Hello! Hello! Hello everybody and welcome to your TOEFL Podcast. My name is Steve Ford and I am happy to tell you since our last TOEFL podcast, I have had many students who have all passed their TOEFL exams with flying colors. Why is that? What makes the TOEFL raters tick?
Do they all score you the same way? Are there really 3 to 6 raters going over your score? Well in my personal experience, I was a rater for the Michigan University General Test, the ECCE and the Michigan proficiency test, the ECPE. One thing I can tell you being a rater is that I never saw more than 3 raters evaluating the speaking and writing. So how do they do it? Well you can find what they are looking for from the speaking evaluation rubric which you can find here.
Now the ETS.org website has a free sample of recordings of what they consider to be a 3 out of 4 for example. So you can go to the following link on the ets.org website, download the sample TOEFL test and refer to the independent speaking samples I am going to mention. So here’s the first example:
Question: Talk about a pleasant and memorable event that happened while you were in school. Explain why this event brings back fond memories.
Answer: The most memorable and pleasant event I had in school was the party my friends gave me when I was in middle school. It is very memorable for me for two reasons. First reason is they were my best friends and I still think of them as the most special friends I’ve ever had. They were my friends and the teachers there to say farewell. Secondly, they gave me many cards and many presents. This was the first time I ever had a farewell party with such presents. Those are the two reasons why that event was the most memorable to me.
passed their TOEFL exams with flying colors: passed with a very good score easily
makes the TOEFL raters tick?: what is really going on in their minds?
going over your score?: reviewing, taking a look at
What did she do right?
First, she sounds like an Asian speaker who has already spent time at school speaking English, perhaps in an immersion school. I’ve taught many Asian TOEFL students living in Canada and she definitely falls into that category. This makes this speaker sound almost like a native speaker, so from the ETS raters’ point of view, she sounds like one of them and it makes it easier for them to evaluate her. You have to understand that ETS raters evaluate many people in any given workday and after listening to so many people, it is a breath of fresh air to hear someone without having to strain themselves to understand what she’s saying. Her pauses were minimal and she only stuttered once. Bravo!
* a breath of fresh air to hear someone without having to strain = a nice change……
she only stuttered once: she only got so nervous she repeated the first letter of the word, for example: p..parties
ETS raters love it when you can paraphrase the question which she didn’t do in her intro. : “the most memorable and pleasant event I had in school was…”. So she just shot back the question to the raters. She repeats memorable a second time in her conclusion: “ Those are the two reasons why that event was the most memorable to me”. Try to think of synonyms for memorable: noteworthy, significant, exceptional. Synonyms for pleasant could be: enjoyable, delightful, uplifting. So with a little paraphrasing she could have raised her score to 3.5
shoot back: popular expression to respond or even respond quickly. For example: shoot me back an e-mail when you can.
Her word choice of “friends” reflected that the cohesion of her ideas were somewhat repetitive:
Synonyms for school friends: classmates, fellow classmates
Articles are a minor thing and given her strong pronunciation it’s not a big deal. “(The) First reason”
not a major problem
On a basic level, this student talked about what she needed to. She came up with two separate points:
The people who were memorable
What they gave her
She most likely would have got more points if she had thought about a more subjective aspect of her experience: how she felt:“Secondly, they gave me many cards and many presents. This was the first time I ever had a farewell party with such presents.”
She could have said, “ I ended up getting presents from my teachers and classmates which really made my day. Throwing in a phrasal verb and an expression at the end would have not only given her a chance to elaborate on her second idea, but also she could have guaranteed that she would have raised her score by showing she knows how to use phrasal verbs and idiomatic expressions. Remember, in the independent speaking section, you are being tested on general knowledge questions and the raters are looking to see if you have day-to-day vocabulary, not just academic vocabulary.
end up: the final result of an action, very popular phrasal verb among native speakers