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TOEFL Tip #45: How TOEFL Scores Are Broken Down

by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on June 25, 2009

The entire TOEFL has a perfect score of 120, and although 30 points are alloted to each of the 4 sections (Reading, Listening, Speaking, Writing), these sections are not scored initially from 0-30. The Rater uses a different scoring system, called the “raw score”. No one but ETS Raters know how this raw score is exactly computed nor how it is then converted to the 0-30 score you receive.

For both the Reading and the Listening sections of the test, you only receive the final score, ranged between 0-30. Meanwhile, you receive sub-scores for both the Speaking and the Writing along with the 0-30 score.

The Speaking section is broken down into three subsections:

1. Speaking about familiar Topics (which indicates how well you did on Tasks One and Two)
2. Speaking about Campus Situations (which indicates how well you did on Tasks Three and Five)
3. Speaking about Academic Course Content (which indicates how well you did on Tasks Three and Five)

These three sections are rated as being “weak” “limited” “fair” or “good”. To receive a 26 on the speaking (which Canadian Nurses and North American Pharmacists need for their licensure), you need to score a “good” in all three subsections of the Speaking.

The Writing section is broken down into two subsections:

1. Writing Based on Reading and Listening (commonly called the 20-minute essay)
2. Independent Essay (commonly called the 30-minute essay)

These two sections are rated as being “limited” “fair” or “good”.


by Strictly English TOEFL Tutors on June 24, 2009

I’m rather surprised that the only iPhone applications for sale are vocabulary builders. With so many sections of the test: (Reading, Listening, Speaking, Writing) and with each of these sections testing a different language or reasoning skill (pronoun identification, paraphrasing, copy editing, spelling, logic, as well as the ability to infer and summarize), it shocks me that no one has taken the initiative to make applications that help improve these other skills.  TOEFL is, after all, a multiple choice test.  You would think that an iPhone app based on picking multiple choice answers wouldn’t be that hard to design.  And it isn’t.  The problem is, as usual, time and money.  Creating the content for just one application could take a team of 10 English teachers working 10 hours a day for 10 months.  Add to this the cost of developing the application itself, and you have a big hurdle to jump.

But Strictly English is not afraid to take on this challenge!  We are currently in negotiations with iPhone application developers to design a series of applications that will help strengthen your TOEFL skills.

Until Strictly English releases these applications, though, TOEFL Students will only have the small array of vocabulary applications currently on the market, which haven’t been well-received so far. Early reports indicate that the vocabulary builders are not selling very well, primarily because students would prefer to learn new English words in relation to the student’s original language.  For example, what spanish speaker person wants read “distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune,” in order to understand the English word “Anxiety” when he/she could just know that “anxiety” = “ansiedad”.  Hence, these TOEFL vocabulary building apps have it wrong from the start.

But let’s look a little closer at some of these applications anyway:

1. Kaplan TOEFL Vocabulary (by TestPrepWiz): At the time of this writing, the application is not running on the new 3.0 upgrade. I’ve contacted the developer and they are working to fix this problem. In general, though, this program is nothing more than a digital set of flashcards. And with only 350 words, it doesn’t cover much vocabulary. It does have a test mode, which is probably its best function.

Kaplan Vocabulary

Kaplan Vocabulary

2. TOEFL – GMAT Vocabulary Builder (by and Unigate): This application is not helpful for TOEFL vocabulary study mainly because there is just one long list of words.  The user cannot know which vocabulary words are TOEFL words and which words are GMAT words.  Now it is true that all TOEFL words are also GMAT words, but it is NOT true that all GMAT words are also TOEFL words.  GMAT vocabulary is much harder than TOEFL vocabulary.  Using this application would be much better if you could chose a list of TOEFL vocabulary words ONLY, and not study the GMAT words.  It’s games are cute, but it’s hard to know what to do, and the “help” page doesn’t explain how to play.  Look at this screen shot of the game “Bubble”.  Since the balloons rise from the bottom of the screen, your eye focuses on the word EXPANSION, but this is not the word you’re trying to match.  Instead, you have to look at the top of the page to find the definition you’re trying to match.  It is written in small print and does not catch your eye.

3. TOEFL Vocabulary (AudioLearn): By far, this is the least dynamic of the three programs. As you can see form the screenshot, it is a solid stream of text, which just blurs together. In addition, all the text is read aloud in a monotonous stream. Click here download and to listen.

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