Anyone Up For A Toefl Tour?

14english250.jpgCare for a Toefl tour? If you’re a South Korean in dire need of the test, you may find demand outstripping supply in your own country – and sign yourself up for a tour which includes test preparation, a guaranteed Toefl slot perhaps along with a few days of sightseeing…in a neighboring country.

According the the International Herald Tribune, the shortage of Toefl places has become so severe that the concept of scalping slots has emerged. Similarly, if you don’t have time to spend the necessary hours online to find an open slot and register, don’t worry – you can hire someone to do this for you.

The Toefl is the test to take if you’re going to study in North America and aren’t a native speaker of English; scores are generally required as part of the application. But the test is increasingly being put to use for different ends even within Korea (and likely other countries, though I suspect not to the same degree). Teenagers applying to selective secondary schools may need to submit scores, and even adults may find potential employers requesting Toefl scores, even for jobs which don’t seem to have an obvious reason for requiring English fluency. In the IHT article, one parent expressed concern that her ninth-grade daughter is “probably not mature enough to understand the questions made for older students going to the United States.” – but she needs to take the Toefl for secondary school.

The IHT identifies the Toefl crisis as beginning with the introduction of the Internet-based Toefl in 2006 and a concurrent reduction in the number of times the test would be offered in what the IHT says was partly “an effort to tighten security and discourage cheating.”

There is apparently talk of Korea creating its own test, which – as I see it – might alleviate some of the problems if schools or employers would be satisfied with this, though it’s hard to imagine another test really replacing the Toefl, first of all due to the unlikelihood, for better or worse, of North American universities accepting an alternate test from Korean applicants. I also wonder how much of a role simple name recognition plays in the perceived value of the Toefl, again for better or worse, as other roughly similar tests, like the Cambridge Exams and IETLS already exist but, from what I read at least, do not seem to be in as great as demand as the Toefl.