My day (counting from midnight) started as badly as it could. At around half past 1 I found the official information on designating TOEFL score card recipients. A few days ago I read somewhere that they are to be chosen after the exam, so I wasn’t sweating it, but the total lack of communication from ETS kept bugging me, so I signed into my account, and that’s when I noticed, that my options are completely closed off.
First of all, besides the receipt order, which was a not very professional-looking (I’d go as far as calling it suspicious-looking) text-formatted e-mail, I didn’t get any additional communication or information from TOEFL. This one didn’t even contain the address of the test location, only the zip code of it – that’s how ridiculously uninformative it was! Now, I understand that I didn’t sign up for a newsletter, but for $220 the least I can expect is some quality information distribution. They have such advanced technology for the exam and its evaluation, yet, are incapable of setting up a simple automatic mailing system?! At least the GMAT was very good at this.
Secondly, people need to sign up for these exams months in advance to ensure their spots, after which they will much rather focus on the prep rather than reading about bureaucratic nuisances, which differ from test to test like crazy. On the GMAT, I had to choose the schools right at the beginning of the test. Not the ideal option if you ask me, but at least no arbitrary deadline was given. I don’t understand, why don’t these tests just accept our choices whenever we make them, especially that they may depend on our scores. Why are we even supposed to choose before we learn what our scores are?? I mean, surely, with a GMAT score of 500 no one would choose Harvard Business School, also, if someone sees that their TOEFL score isn’t adequate, they might not choose any recipients at all. In this case, the TOEFL would even save money by not sending cards in vain. The whole system seems to be set up for gaining as high of a profit as possible. I’m, obviously, not expecting them to be an entirely non-profit endeavor but honestly, must everything in the world be pure business? They are making so much money out of this already! The fees, prep courses, books, materials, additional charges… One TOEFL score card will cost me $20. I literally started crying in the middle of the night. The test fee included 4 score reports + my copy, so 5 in total. So I’ve scr*wed myself out of $80, and all this because I read foul information online, and was late by 3,5 hours finding the right one.
I calmed myself down but still wasn’t able to fall asleep. I think it was almost 5 am when I finally did, and I woke up at 7 in order to make it to my 9 am – 8:30 in accordance with the policy – appointment.
❤️ Adrenaline is my best friend on days like this ❤️
And now, about the most awful exam of my life. So of course, there were some documents to sign, I had my picture taken, and then they checked me with one of those security batons from the airports. Finally, I got my scratch paper, and PEN… – wait for it… – …CILS!!! Yes, not pens, not even a sh*tty marker à la GMAT, but PENCILS!!! I haven’t written with pencils for at least over 20 years! I hate pencils with a passion!!! I just can’t take that typical sensation of them touching the paper. I can’t read whatever I write using them as they get so obtuse so quickly. Needless to say, it was a torture… I kept my note-taking at a bare minimum in order to save my nerves and to exit the room with my mental health intact.
But that’s not all. Of course, I knew that everyone would talk etc. But I arrived almost last, and while I was
doing trying to do the listening section, people were already talking. I could barely hear the audio, let alone my own thoughts. I also misunderstood the rules and thought I had 10 minutes to answer all the listening questions. (I did wonder how do people do this so quickly, with all the background noise on top.) I even got kind of nervous when the timer started blinking at the 5-minute mark. I only had 1, maybe 2 questions left from the first half of the section, but I calculated that if I don’t finish it quickly, I won’t have enough time for the second part, so I’m pretty sure I made some mistakes due to the unnecessary hurry – because, sure enough, the clock started the countdown from the top (10 min) as soon as I finished the first set.
Furthermore, one guy in the room was actually shouting instead of speaking. He might have been confused, thinking that we had to yell out our replies to the US for the evaluator to hear it in real time, and I was lucky enough to be accompanied by him during my speaking section. And I’m not exaggerating, even the test administrators confirmed that he was extremely loud, when I brought it up while during my check-out. I can’t believe how can someone be so inconsiderate. I understand that excitement might impact people’s voices, but it really was extreme. What I don’t get is that during the exam there were two volume checks through the microphone. We were instructed to talk about a topic after a beep until the next beep so that the microphone’s settings could be configured to the levels of our voices. Yes, that’s how advanced they are. But they have no capacity left to instruct test-takers above a certain decibel to take it down a notch?! It would be so simple, a clear no-brainer!!!
Yeah, and the door. Oh, that door! Such creaking has escaped my ears for… hmm maybe my entire life actually. I can’t comprehend why don’t they do something about it. I was sitting next to it and with the administrators bringing papers, pencils (brrr!!!), people coming-going during their breaks, it was just the dead rat on top of an already disgusting cake.
I honestly regret not choosing IELTS. I’m not saying that my TOEFL results will s*ck because I genuinely hope they won’t. But they surely will not reflect my English skills precisely.
The speaking module of the IELTS is much more humane. Even if there are parts that need to be hand-written (I think…) which I’m very bad at, there is no chance that test is as chaotic as this thing was today due to the lack of background talk by which so many sections of my tests were spoiled! I thought arriving last will benefit me, as I won’t have to start doing the test while all the others arrive. But now I see that the opposite would have been the best. Arriving first I would have started with the reading section anyway. For that, I used a pair of noise-canceling headphones and earplugs (which I had to throw out at the end, according to the policy… what’s up with that?!) – both provided by the center -, so people’s steps and even the creaking door would not have been as noticeable and disturbing. And that is the easiest part (for me) anyway. Okay, the listening isn’t hard either – but listening, with other people talking simultaneously, definitely wasn’t simple. Which leads me to my next point. I could have done the listening while no one else was talking. And even though I’d expect some people still being on their speaking tasks while getting to the writing portion – which begins with the integrated essay, containing an audio lecture -, it would only have disturbed me for the duration of the listening component, after which I could have used the noise-cancelling headphones – earplugs combo once again.
Well, you live and you learn, I guess. I’d just prefer to learn on the cheaper side.