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Interview with Bruce Rogers

bruce_rogers.gifBruce Rogers, author of The Complete Guide to TOEFL: Computer-based Edition (Heinle & Heinle) and The Complete Guide to TOEIC Test (Thompson) spoke at the Tokyo English Language Book Fair in November 2001. ELT News was able to sit in on both of his presentations on Saturday and then interview him. Here is what we found out about these tests.


ELTNEWS
Bruce, you've done books for preparation for both TOEFL and TOEIC. What do you see are the main differences?
Bruce
TOEFL has switched to computer-based testing, but I don't see TOEIC going in that direction. Paper-based testing is cheaper and, let's face it, less stressful. TOEFL is going in the direction of a more communicative test. Personally, I like the idea of having a conversation in class to prepare for TOEFL. I think it's going to be a high-stress test for many Asian students. As far as the TOEIC test is concerned, I think there might be another test developed to work in tandem with TOEIC to test fluency.
ELTNEWS
Do you have any idea as to why TOEIC is so popular here in Japan?
Bruce
Perhaps it's because it is taken so often. I've talked to many people who take it two or three or four times a year. They are hoping for an improvement, but the test just does not work that way.
ELTNEWS
What is the most significant aspect of the new computer-based TOEFL test?
Bruce
Parts A and B need new tactics because it is computer adapted testing. Unlike the paper-based test, you can't skip over questions and go back to them later. Probably the biggest difference is that there is a writing section in each test. They are not separate anymore and writing is half of the structure score.
ELTNEWS
What is the future of TOEFL?
Bruce
Part Two is being phased out. No more error correction, or fill in the blank. Instead, there will be four sections, the first two with listening questions and answers, either spoken or in writing. The second two sections will be reading with answers, either spoken or in writing. This is a drastic change. The listening will be very realistic language, language from everyday situations, not just in classrooms or academic situations. That's my take on it.
ELTNEWS
Let's switch to some personal questions. How did you get into TOEFL and TOEIC?
Bruce
I started at the Economics Institute, which is affiliated with the University of Colorado, in 1979. I've also taught in Egypt, Vietnam and Korea. The fact of the matter is that no one else at the Institute was very much interested in test preparation in those days. But because the Institute deals with speakers from over 100 countries, this kind of preparation was important. Combining TOEFL preparation with regular classes allows me to see the test from both ends of the spectrum.
ELTNEWS
How have you evolved along with the tests?
Bruce
There is a material's writers subgroup within TESOL that meets every year at the conference to discuss test preparation textbooks. Most of the well-known authors have lunch together. By telling stories, will help each other with the changes in the tests. One of the authors had a good take on writing test preparation materials. It was like a tar baby. The closer you get to the subject, the more it sticks to you. Up until about three years ago the changes in the tests were like rearranging furniture in a room. With the advent of computer-based testing, the changes increased by an order of magnitude. Computer adaptive testing makes the tests much more difficult both to take and to prepare for.
ELTNEWS
Any parting thoughts?
Bruce
Tests are changing, but I believe they're getting better. Preparation is good, but preparation can do only so much. There are lots of sins committed in the name of TOEFL preparation. The best way to prepare is to learn English.

Find out more about Bruce Rogers' TOEFL books.



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