Why does “bad” English get S26 at TOEFL iBT?

Have you ever talked with someone who said they managed to score 26 on TOEFL Speaking, and you thought to yourself…

“But your English is so bad! 😳 How could you get 26″ ?

In the nearly 11 years that I’ve been in this industry, I’ve noticed this, too… There is no conspiracy. And this phenomenon doesn’t mean that TOEFL score reports are meaningless or inherently flawed.  

To shed some light on this, I recorded the video below.  

Have you ever wondered why people can get a speaking score of 26 on TOEFL iBT (because) when you listen to them, it sounds like their English is not that great. So how were they able to get that 26? If you’re wondering that, or if you’ve ever met anybody like that, and you wondered that question, you’re not alone. I actually get that a lot.

Last week, I was talking with a woman and she asked me basically that exact same thing. I’m Jaime Miller. And since 2010, I’ve been helping pharmacists, physical therapists and ambitious healthcare professionals get their breakthroughs with TOEFL speaking 26 or writing 24 and move forward with their career. So I want to answer this question about how people can get a 26 when it seems like their English really isn’t that good.

I am going to share my camera over here. I’ve written out a little graph and here on the side, you can see that I created a kind of a measuring system for quality of English. Okay. So let’s say that here, we’ve got these increments and on one side, we’ve got not great English. Why it’s not great because it’s aimless. It’s not great because the speed is slow and it’s not great because the accent is hard to understand.

And there could be lots of mistakes with grammar vocabulary or things like that. Okay. Now, on the other end of the spectrum, we’ve got purposeful, organized, intentional sentences that go together. The speed is very fluent. There’s a very clear accent and there’s no mistakes with grammar vocabulary or, you know, pronunciation. So if we think about this as a scale,

OK, this is actually 30 points. So if we think about TOEFL iBT, you know, and they give you a maximum of 30 points, this here is where we’ve got the 26… That little, little mark there. That’s the 26 out of 30 on the TOEFL iBT speaking scale. So what’s important to realize is that it’s actually pretty far over.

It’s not a hundred percent accurate, but it’s close to a hundred percent accurate. And what a lot of people don’t realize with this… But I mean, if you slow down and if you think about it, you know, that this is probably true… Depending on the day, depending on our energy, depending on how we feel, you know, confidence,

all the things that have been going on in our life, we can speak faster or slower. We can speak with more purpose or less purpose. And sometimes that confidence or the purpose when we’re talking is really just related to how we’re feeling and like what’s going on that day. You know, I don’t know about you, but I used to live in Turkey and I was learning Turkish as a second language.

I was there for seven years. And at the end of seven years, I developed a pretty good level of Turkish. I was able to do lots of things, you know, and function on a regular basis. But if you started a conversation with me in Turkish right now, I haven’t practiced Turkish in like a really long time. So my language level,

even though like, let’s say this, isn’t just English, but this is like any language, any language that you might be speaking, you know, let’s say that when I was in Turkey years ago, I developed a kind of like a medium ability to express myself. Maybe my level was like over here, but now that I’m not practicing it and I don’t care and I’m not like paying attention to it anymore, my level drops. 

So the thing is that, you know, we all have that kind of fluctuating ability where, you know, depending on how much we practice, depending on how focused we are, how aware we are, how much energy and intention we put into something, we can temporarily achieve very high levels of accuracy with something. And in fact, that’s the secret. That’s really what you need to do with your speaking ability. Even if it’s just temporary, you have to push yourself to that level where you have that accuracy. But, you know, athletes have muscles that grow and they get weak. You know, if an athlete doesn’t practice or if a musician doesn’t practice regularly, they lose that advantage that they have.

And it’s exactly the same with speaking because it’s like the human brain operates the same in all of us, you know? So when you meet somebody who tells you that they got a speaking score of 26, all it shows, oops, sorry, wrong camera. There we go. That’s the right one. What, what it shows is that at one point in the past, they pushed themselves to where, you know, on a particular day, they had very purposeful, very fluent level of English. Their accent was super clear. They didn’t make any mistakes and they were at that level. But then what happens for a lot of people after they get that 26 is they relax. They relax big time because you can have a job in America and you don’t need a 26 to get a job.

Like I know a lot of pharmacy technicians or people who are working in the healthcare industry and like they have jobs and their speaking score is like 22 or 23. You know, or like 24. And like that level, like over here, it’s enough to work actually in America. A lot of people have jobs at that level. And some people have jobs in America with even lower levels of English.

So just because somebody is temporarily able to push themselves to that point, doesn’t mean that they will stay there, right? Like language ability is a flexible skill. It’s much more like a muscle. It’s not like a book that you, you know, you put the book on the bookshelf. You walk away. You come back six months later. That book is still on that bookshelf. But memory and, and you know, like that kind of language ability is not like a book on a bookshelf in that same sort of way. It fluctuates. How, you know, how accurate do we want to be? So the thing is that if the person that you’re talking to isn’t pushing themselves anymore, because like, you know, they needed to have that level to get through the exam, but now that they’re done, they can relax about it and their coworkers understand them. If they occasionally make some mistakes or, you know, whatever, like that’s the reason why. So if you need to develop that ability for the first time where we push you so that you’ve got that really high level of accuracy, like what we’re talking about over here, please come and check out my upcoming schedule of classes and all of the services that I provide for people who are in that situation. Because my students, most of my students are the kinds of people that have been working on TOEFL for years or at least months. And they are really struggling with fixing fossilized errors and navigating through all of that complexity. So come and check me out.

My website is JaimeMiller.com. You can come to this, “Get Started” page on my website, where there is a discussion. There’s a five-point discussion that I’ve organized as part of my Free Consultation. We talk about the prerequisites for getting a speaking score of 26. We also talk about success trends in your actual score history. And I give you some examples of real people that I know who have gotten through the exam.

… Here’s some situations of people…. So I mean, like I, I’ve worked with all kinds of people in my, you know, years in here — I said here “After 10 years, I’ve seen it all.” So we also talk about my curriculum, which is The ESA Method. The Effective Speaking in Action Method. And based on that, what should you be studying next?

I share with you some of my bundles, you can start to look through the programs and the products that I offer here. And if you’re wondering about private lessons, I am very careful about starting that process with people because not everybody needs private lessons. Some people get results without that. And when I start private lessons with someone, we need to make sure you’ve got these seven characteristics.

So if you click that link there, it’ll take you to my article about the characteristics that make someone likely to succeed in my private lessons. And there’s also how to do the free consultation with me. You can register for that here. So, like I said, come and check out my website, Jaime Miller.com. I’ll leave a link down below for that.

But yeah, I mean, I guess the thing that I want to leave you with is that it’s absolutely possible to have that breakthrough. Maybe you didn’t work with a tutor before who knew how to make that happen for you. But I work with people that feel a lot of the time, like they seem to have a kind of hopeless or an impossible situation… and it is possible.

There is hope in that. So come and check out my website. Let’s get in touch. And let’s start that consultation so we can get you moving forward with your career.

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