Errors in the tests

Hi Torsten, Alan and Slava

I’d like to know what sort of system is in place to correct typos, omissions and errors in the tests.

In many cases, an error which has been identified here in the forum is simply left unchanged in the test itself. This really should not happen, in my opinion.

It also seems that sometimes errors in the tests must have been noticed by forum experts, but are nevertheless not mentioned. There may be a number of reasons for this. For example:

  1. a desire not to “rock the boat” and/or receive a defensive reaction from the author of the test
  2. the assumption that the test will not be corrected anyway, so why bother?

EDIT [size=75](November 1, 2007)[/size]:
[size=84][color=blue]The name of this thread was recently changed by someone other than me. I suppose the ‘Powers that Be’ must like the new name better. - Amy[/size]

EDIT [size=75](November 2, 2007)[/size]:
[size=84][color=blue]I have now discovered that, as the initiator of this thread, I have the ability to change the title back to its original form. If the title of this thread was intentionally changed by one of the moderators, would you please let me know? Thanks.[/size]


My post was removed from the test forum quite quickly. It only took about an hour (or less) for that to happen.

How about some feedback and discussion about my question and comments, too?

It seems to me there should also be some kind of system in place that would enable and ensure the correction of errors in the tests with similar efficiency.

Hi Amy,

You post was not removed from the test forum but rather removed to the comments and feedback section. However, as you can see the link and title of your post still remains in the test forum so anyone watching this forum section can see your post and read it. As for answering your question, I need a little time to investigate as we do have a system in place that helps us amend typos or any errors in the tests instantly. The errors are corrected in the tests themselves but not in the test questions that are displayed on the forum.

Here is how it works:
Somebody detects an error and reports it on the forum.
We correct the error in the data base.
The data base has to be updated on the server.
The amended test sentence appears on the website (not on the forum).

I’ve just noticed that we haven’t updated the data base since the last change – so this could be one the reasons why you are of the impression that we are ignoring comments from our users so we’ll change this tomorrow.[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEFL listening discussions: What position does Cindy play?[YSaerTTEW443543]

Thank you for your feedback, Torsten

MM posted the following comment to a forum member who had asked a question. The wording of the question was not grammatically correct and the forum member had subsequently been informed about how to ask the question correctly. However, when the forum member appeared to have not been interested in the corrections offered, MM wrote this:

Unfortunately, this same sentiment sometimes seems appropriate for some of the tests on this site.

For example, the error in this test remains unchanged: … l-test.php
You have linked my comments from a different thread (in which I identified the test for you), but the error itself remains in the test.

Likewise, an error that was recently identified in this test remains unchanged: … l-test.php

Here, all the commas have been omitted: … l-test.php

I went to the tests above directly. I did not go to them from the forum questions…

Hi Amy,

Many thanks for your tireless support – you were right, we didn’t correct the mistakes after you had pointed them out initially but now everything should be OK.

TOEFL listening discussions: What is the design of the sweatshirt?[YSaerTTEW443543]

Just to let you know that Yankee is not alone in her concerns-- I am guilty of many of her adverse comments too. I have recognized errors in tests (as submitted by students making inquiries) but have just presumed that they would be picked up by the test authors, and I have not pursued their correction. I have also studiously avoided commenting on test errors within the threads, as I was cautioned early on that I was being unsupportive of the staff here when I did so. Yet I considered it prohibitively time-consuming to find some way of notifying of the details of each weak point through the PM system.

At that time (and also later) I suggested that we should have some system of peer review before tests are submitted, just to catch the kinds of typographical errors and other oversights that appear, mostly in the lower level tests, it seems.

That’s it. Sorry, I have no real solution-- I just wanted to support Yankee’s request.

Thanks, MM.

A system of peer review sounds like a good a good idea to me, too. Such a review would be best if it happened prior to the tests being posted, and I do not think just one person should be saddled with all of the review responsibilities. Perhaps, though, there should be just one who would have the final say for any cases in which there were differing peer opinions.

For any errors or typos that slipped through despite a peer review, possibly there could be some way of flagging an existing test sentence whenever a moderator notices some sort of problem (or when a problem is brought to a moderator’s attention). Maybe there could be some sort of list of “currently flagged tests”. Maybe there could be a sort of “behind-the-scenes” forum specifically for people involved in the peer review process – a forum specifically for the peer review process and in which fixes for flagged (already posted) test sentences are discussed and decided.

I agree with MM that trying to address problems in tests via PM is prohibitively time-consuming. It also seems to me that waiting for a test-taker to point out or question a problem in a test in the English Teacher Explanations forum itself is not a particularly good method for addressing whatever problems may exist in the tests.

There are already thousands of tests on the site. It would take an immense amount of time for one person to comb through and review all of them, and make whatever corrections may still be needed. Nevertheless, I think the existing tests ought to be checked. I suspect there are a number of regular forum members who might be willing to help “flag” sentences still needing a grammar or punctuation fix. So, maybe that could be considered.

Dear Amy and Charles,

Many thanks for all your support and your suggestions – that’s quite some food for thoughts. I absolutely agree with you, it will be very good to have some kind of review system and allows us to evaluate and change new tests as well as existing ones. Slava has already created the technical infrastructure that can do the following:

  • an author can create an interactive test online which means
  • the author can enter new tests directly into our online data base
  • once the new test is entered into the data base it can be viewed and changed by Alan, Slava and me (and the author of course, and we can can also give additional professionals access to the data base if we want)
  • the test can be changed/edited online
  • once a change is made, the author and editors receive an email containing the old version of the test and the changes
  • once we've made the final changes to the test, Slava uploads the new test to the website which means it can be viewed by anybody
  • a similar process starts if a user detects an error in one the test questions on the forum
So the technical system is already in place, what we have to take care of now are organizational questions. More on that soon, Torsten[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEFL listening discussions: What are the two students doing?[YSaerTTEW443543]

To all fellow test-writers: You can check mine if I can check yours.

