November 1997 — Volume 3, Number 1
Longman Introductory Course for the TOEFL Test
Deborah Phillips (1996)
White Plains, NY: Longman Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.
Pp. xv + 336;
ISBN 0-201-89899-3 (paper)
Longman Preparation Course for the TOEFL Test, Volume A: Skills and Strategies
Pp. xvii + 412;
ISBN 0-201-84676-4 (paper)
Longman Preparation Course for the TOEFL Test, Volume B: Practice Tests
Pp. ix + 198
ISBN 0-201-84961-5 (paper)
User’s Guides: ISBN 0-201-89898-5; 0-201-84678-0 (paper) US $7.88 each
Cassettes: ISBN 0-201-89853-5: 0-201-84677-2; 0-201- 84962-3
US $41.25; $42.00; $31.50
The texts in the revised Longman Preparation Course for the TOEFL Test have been redesigned to prepare students for the format and style of the new TOEFL, which was introduced in July, 1995. The changes are intended to improve the user-friendliness of the texts and to widen the range of skills and strategies which address the changes in the test format. Major changes include: a) removal of single statement questions and addition of more conversations and talks in the listening section; b) the insertion of vocabulary questions into the reading texts; c) diagnostic pre-tests; d) key information in charts; e) additional skills and strategies or each section of the test; f) appendixes which provide drill-practice exercises for each part of the test; and g) a complete practice test.
According to the author, all three texts may be used as primary texts in TOEFL preparation courses, as supplementary texts for general ESL courses, or as home- study texts for students who are preparing for the TOEFL outside the ESL/EFL classroom. The most likely audience for these textbooks, however, is in TOEFL preparation courses, since answers and audiotapes are not included with the basic textbooks. A User’s Guide must be purchased for the answers and tapescript, and audiotapes must be bought separately at considerable expense.
The Longman Introductory Course for the TOEFL Test is designed for intermediate-level students whose TOEFL scores fall within a range of 380-480. The text provides practice in language skills which appear regularly on the TOEFL and which are at an appropriate level. The text covers language skills which are below those tested on the TOEFL and progresses to higher level skills equivalent to the easiest questions on the test. This text satisfies the needs of lower-level students whose ultimate goal is to pass the TOEFL, but whose level of English proficiency is too low to make effective use of a regular higher-level TOEFL textbook. The strength of this textbook lies in its selectivity of topics in listening, reading, and grammar, which can be mastered by students at this level, thus improving initial test scores and boosting confidence in the test-taker’s ultimate ability to be successful. The appendixes contain extra exercises on similar sounds, prepositions, word endings, irregular verb forms, and word parts, all of which provide useful material for review and homework assignments. A short chapter (7 pages) explains the Test of Written English (TWE) and provides scoring samples of student essays and a few practice essay topics; however, the TWE is clearly not a main focus of this text. A useful feature at the end of the textbook is an introductory-level practice test which reviews the skills taught in the text, as well as a TOEFL-level practice test, which allows students to see how the skills they have learned apply to the “real” test, and also gives them an approximate TOEFL score.
The Longman Preparation Course for the TOEFL Test, Volume A, Skills and Strategies (rev. ed.) serves the needs of ESL/EFL students whose TOEFL scores are 480 or higher. This textbook is considerably longer than the introductory level text and includes a wide range of skills and strategies for all three test sections. There are 27 skills targeted for the Listening section, 60 for Structure and Written Expression, and 13 for Reading Comprehension. Each skill is presented clearly in a chart with a sample TOEFL test question and explanation, followed by error correction exercises and TOEFL-style questions. The appendixes provide reference material and extra practice in similar sounds, two- and three-part verbs, idioms, prepositions, word endings, irregular verb forms, passive formation, irregular plurals, and word parts. The TWE is again briefly covered in a 7-page chapter, but contains little material beyond sample student essays at each level, and does not address the skills and strategies necessary for improving the score.
The format of both texts described above is similar, the main differences being in level of difficulty and quantity of material. Both textbooks begin with a useful diagnostic pre-test which measures a student’s performance on each section of the test and identifies specific weaknesses which can then be targeted for improvement. Each section contains clearly-explained skills and strategies on specific points, which are then followed by exercises in error-correction sentence format and in TOEFL multiple-choice format. TOEFL review exercises follow, which practice all of the skills taught up to that point; this means that teachers and students who deviate from the prescribed sequence of topics may have difficulty completing this section successfully. At the end of each section is a TOEFL post-test, which measures the progress students have made after working through the entire section. At the end of each textbook is a complete TOEFL practice test, along with scoring information, charts to record scores, and answer sheets which use both horizontal and vertical ovals to record answers. There is no answer sheet, however, which corresponds to the one used for institutional TOEFL testing. Both texts are accompanied by a set of audiotapes and a User’s Guide, which includes teaching tips, a tapescript, and an answer key to all questions in the text.
The Longman Preparation Course for the TOEFL Test, Volume 2: Practice Tests (rev. ed.) can be used in conjunction with the higher level Skills and Strategies textbook, or it can be used independently for extra TOEFL practice in class or at home. The text contains 5 full-length practice TOEFL tests, supplemented by a brief review of testing strategies, the tapescript of the listening comprehension section, a progress chart, and answer sheets. A key of correct answers is provided, but no clarifying explanations are given.
The revised Longman Preparation Course for the TOEFL series has proven to be popular with both students and teachers in the Intensive English Program at West Virginia University, which provides TOEFL preparation courses at all levels of the curriculum. The uncluttered format, clear explanations, and ample exercise material allow students to build their confidence in their ability to answer TOEFL test questions and to ultimately achieve their goals of reaching the required score for entry into an academic program. Although there are several TOEFL textbooks now on the market which reflect the revised test, the Longman series is the most complete and the most user-friendly. The audiotapes are of good sound quality and the level of test questions appears to be similar to that of the official TOEFL; although there is some disparity in scores evident between the Longman practice tests and the official TOEFL, it is not nearly as great as is sometimes the case with other TOEFL preparation materials. The Longman introductory textbook is particularly useful to address the needs of lower level students, who have largely been ignored in the TOEFL preparation market up until now. Its main competitor, Intermediate TOEFL Test Practices (rev. ed.) (Folse, 1997), does not contain the clear explanations, controlled practice, and sequencing of activities that is so important for students at this level.
The Longman series is not without weaknesses, however. The exercises which practice each skill could be more varied in format instead of always being error-correction sentences. The appendixes could provide more interesting material and possibly even exercises which could be used for pair or group work. The TWE section is too brief to be useful; it should have either been omitted or expanded. Finally, the biggest weakness is price. At a hefty $58.39 for the Introductory set (special set price) and $61.00 for the Skills and Strategies set (student book, audio cassettes, and User’s Guide), it is difficult to imagine a student purchasing this series for individual study. Nonetheless, for classroom use, the Longman series is a superior addition to the TOEFL preparation materials presently on the market.
Folse, K. S. (1997). Intermediate TOEFL Test Practices (rev. ed.). Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.
West Virginia University
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