Use Word to Grade your TOEFL Essays

Did you know you can use Microsoft Word to grade your TOEFL practice essays? Keep reading this blog post to learn why and how you should.

Use Word to Grade your TOEFL Essays

How can you use Word to grade your TOEFL essays?

Microsoft Word, as you know, has a spell and grammar check function.  I recommend that you use the grammar and spell check function to help you proof-read your essays.  After using this editing function, you can check the grade level of your writing.  Follow these steps:

Why you should use Word to grade your TOEFL essays?

When you check your readibility statistics, Microsoft Word will complete a Flesh-Kindcaid Grade Level test. This test will rate your essay according to a U.S. grade school level.  Your grade level is determined by average sentence length divided by the number of sentences. In addition, the test looks at the average number of syllables divided by the number of words.

Similarly, Educational Testing Service uses E-Rater, an artificial intelligence app, to grade your writing for linguistic features such as sentence length, word choice, and grammar.

Finally, if your Flesh-Kindcaid Grade Level test is close to grade 12, it is highly likely that ETS’s scoring engine will also grade you high. Why is this, you ask? If you Flesh-Kindcaid Grade Level test is close to 12,  your writing is more academic in that you are writing longer sentences with more multi-syllabic words. And ETS’s scoring engine is also programmed to see whether or not your writing is college level.

 

Example Essay with Flesh-Kincaid Grade Level 14.3; TOEFL practice score of 30/30 pts

The below essay receives a Flesh-Kincaid Grade level of 14.3. In addition, using ETS’s official scoring quide, I graded this at 30/30 pts.

The author in the reading passage suggests that the government sell the Amtrak intercity train service to a privately-owned company. However, the speaker in the listening passage disagrees with this suggestion.

First of all, according to the author, the government is losing money on many Amtrak routes in remote and less populated areas inasmuch as the ticket fares gained from the passengers can not cover the maintenance expenses. Therefore, the government is losing millions of dollars every year, claims the author, due to this underuse condition. Conversely, the speaker argues that the main purpose of Amtrak is not to gain profit but to provide public transportation services to all the US citizens, including the ones living in remote areas. Those citizens who live in less populated areas, explains the speaker, also have the same right to use intercity train services. Therefore, if the government sells Amtrak to a private company, those remote routes will be cut which is against the main purpose of Amtrak, concludes the speaker.

Second of all, the author mentions that it is unfair to those private-owned transportation companies as Amtrak is providing its train services at a fairly low price because the government is providing funds to subsidize its operation. On the other hand, the private-owned transportation companies do not have the financial support from the government, so they are having an enormous amount of burden for this ticket-price competition. In contrast, the speaker explains that the government is actually supporting those private-owned transportation companies by providing the air traffic control towels, the weather satellites, and many other fundamental services. Therefore, according to the speaker, this “unfair” statement is ridiculous.

Finally, the government, argues the author, should direct its funding more to the maintenance and improvement of the highway systems because less than 1 percent of people who travel among cities are using Amtrak. Therefore, rail travel is less important in the US; thus, the government should spend more money into a more dominant means of transport such as the highway. However, the speaker asserts that the government should invest more money into railway constructions to update the routes to high-speed train lines just like what has been done in Japan and Europe. To illustrate, the speaker emphasizes that the US citizens are not intended to travel by train due to the out-of-date status of Amtrak, but if the government can improve the service, more people will be attracted to use the railway transportation.

Example Essay with Flesh-Kincaid Grade Level of 15.1 ; TOEFL practice score of 30/30 pts.

Use Word to Grade your TOEFL Essays

The independent essay included here recieved a Flesh-Kindcaid Grade Level of 15.1; similarly, I used ETS’s scoring guides to give this essay a score of 30/30 pts.

Prompt: Nowadays many high schools and universities require students to work on projects in groups, and all members of the group receive the same grade (mark) on the project. Do you agree or disagree that giving every member of a group the same grade is a good way to evaluate students? Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer. Be sure to use your own words. Do not use memorized examples.

Even though it has been the 8th year after I graduated from the university, I can still remember those group projects assigned by my professors from time to time during my four-year university life. Those group projects can be in different formats such as a PowerPoint presentation in a group of four or a cooperative laboratory testing in a group of two. No matter how the format of group projects varies, one thing for sure is that all members of the group will receive exactly the same grade on the project which I think is a good fashion to evaluate students inasmuch as the students can practice teamwork skills and the professor do not have time to follow-up with each individual.

First of all, grading each student in the same group with the same mark is a good way to evaluate students because students will have a deeper understanding of what teamwork is. Basically, the high schools and universities are providing group projects in order to give their students an opportunity to practice the teamwork skills to get ready for what they will face in the future when they step into the society. To be more specific, when working in a company, the employees need to cooperate with each other to ensure the company’s daily operations. For example, in my company which is a plasma-based biotechnological pharmaceutical one, if a new version of the Standard Operating Procedure of the Endotoxin testing needs to be approved and become effective, at least four employees (QC analyst, Senior microbiologist, QC supervisor and QA approver) from two different departments, Quality Control and Quality Assurance, need to get involved. For comparison, the final result of the group assignment from work can be considered as equivalent to the grade of the group project from school. And the higher management team only look at the final work result to evaluate the employees involved as a whole instead of investigating their individual performances one-by-one. Therefore, it is reasonable to evaluate the students from the same project group by giving the same grade.

Second of all, giving each member in a group project the same grade is an acceptable way for evaluation also because that the professor will not have time to follow-up with each student on each step. Let us imagine the difficulty for a professor to grade a student in a group project depending on his own performance. Unless the professor is involved in each step of the group project, hardly can he judge each group member’s time input and contribution in a fair and just way. Then the question is, can the professor do the following up of such a micro-controlled style? The answer is of course NO inasmuch as he does not have time for that. On one hand, the professors in the universities normally need to spend a considerable amount of time, coordinating with their own research projects. On the other hand, there are usually 50 to 100 students for one class and for some fundamental courses such as Psychology 101, there is a possibility to have more than 300 students in one class. Both of the reasons are contributing to the fact that it is very unlikely for a professor to chase after the members of the same group project on what they do, how fast they do and how well they do. Therefore, it is more practical for all the members from the same project group to get the same grade.

In conclusion, it will be more reasonable and more practical for the members from the same project group to get exactly the same grade not only because that the students can practice their teamwork skills but also that the professor will not have time to chase after the students one-by-one.

Final comments about using word to grade your essay

Use Word to Grade your TOEFL Essays

Discovering your Flesh-Kincaid Grade Level will help you understand your average sentence length and the average number of syllables for the words that you are writing.  I suggest that you set a goal to score at least at the 10th grade level.  In addition, if you score higher than grade 12, you may get a high score on the TOEFL writing section.

However, using Microsoft Word to grade your TOEFL essay has limitations similar to other artificial intelligence programs. It will not determine whether or not you have directly addressed the writing task. Nor will it evaluate the coherence and cohesion of your writing. Finally, it will not see how many sentence structure, word choice, and grammar errors you have in your writing.

Despite these limitations,  understanding how long your average sentences are and how many syllables your words are will help you answer an important question: “Are you using a combination of basic and advanced grammar and vocabulary?”

  • If your essay’s sentences average between 10-20 words, you are likely using mostly basic sentence structure.
  • In the same manner, if you have mostly one or two syllable words, you are using mostly basic vocabulary.
  • As a result, you can pinpoint what types of sentence structure and vocabulary improvements you need to make in your writing.

May the next TOEFFL exam you take be your last!

Michael Buckhoffmbuckhoff@aol.com

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