Sunday, August 24, 2014

New 'tricky' element to Speaking Question #5 on the TOEFL

Someone recently told me that when he took his TOEFL recently he noticed something strange about Speaking Question #5.

Instead of the 'friend' offering two pieces of advice, the friend offered one piece of advice and the person with the problem came up with another possible solution.

This should pose no real problem, however.  Instead of saying something like, "...the friend offers two pieces of advice.." you can just say, "...there are two possible solutions offered among these students..." ETS is always throwing these little tricks in. Why?  I don't know either.

So using the format below, after you state the problem in speaking question number 5, you can say, "The friend offers one piece of advice. The friend recommends that...."  Then you can say, "The student, himself, also presents the second piece of advice..."

By the way, please remember to use "recommend" correctly.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The best format for Speaking Question 5

I've been working with students on the TOEFL exam for a few years now and we all tend to agree that this is the best format for question number 5.

1. Briefly state the problem.
2. Simply state the first piece of advice, with no explanation.
3. Simply state the second piece of advice, with no explanation.
4. State which option you would choose and explain why (do NOT mention the other option at all)
5. State the option you reject and explain why (do NOT mention the previous option)

For example, here's a sample dialogue:

M. Hi Beth, you look a little worried.
W. Well, I am. I am having some problems at the Student Job Center, where I work part time.
M. But I thought you were doing a great job there.
W. I have been doing a great job - everybody says so. But apparently I've been doing too well and the director feels that too many students are saying too many good things about me. So she has moved me from the information desk into the back office where I now have to do data entry. It's boring work and I think I was the best information officer this center ever had.
M. So the director feels that you are outshining her work and the work of the center?  Wow, that sometimes happens.  It's called professional jealousy.
W. She's never going to let me work with my fellow students again. She told me other students need to have the experience I was having and the staff has to be rotated, but I can tell she's upset with me. More students have started coming to the center now that I work there.
M. Well, let's problem solve. At this point you have nothing to lose, so go over her head and email her supervisor and just tell the truth. Let it all hang out.  Spill the beans. Tell her boss that she's messing up the job center by removing the best information officer ever.
W. I've thought of that, but I think I'd get fired. My boss is very good friends with her boss and they would just stick together and fire me. That would look bad on my record and I kind of need the money.
M. OK, just stay there then.  My advice would be to do nothing. Just do the data entry and take your check and accept this situation as a learning experience.
W. No. I think I have to do something.  This really seems wrong to me.  I have been removed from my duties because I was doing a great job.  That is insane.

So now let's use our format:


P = The student's problem is that she has been removed from her duties as an information officer because the director of the Student Job Center is jealous of how popular she has become.

A = Her friend recommends that she should protest this by writing to her boss' boss.

A = He also recommends that if this is not a good option, she should just shut up and do the work she is given.

positive = If I were in this woman's shoes, I would definitely email the supervisor's supervisor.  If what the woman is saying is true, this is a terrible injustice and nobody should remain silent for an injustice, regardless of how small it might seem. Furthermore, she is NOT going to get fired.  If the university fires her for bringing a legitimate grievance to their attention, she can take them to court and sue them. 

negative = Furthermore, the other option is just unacceptable.  If she does not say anything she is going to be miserable and she is going to be doing a job that she is not well-suited for.  She hates data entry but loves working with students. It is clear that she not only has a right but also an obligation to speak up.

So, isn't that a good format?

I think it's a good format because usually one option is usually just very unrealistic or even impossible.  Usually there is just one possible option and one impossible or nearly impossible option.

Yes, I am the guy who reported to the Korean press that pop stars were not being treated as well as I felt they should have been in New York City:

Daniel Gauss