOEFL will have two major changes to it.
1. There will now only be ONE Experimental Reading passage on tests that have a “long” Reading section.
2. TOEFL will no longer break up the Reading section into two differently timed sections.
This means that now, the TOEFL timer will say 60 minutes if you have only 3 passages, and it will say 80 minutes if you have 4 passages (one of the 4 will be experimental, but you will now know which one!)
To understand these changes, we first have to explain how the Reading section has been administered until now. Previously, you were given the first passage with 20 minutes on the timer. Then, you received TWO passages and 40 minutes on the timer. If you received an “Experimental” Reading section, you were given TWO MORE passages and 40 more minutes. (The Experimental Section allows TOEFL to test out new passages to see if they have any mistakes in them. It’s their way of “beta testing” passages before those passages are used in a real test.) You wouldn’t know if the first 40-minute section or the second 40-minute section was the Experimental Section, which means you had to complete all five passages. This took 1 hour and 40 minutes! TOO LONG!!! In addition, once the first passage’s time was up, you could not return to that passage again. (Although our research did find a bug in the programming: if you clicked on the REVIEW button and then clicked on a question from passage one, you could get back to the first passage.) This was bad because if you had time remaining after you answered every question, you could only go back and change answers in passages two and three, but not in passage one.
Well, enough test takers must have complained because now, instead of 5 passages (3 that you’re graded on and 2 that you’re not graded on) you’ll now receive only 4 (3 that you’re graded on and only 1 that you’re not graded on).
This might not seem like much of a change, but shortening the Reading by 20 minutes will be a huge improvement. Now, test takers will not get as tired before having to take the three other sections of the test. Even Strictly English tutors are exhausted after 1 hour and 40 minutes of Reading questions.
Frankly, we at Strictly English don’t think that ETS shortened the Reading section based on test taker feedback. ETS has consistently proved that it’s not really interested in customer service, as evidenced by how little they care about the deplorable test center conditions. Instead, we think that this is a direct response to the PTE Academic, a competing English Proficiency test that is only about 2.5 hours long, which is about 1.5 hours shorter than the TOEFL iBT.
Regardless of the reason, this is FANTASTIC news for test takers. You won’t be as tired entering the Listening section of the test, and you’ll get out of the exam in under 4 hours now.
As for all the passages being grouped into one timed section, this is also wonderful news. Now you can note on a piece of paper all the questions that you want to return to. And if you have time remaining, you can go back to any of the passages’ questions. MUCH BETTER!
THANK YOU ETS!!!!