A for effort

I spoke to one of my Chinese students today about taking the TOEFL test for college admission. He is one of the brightest and motivated students I’ve ever taught, and wants entry into a top US university. The TOEFL score is just one component of his application, a
standardized measure of his English fluency.

I asked him how he was preparing and he said: “ETS [the company that runs the test] always gives China the same questions that were offered in USA last year. So I simply download all the released questions, subtract all the questions that have been tested in China so far this year, and focus on the remaining ones. It’s a way Chinese students can get such high scores.”

I didn’t know whether to praise him or scold him. This is already a country with a reputation for cheating on tests, but is this student really cheating, or just being industrious? I figure in the end that ETS has to know this is happening, but how could they do so in good faith? They are the ones marketing their standard, yet there’s this tremendous loophole for Chinese students.

At least my student will learn all of the English on those remaining questions!

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1 Response to “A for effort”


  1. 1 Becca G. November 16, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    After going through “life” first and then school, we have an imperfect educational system. I believe he is being industrious. He is using the tools that he has at his disposal to achieve the goal that he needs to achieve. I believe now he must weigh whether or not this type of industrialism will hurt him in the future, ie: does he pass the test and then get to the states only to flunk his classes because he doesn’t know the language and waste his time and parents money, or does he know that he will learn quicker, faster and more comprehensively once he gets here. One has to weigh whether being industrious would hurt them in the future. (of course now you are going to send me a beautiful philosophical rebuttal! ;o) )


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