New TOEFL 2019 Changes

New TOEFL 2019 changes will be implemented on August 1st of this year.

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New TOEFL 2019 Changes: Duration and Format of the Test

The duration of the new TOEFL iBT will be shortened by 30 minutes. Like before, you will still be able to finish the TOEFL without having to come back for a second day of testing. There are no major changes to the overall test format or question types. Each section will still be scored on a 0-30 scale, and the total score will be based on a scale of 0-120.

Reading

Before August 1, 2019: You read 3-4 passages with 12-14 questions for each passage. You spend 60-80 minutes reading and answering the questions.

After August 1, 2019: Similarly, you read 3-4 passages. However, you answer 10 questions for each passage. In addition, you spend 54-72 minutes reading the passages and answering questions.

Listening

Before August 1, 2019: You listen to 4-6 lectures; each lecture has six questions.  Moreover, you listen to 2-3 conversations and answer 5 questions for each one.  In total, you spend 60-90 minutes listening to the lectures and answering questions.

After August 1, 2019:  Unlike before, you listen to 3-4 lectures and answer 6 questions about each lecture. In addition, similar to before, you listen to 2-3 conversations and answer 5 questions about each conversation.  The duration of the listening section is reduced to 41-57 minutes

New TOEFL 2019 Changes: Speaking

Before August 1, 2019: You complete 6 tasks. Two of them are independent and 4 of them are integrated tasks. It will take you 20 minutes to complete all 6 speaking tasks.

After August 1, 2019: Unlike before, you will complete 4 tasks: 1 independent and 3 integrated tasks. The total time for the speaking section is changed to 17 minutes.  Earlier today, I received an email from ETS public relations advisor Jason R. Baran, who explained which TOEFL speaking tasks are being eliminated from the exam. I will use exactly his words:

Independent Speaking item

The independent question being removed is Item # 1, a task known as “Personal Preference”.  This question asks the test taker to express and defend a personal choice from a given category – for example, important people, places, events, or activities that the test taker likes to do.

The independent question that will remain asks the test taker to make and defend a personal choice between two contrasting behaviors or courses of action.

Integrated Speaking Item

The integrated item being removed is item # 5, a task known as “Campus situation” or a “Problem/Solution” that integrates listening and speaking. The listening passage is a conversation about a student-related problem and two possible solutions.  The question asks the test taker to demonstrate an understanding of the problem and to express an opinion about solving the problem.

Test prep materials for the TOEFL iBT test can still be used for the shorter test. In the future, some test prep products will be revised to reflect the shorter test, and all new products will be created with the new format in mind. 

Further, there seems to be some changes to the length of the independent speaking task. The independent speaking questions are longer than before. For instance, you may have to read 3-4 sentences before you answer the question. Here is an example: 

Who would you rather work for? 

  •  A boss who respects you and praises your work but who pays you less. 
  • A boss who is critical of you but who pays you more. 

Use specific details and reasons to explain your option. 

In addition to more lengthy question types, you can now receive a score of 25 since ETS has made some changes in how they calculate your speaking score. 

Moreover, be careful of the advantages and disadvantages question which is much longer and easier to misread than in the past: 

Some people prefer using electric or hybrid cars, whereas others prefer gasoline-powered cars. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using gasoline-powered cars? Use details and examples in our answer. 

TOEFL Resources, as you can read here, has a thorough article about the new speaking changes and how you can prepare for them.

New TOEFL 2019 Changes: Writing

The writing section is unchanged. Before and after August 1, 2019, you will still have 2 tasks and a total of 50 minutes. However, there seems to be a change in the length of the independent writing prompt. Currently, it seems to be getting longer. Instead of seeing a single sentence and then being asked whether you agree or disagree with the statement, you may have to read several sentences. In addition, as soon as you see the writing prompt, the 30 minute timer begins. Finally, you are directed in the writing prompt not to use any memorized examples in this writing task. 

Here is an example of a writing prompt asking you about your personal preference: 

As a university student, you will take courses from many kinds of professors, all of whom may have different teaching philosophies. Some professors may require you to work with other students in small groups as you go through the course materials.  In contrast, other professors may use more lecture and less group work to teach the course concepts. 

Which style of teaching do you prefer? Use reasons and examples to support your answer.  Please do not use any memorized examples in your response

You can also learn more about these writing changes at TOEFL Resources, as you can read here.

Official Score Report

This year, instead of one score report, ETS will send two: 1) Your most recent overall score and subtotal reading, listening, speaking, and writing scores and 2) Your MyBest score which looks at all the TOEFL exams you have taken over the last two years and combines the reading, listening, speaking, and writing subtotal scores to give you the highest score possible. Even though many universities have requested this data, you will need to check with your specific program to see if they will accept a MyBest score.

Reliability of the TOEFL

According to ETS, researchers conducted some studies to look at the longer versus the shorter version coming out in August 1, 2019.  As a result, researchers found that shortening the test had no meaningfully effect on the reliability of the test itself. Therefore, you will most likely get a similar score whether you take the longer or the shorter version of the TOEFL iBT.

University Score Requirements

Despite the shortened version coming out, ETS explains, universities will not need to change their score requirements since the new version is testing exactly the same language skills with the same question types as before.

TOEFL iBT Scores and CEFR Levels

The shortened test of August 1, 2019 will not affect CEFR mapping, according the ETS officials. Like before, the score scale remains the same, and the test measures exactly the same language skills as before.

Analysis of the Shortened TOEFL iBT after August 1, 2019

If I were a TOEFL test-taker, I would not be too happy with the shortened version coming out in August 1, 2019.  A shorter test means less room for error.  With only 4 speaking tasks instead of 6, if you draw a blank on one of the speaking tasks, say goodbye to a score of 26+. Moreover, ETS is eliminating the personal preference independent tasks and integrated speaking task 5: reading, listening, speaking–campus related, both of which are considered fairly easy tasks by many test-takers. Therefore, you are left with the more difficult tasks during speaking section.

In addition, the independent speaking and writing tasks are getting longer. Therefore, it will be easier for you to misread the speaking or the writing prompt. That will cause you to score lower consequently.

The silver lining in the new change is the MyBest score reporting, which allows you to combine reading, listening, speaking, and writing subtotals to give you the highest score possible. So many students have been in TOEFL Hell because they were not allowed to combine subtotal scores from different tests that they took. Be sure to check with your university or professional program to see if they allow the new ETS MyBest score option

Good luck!

Michael Buckhoff, http://onlinetoeflcourse.com

mbuckhoff@aol.com

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