It seems that one very critical step is missing and that is a review of test submissions prior to making them available on the site. There are all sorts of things that can happen when tests are written and/or uploaded – simple typos, inadvertent partial deletions/omissions, misspellings, even blatant grammatical errors. I also happen to believe that if someone is going to post test sentences containing factual information about a certain person or thing, the facts ought to also be correct. Why post sentences with misinformation?

Englishuser once made the point in a thread that a test sentence testing a preposition of place ought to at least use the preposition in a fairly typical way rather than in some improbable way. I agree with that, especially in a lower level test.

I joined this site last year. One day I unexpectedly found that I had been made a moderator. I accepted that responsibility at the time. I expected that if you felt confident enough about me to make me one of your moderators, then you were confident that I could provide correct answers for learners on the site. I also assumed that if you were confident enough to make me one of you “team”, you would also give my suggestions some credibility.

It has been extremely disenchanting and frustrating to point out existing problems and also make some suggestions on how to improve or avoid them, only to have my suggestions apparently ignored. Alan once asked me to talk to you, Torsten, about the necessity of improving the tests of a certain test-writer on the site. He told me that his own efforts had fallen on deaf ears. That suggested to me that you don’t even take a partner’s suggestions to heart.

As far as the tests go, what has been happening up to now seems simply to be a case of applying a bandage whenever a problem happens to be noticed (assuming, that is, that the error is also actually mentioned at all). This “bandage solution” is not a solution to the basic problem. Another drawback to the “bandage solution” is that has sometimes taken months to get a bandage applied at all. A further problem is that some “bandaged” sentences would have been better off being completely rewritten rather than bandaged. And, finally, some sentences with extremely blatant errors have been sitting on this site for years. For me, that reflects quite negatively on the site.

One of the reasons that I ultimately decided that I no longer wished to be a moderator here was that I did not wish to have such a direct association with something that I, as an ESL professional, saw as being in desperate need of repair, but had no real influence over. For me, the state of the tests reflected negatively on me by simple association with them. To me, an indirect message of my moderator status was that I agree with and support the tests as they are. While I do appreciate the time and effort required to write tests and also think having all those tests is a great idea, I cannot, as an ESL professional, ignore the fact that they are not yet what they ought to be. Many are in not need of repair, but too many are.

My private suggestions to you in the past have resulted only in some occasional bandages, but no real solutions. You may have occasionally said that my opinion was valuable to you, but your actions have not really reflected that. What your actions have instead told me is that you simply want people who can and will volunteer to answer lots of questions in the forum. Suggestions about other things were not truly desired.

I am still trying to make my point, and to look for solutions – despite the fact that I have given up my moderator role. Perhaps that is mainly because I’ve already put so much time and effort into this site.

As a non-moderator, I feel freer to voice my opinion here. I no longer have to worry about being seen as “unsupportive” of “my team”. However, I think that a failure to mention that something is in desperate need of improvement is an unsupportive action in itself. I also see ignoring the input of your chosen moderators as unsupportive of your team. That doesn’t mean you necessarily have to agree with or implement every suggestion that is made, but it does seem that suggestions made by members of your own team ought to be accepted and at least discussed in some real way. In the past, suggestions often seemed to simply be written off.
Sorry for the tough words, but that is how I see things. Though I no longer feel comfortable being part of your “team”, I would still like to see the the site improve.

These remarks:

Alan once asked me to talk to you, Torsten, about the necessity of improving the tests of a certain test-writer on the site. He told me that his own efforts had fallen on deaf ears. That suggested to me that you don’t even take a partner’s suggestions to heart.

should not be allowed to go by without comment. You constantly refer to yourself as professional and yet you are quite happy to quote from a private message and miscontrue what I wrote. The highlighted part of your comments I refute utterly.

I believe your sniping from the sidelines as shown in the latter part of your posting are really unhelpful. If you experience discomfort at being associated with, what drives you to want to ‘improve’ the site?

PLEASE let us not again be diverted by recriminations. The problem at hand is the many on-line tests that need proofreading and correction.

Here’s one today that needs punctuation:

Alan, I would like to see the learners and users of the tests have something that can be counted on to be correct. I see nothing odd about that at all.

The tests on this site have great potential, but they have not been adequately edited. Whatever system you may have had in place for this before clearly hasn’t worked terribly well.

Don’t worry. I won’t be doing any copying and pasting. However, there used to be a time you were clearly concerned about the tests. I would like to believe that this hasn’t changed (actually, I assume this to be the case and hope that my assumption is correct) despite your unwillingness to discuss the editing problem more openly.

In the same test, I would suggest that question 10 is also in need of additional punctuation.

Shall we just post found errors here? Here’s another one lacking punctuation:

[i]ESL/EFL Test #68 “How to complain”, question 6

I’m obviously not getting anywhere with my complaint please let me talk to someone … to you.[/i]

OK Charles, we’ll change this.[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: The operating theatre[YSaerTTEW443543]

Hi Torsten,

You needn’t acknowledge each one-- but is it a reasonable idea to simply post such test questions that need repair on this thread? I find this an easy solution to the problem of notification.

(You could acknowledge that repairs have been made by deleting my post, for instance.)


I wonder if deleting people’s posts is such a good idea.

All the best


Hi Charles,

Let’s see how many sentences we can repair that way – acknowledging each change is fast and easy and I agree with Englishuser, we can keep the posts at least for the time being.[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: The bookshop[YSaerTTEW443543]