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BLOGOSPHERICAL DEBATE PARTS 3&4
Dear FDJ,

Sorry to have kept you waiting. I’ve been extremely busy for the last ten days with my website and some other things. But I have some time today so I’d like to reply to your message.

You said 'passing English proficiency exams without improving your English is meaningless', but then I wonder why those blogs listing all those past test items are so popular among ESL learners, and there're many teachers out there living off those past test items they give out. The answer might be that there are so many ESL learners out there who only care for getting scores no matter what it takes. Generally speaking, that's the reason why I don't think it wouldn't improve hardcore TOEIC learners' writing skills even if TOEIC had writing sections.



I agree that there are those who only care about their TOEIC scores and not their English. I believe passing English proficiency exam (or getting higher scores on the TOEIC) without improving your English is meaningless but not every one shares my view.

You also said 'This type of email is usually formulaic. Once you have learned a certain patterns, you can write business emails easily,' which again makes me wonder if those hardcore TOEIC bloggers and TOEIC learners would ever be really willing to LEARN to improve anything except their sores. (Also, it wouldn't be too wild a speculation that some of those bloggers start explaining how to do it by even showing past patterns in Nipponese! And please do not wrap them around with something way much nicer and generous like shortcut, because what they've been doing to TOEIC or English education is simply corruption, not education.)



Writing is a different issue because in order to improve your writing scores, you have to become able to write. For those multiple choice questions, all you have to do is choose and mark your answers. For a writing test, you have to write. So even you are only concerned about your score, you have to practice writing. And that’s not corruption; that’s improvement. You won’t be able to write an exam-passing piece by simply reading explanation about how to tackle writing questions and learning patterns; in order to become able to write, you have to write.

How come advanced TOEIC learners keep taking TOEIC month after month, though there seems to be not so much for them to learn from it? (Or do they learn something new every month?)
You wrote,
In addition, exams can be used to motivate ourselves. When you practice English, sometimes it is difficult to see any improvement because it is a gradual process. You study every day but you don't see any improvement, and then you will probably lose your interest, depending on the level of your intrinsic motivation. If you take an exam, you will see the level of your progress. If you pass an exam, you will be happy and that will boost your motivation.
Is this applicable to advanced TOEIC learners, including super-heavyweight hardcore TOEIC bloggers, like TEX, Hummer, and Tommy, who don't make a living out of TOEIC? Or are they taking the test month after month just for the sake of their blogo-readers? Or are they like seriously hooked on some sort of special adrenaline rush, like TOEICADRENALINE pumping so vigorously yet rigorously throughout their bodies when they sit there taking a test? Or simply to be on your radio? (Well, I know you'd go, "Go ask them!" Right?)

Well, do you really have some definite sense that you've made certain improvements in your English when you got TOEIC 990 two, three times in a row, and you get to have some extra motivation after that?



You got answers from TEX, HUMMER, Tommy, Tosaken and ms, so let me tell you why I keep taking it. I make a living out of the TOEIC, so I need to know the exam well, and taking it myself is the best way to achieve that; that’s the main reason. Besides, I like taking it. It’s fun, and I like the tense atmosphere of the venue, which certainly induces adrenaline rush. For me, it is not the way to measure my progress, though.

There are super-heavyweight hardcore TOEIC bloggers, including your TOEIC buddies, who only work on several TOEIC preparatory books routinely ten, twenty times or more before the test. What these TOEIC books prove you is by and large either past test items or something very similar to them. By the time they've gone ten, twenty rounds or more on the same book, I guess, probably they'd get to memorize most of, in not all, the sample quizzes and the answers to them. Well, I guess that's really what they intend to do; memorize as many questions as possible so that they can answer to the ones similar to them easily and quickly. (I guess that's perfectly legitimate, since, generally speaking, that's what the preparatory process for any test is all about!)



I have a different point of view. TOEIC preparatory books provide English, and going over the same books many times helps you learn English.

So generally, are those super-heavyweight hardcore TOEIC bloggers with TOEIC 950++ learning anything new from the test preparation process?



Tommy has gone over my pink vocabulary book for nearly hundred times and memorized all the example sentences. His TOEIC score improve more than 50 points in the process, so I would say they can learn something out of it if they do it in a right way, like Tommy did.

Now, one of your TOEIC friends claimed on his recent blogo-entry that nearly 40% of the test items were recycled this time, so he was able to give the right answers to the questions without contemplating on them much. And I guess those guys on your radio knew as much as he did. So please just tell me how many questions on average you guys are able to answer without thinking because they are recycled?



