Teaching TOEFL: The pressure of taking tests

ScoreNexus TOEFL Blog

Like many people, I’ve been closely watching the final season of the American TV show Breaking Bad. I just watched one of the final episodes, named “Ozymandias.” This is a reference to a poem of the same name by the 19th century poet Percy Shelley. I know this little piece of trivia because I memorized that poem in the 6th grade, many, many, MANY years ago.

What does this have to do with the TOEFL? Well, the fact that I can still recite the poem decades later made me think about the power of testing. You see, my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Moore, made us recite and memorize many poems. Immediately after we learned the last line of “Ozymandias,” Mr. Moore picked me to test whether I could recite the poem in its entirety. I started reciting the poem out loud, but I didn’t think I could finish it since we had just learned the last few lines a few moments before. To my great surprise, and probably to the surprise of the entire class, I finished the poem correctly–and I’ve had it memorized ever since.

I am convinced that this poem is stuck in my brain because of Mr. Moore’s test. (We learned many other poems in that class, but no others are cemented in my memory like “Ozymandias.”) I’m not sure exactly why testing seems to make knowledge stick in your brain more than other studying techniques. One theory I read is that the stress of having to try and extract the knowledge for a test somehow solidifies the memory or connection. I think this might be true, because I had to struggle to recite the last few lines when being tested by Mr. Moore, but those lines have come easily to me ever since.

This is why we take great care in creating absolutely great TOEFL practice tests. Students need to be tested to make sure the techniques and lessons given by their teacher have been assimilated. And, the stress of testing itself aids this assimilation process. You need to have the highest quality tests to make sure the proper content is being learned. With poor quality tests, the wrong materials or techniques are being cemented into your students’ brains! So, make sure to use our ScoreNexus TOEFL practice tests to ensure the highest quality. We have scrutinized almost all of the other practice test material out there. In general, all of the tests you get from CDs from TOEFL books, even those by the famous publishers, have fairly poor to extremely poor content. Even material from ETS itself is often not great, because they generally release only older material, and the TOEFL has evolved and changed in important ways since the days of that older material.

So, thank you Mr. Moore for testing me on “Ozymandias.” It was a bit stressful reciting it in front of the class at the time, but now I know that poem cold! Let’s see if the final two episodes of Breaking Bad makes me think of TOEFL again.

Until next time,
Ed, founder of ScoreNexus