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TOEFL Tip #172: More Information About Subject/Verb Agreement Errors

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on October 6, 2012

Some time ago, Strictly English had a post highlighting the fact that numerous errors in subject-verb agreement in the Writing section of the TOEFL could substantially lower your score. Our researchers have recently discovered that subject-verb agreement errors affect not only your Writing score, but also your Speaking score.

In both the Writing and Speaking sections, our researchers’ answers were nearly grammatically perfect. For this study, their only “problem” area was in subject-verb agreement. As a result, their scores in both sections dropped. Their Writing scores went down by as much as 4 points, and their Speaking scores were 2 or so points lower.

What accounts for the same error costing different points on the Writing and Speaking sections?

We attribute this to the ability to proof-read your answers in the Writing section before submitting them. If you use your response time well, you can leave a few minutes at the end to review what you’ve written and correct any mistakes. Since you technically CAN fix your errors, it seems as if ETS penalizes you more for any mistakes which remain in the answer.

On the other hand, you can’t go back and correct mistakes in your Speaking section answers. Even if you do correct one or two errors right after you say them, it’s just not feasible to expect that you can correct all of them and still give a good answer. ETS knows this, and seems to deduct fewer points because speaking on the fly (scroll to the bottom of the page) is harder than writing and revising.

Since subject-verb agreement errors are easy to recognize (click here for a review), make sure that you practice eliminating them from both your written and spoken English.