For me, none. Well, I can recognize some recycled items but I don’t remember the answers, so I have to think. You don’t have to think deeply in order to find the correct answers on the TOEIC, though. On the May exam, there was a tough question on Part 7. It was a recycled item from a year ago, but I couldn’t recognize it. The funny thing is I chose the same wrong answer for the same reason. When we were discussing this question on the radio this year, one of the panelists told me that I said the exactly same thing last May when I was explaining why I chose that answer. I didn't remember that at all. I was amazed.

There must've been so many guys feeling rapturous over on the scores they received this month. Some achieved TOEIC 990, and the others did so with no mistake. For those guys with TOEIC 950++, is it usually a pure improvement that makes them achieve the perfect score? Or luck? Or there are more recycled test items they are very much familiar with? If so, how is it possible for them to measure their improvements by the scores? And how is it possible for them to get motivated by their dubious, fragile achievements?



For those with 950++, measuring improvements is not an issue. TOEIC is not suitable for that. The standard error of measurement for both the listening and reading section is plus/minus 25, and the standard error of the differences for both the listening and reading section is plus/minus 35, which means if your improvement of the total score is less than 50 points, that can be a measurement error, and if your improvement of the total score is less than 70 points, you can’t really say your English has improved. So, statistically 980 and 990 are almost the same. However, they are psychologically very different. I clearly remember how delighted I was when I first got 990. It took me a while to achieve that score.

What have you learned from TOEIC with regard to English grammar (excluding test strategies and techniques) since you achieved TOEIC 800?
Some of those with TOEIC 990 sometimes claim that they don't know much about GRAMMAR, and every time I hear such remarks I wonder if 1) they are extremely, mind-numbingly, humble, 2) they might not know textbook grammar rules but they can screen out grammatically questionable sentences by how they sound, 3) the TOEIC Test has some serious problem since even those who don't know much about grammar can achieve the perfect score.



The TOEIC only tests basic grammar. If you know the grammar taught at the junior high school level, you can solved more than 90% of grammar questions on the TOEIC. Vocabulary is more difficult. There are a few words and phrases that I don’t know appearing on the exam from time to time, such as “deliberation”, “stringent”, “endeavor”, “pursue” and “meticulously”.
The thing is you don’t have to know these words to get the correct answers. For example, I didn’t know what “deliberation” meant (I though it was something to do with “delivery”) but I chose it because the other three choices were absolutely wrong.

Here I presumably think that anyone with TOEIC 950++ possesses something very close to the perfect knowledge of English grammar. And THEY DO, don't they? (If they don't need the perfect grammar to get the perfect score on the reading section, this perfect score might not be so 'perfect'.) So, I'm very curious what those guys with such a vast knowledge of grammar can learn in the process of such intensive, repetitive test preparations.



Well, you have to know certain grammar to get the perfect score, but you don’t need to know all the grammatical rules compiled in a big grammar book like A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. What is tested in the TOEIC is the language used in ordinary business communication. People don’t use difficult grammar, complicated sentences and big words when they want to communicate effectively and avoid misunderstanding.

In the process of test preparations, you can learn many things from TOEIC preparatory book depending on what you focus on. Perhaps not so much with grammar, but new vocabulary for example. Or some conversational phrases to use in a particular situation. Or you can do some audio practice using audio CDs.

By the way, it's absolutely true that I read the same novels or even the same 1000-word columns over and over. That's mainly because every time I re-read them, I find and learn something new. As for those OP/ED columns, I re-read them until I become familiar and comfortable with every single word in there. I was just curious those guys going over the same TOEIC preparatory books 200 times or more learn something new out of them each time. I guess there's no one even trying to compare my favorite writers to guys like that faux-Brit accent chirping Ohnishi something in terms of the quality of English & writing wisdom in their books!



I believe in repetition. When I started learning English seriously, what I did was listened to NHK’s radio English conversation programmes, tape-recorded them, and listened to the dialogues over and over again and repeated after the tape over and over again until I memorize them. That helped me learn English, so I recommend repetition to English learners.
I’m sure your favourite columns are good for you, but not for everyone. They might be too difficult for most TOEIC takers. Materials in TOEIC preparatory books might be more suitable for them. If they study the same material in a TOEIC preparatory book repeatedly until they memorize all the contents, that will help improve their English. Here I’m talking about the average TOEIC takers, not those with 950++.
Besides, they don’t need difficult grammar, complicated sentences and big words. Imagine you are working for a Japanese manufacturer and you need to correspond with your counter part in a Vietnamese company. What you need is a clear straightforward language, and TOEIC preparatory books provide that kind of English.

By the way, I like Ohnishi. He’s very entertaining. I used to watch his programme on NHK and write about it on my blog.
ハートで感じる英文法

I have a suggestion. Why don’t you take the TOEIC yourself? You will know what it is testing. Also I’m curious what you will think of the exam.


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テーマ:TOEIC - ジャンル:学校・教育

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