Yun joins a TOEFL course but now is suffering from TOEFLitis!

Two weeks ago, after surfing the Internet, Yun joined a TOEFL course called “The 7-Step System to Pass the TOEFL iBT” so he can reach his goal of scoring 80/120. However, these days,  feeling like he is stuck in a rut, Yun feels that his grammar and writing skills are getting worse despite the fact the he is studying TOEFL. How is that possible?

First of all, Yun is very nervous about his future because, if he does not reach his goal of 80/120 by August, he will not be able to enter his graduate program.  “What if I do not pass the TOEFL?” he often thinks. “I need to study TOEFL all day every day so that I can reach my goal.”  Under all of this stress, he is memorizing lot of new vocabularies and sentence structures, but the new information doesn’t seem to be sticking in his brain. Second of all, he has set aside 14 hours each day to study TOEFL, leaving him no time to visit with friends and family and to engage in leisurely activities or exercise. Still, he feels his English progress in stagnating, so he sends an E-mail to his TOEFL mentor, “Even if i spend a lot of time to study TOEFL, I don’t feel like I’m improving. Please help me. I am really in hurry.”

It is not only possible but also likely that he could get worse due to his study habits.  Yun is suffering from what I call TOEFLitis. (Do not bother looking up this word in the dictionary. I coined the term.) TOEFLitis is the act of over studying for the TOEFL or putting all other English studies on hold other than the TOEFL.  However you want to define it, it is a psychological problem that Yun must change if he wants to improve his TOEFL score.  Studying the TOEFL for 14 hours a day leaves no time for Yun to read books, magazines, and newspapers. It leaves no time for him to watch TV news and documentaries, listen to the radio, or to talk to native speakers on a regular basis.  How is he supposed to retain the vocabulary words he is memorizing if he is not reading them or hearing them in books and listening segments?  How does he expect to learn the grammar structures he is memorizing without talking to native speakers on a regular basis?

No doubt anxiety has grabbed hold of Yun, thus clouding his vision.  Let’s face it. Yun is a human who, like everyone else, needs social interaction. He needs a break from his English studies on a daily basis, and trying to learn English in 14 hour segments is like a marathon runner who runs 150 miles in a single day to prepare for his upcoming competition.  Like the marathon runner who is 100% likely to get injured from his over training, Yun is likely to suffer physical and mental problems due to his over studying. He needs to spend time relaxing during breaks from his English studies.  Engaging in moderate exercise such as walking or bicycling will also help keep his mind and body strong.  Language is best learned in small increments over an extended period of time.

If Yun wants to get out of the rut he is stuck in, he needs to change so that he has a more balanced approach to his TOEFL studies and to his life. Let’s hope he realizes that fact before it is too late.

This article was written by Michael Buckhoff–co-founder and materials writer for Better TOEFL Scores and The 7-Step System to Pass the TOEFL iBT, Composition and Linguistics Professor, TOEFL Specialist, ESL Master Instructor, and Placement and Testing Coordinator for California State University, San Bernardino.Follow more posts and videos from Michael at Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube.

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