What is your diagnosis?

A college where I teach recently gave an ESL placement test to a foreign student, and this student scored at the level of a native speaker ready for the first college writing class. However, the student can hardly speak English at all, doesn’t understand anybody, and writes badly.

I have my theory as to how this happened, but I’d like to know what you think.

HINT: The student did NOT cheat on the test.

That sounds very strange, Jamie! :shock:

Maybe SAT scores are so low that this student’s ESL placement test score was comparable?

I really don’t have a clue…


Hi Guys,
This is the reason why I love tests.
Everybody has a chance to win the price :slight_smile:
She (or he) should’ve played on the lottery instead.
Let me guess: is it a she?
No reason,
but it’s could be a test question as well. :slight_smile:
See you

I met the same story few times in London,
all accidents happened with Japanese and Korean students,
they got extremly high scores at the writting exams
and were even granded some certificates advanced English
level but their conversation skills were poor really close to zero.
The opposite situation happened with my friend he was
attending a course in London ( cheap ) were students were
just not coming to the class they paid probably for a course
to get visa and were enjoing English anywere in the industry
togeather with cheaques in pounds afterwards.
He was that way alone with a teacher and they finish first in the pub (extended lessons ) A teacher had seduced poor
gay ( very extended lessons) and he had profited in amazing accend and really fluent talk.
Later somebody convinced him to make this more official on paper but in a time of the exam he found himself unably
to spell even his teacher name.
Studing alone means sometimes just being away from real word and real place of your skills.

Hi again, Jamie

What kind of a test was it? Did it only test reading and nothing else?
Purely a multiple choice test?


Well,in that situation if he was not cheating then maybe just reading so much , or making tests tests tests and once more tests , he managed to achive that level just by reading or doing in mono mono mono the tests (with everything bad togeather involved in such a case) …???
every student knows learning for an exam doesn’t mean to learn really something, it is ultraindustrial age and we score point, points, points,points for the system
learning you may at home after duties ha ha …

Hi Jan

Yes, it could be a case of a “professional test-taker” who only learns only what’s “required”. :lol:

Maybe the student knew exactly what he/she would have to be able to do on the test and learned only those sorts of things. “Strategic learning”, so to speak. If no speaking, listening or writing are required in order to get a good test score, why go to the trouble of learning how to do those things? :shock:


It was the ESL Compass test, which is ACT’s equivalent of the computerized TOEFL.

I think that what happened is that this student’s entire focus, probably from the beginning of her English study was passing the TOEFL. She may even have taken TOEFL cram courses, so that now she can do wonders on standardized ESL tests without any real, practical command of English.

A few months ago I was called for private lessons by a South American dentist who claimed that his entire background in English was just one TOEFL cram course that lasted five months. He had an astounding TOEFL score, but his actual English knowledge was approximately low intermediate. The advantage this man had was that he was aware of his predicament and was then trying to actually learn English. Some test-takers don’t understand this, and they think that since they scored high on the TOEFL their English must be good. Then they get upset when the college won’t allow them to take regular classes.

Interesting method :smiley: :smiley: :smiley: