Education: Are You Ready for Higher Learning?

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Julia Chemali is a Program Consultant for the Toronto Catholic District School Board

Important News for TOEFL Test Takers

September 2005 saw the launch of the official new TOEFL Test worldwide. This improved test measures your ability to understand English and communicate effectively for success in an academic environment and everyday university situations. It also helps institutions decide if you are ready for academic course work.

In the past there was a heavy focus on learning about and analyzing the language itself, but little emphasis on real communication. As a result, students could score highly on tests yet not be able to communicate.

The most important feature of the new testing is the integration of the four language skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking. It also includes related skills such as vocabulary, spelling, pronunciation, syntax, meaning and usage. This approach reflects how we use language in real life where we always respond to something we hear or read.

What’s the test like?

TOEFL IBT is the only test that uses internet-based technology on a global scale to measure English proficiency. It has four sections and takes approximately four hours with a short break in between. All sections can be completed on the same day. Note taking is allowed throughout the test (especially when listening) to help you answer the questions.

The Reading Section has three to five academic reading passages, approximately 700 words, followed by 12 to 14 comprehension questions for each passage. It takes 60 to 100 minutes to finish the task.

The Listening Section consists of conversations and lectures with language similar to what students hear in real academic situations. Note taking is a skill that you need to learn because you are allowed to take notes when listening.

The Speaking Section measures your overall ability to communicate, to speak clearly and to demonstrate an understanding of the material. Test takers answer six questions by speaking into a microphone. Tasks include answering questions about familiar topics as well as responding to something you have just read or heard.

In the Writing Section, you will read a short passage and listen to a short lecture, then answer a question based on the material. This section measures your ability to demonstrate an understanding of the material as well as write clearly, accurately and in a well-organized manner.

There is a score for each language skill and a total score will reflect your performance on all four skills. Score scales will be divided into levels, and your performance will be described at each level. Your learning needs can be easily identified so you can be placed in appropriate levels and courses.

Test takers and institutions will be able to view scores online making it unnecessary to wait for mail delivery.

At Toronto Catholic District School Board TOEFL preparation classes, highly qualified teachers provide tasks in which students interact and use all four language skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) to communicate actively. Tasks include discussions, problem solving, listening to audio/video material, decision making, and giving peer feedback.

This integrated-skills approach can be highly motivating for students because it lets you participate in authentic tasks that challenge you to practice communicating in English. As you become more comfortable interacting with others in English, you gain a true understanding of the richness and complexity of the English language and build confidence in your communication skills.

Instructors also help students become responsible for their own learning by showing you some learning strategies which they incorporate in their classroom activities and encourage students to practice on their own. They also encourage students to communicate in English outside the classroom, in speech or in writing, with native speakers of English or with English speaking e-mail friends.

For a listing of TOEFL preparation classes with the Toronto Catholic District School Board Adult Education Program please refer to the online directory at: http://www.tcdsb.org/adulted/toefldir.htm.

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