Introducing TOEFL to Highschool Students

Samuel Clemens, also known as Mark Twain, once said “Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.” It doesn’t take an Einstein to see that misunderstanding well-printed and well-written health books could cause similar effect. The same can be said about misunderstanding books, articles, or written documents containing other kinds of information. Surely, death is not the only consequence to be worried about nor it is the most calamitous price one must pay for misunderstanding a text. Imagine that you read an article about your celebrity crush being dead, while, in actuality, he/she is just acting as a character who dies in an upcoming movie. You might need days to recover from that devastating news and finally decide focusing on your second favorite celebrity, which, as any sensible individual knows, is quite a tall order. Back into matter of a much lesser magnitude than the indulgence on one’s celebrity obsession, yes, you might say that having proper reading skills does not hurt.


However, misunderstanding does not only happen in reading. It could happen in listening or in any other means of information-gathering. Furthermore, misunderstanding could easily happen to anyone even though he/she receives the information in his/her mother tongue. One can imagine what would happen when someone receives an information in a language he/she does not master very well. Obviously, the “receiving” might not transpire smoothly or even take place.

With the advent of English as the international language, the problem of misunderstanding or simply not understanding because of language limitation is a challenge many non-English speaking countries must face, including Indonesia. There is no denying that in this age people from non-English speaking countries are forced to deal with English more than ever. More than 50% of contents on the Internet is in English. A staggering number of books is either written in or translated into English. It is suffice to say that a large part of the world’s information is stored in and communicated through English. In addition, most of international communication between most countries, regardless of their original languages, is in English.

This goes to show that fluency in English could no longer be regarded as an additional or luxurious skill possessed by a small number of people. Today, many job applicants, prospective college students, and college students in Indonesia are required to have certain level of fluency in English. Most of them are expected to prove their fluency by providing the companies they are applying job to and the universities they wish to study at or graduate from (depending on the universities’ regulation) with their TOEFL score.

In that regard, English Department’s teaching staff from Dharma Andalas University decided to dedicate their latest community service to improving high-school students’ understanding of English language and, consequently, their fluency in it by organizing a TOEFL workshop. The workshop consisted of the introduction of TOEFL, typical challenges in it, and efficient strategies for completing it with desired scores. Students were informed about the definition, types, and format of TOEFL as well as how and where they could take it. Since the workshop focused on TOEFL PBT (Paper-Based Test), the most popular type of TOEFL, the strategies given in this workshop were limited to strategies in completing the three parts of TOEFL PBT. However, the strategies were not merely designed to increase the likelihood of the students’ success in passing the specific test with favorable score, yet they also contained expandable materials and groundwork that would help the students improve their English skills.

The workshop was held in four different schools, namely SMA 4 Sungai Penuh; SMA 4 Kerinci; SMA Adabiah Padang; and SMAN 15 Padang. It was headed respectively by Rabbi Antaridha, S.S., M.A; Yalmiadi, S.S., M.Pd; Widya Fithri, S.S., M.Hum; and Rahma Yanti, S.S., M.EIL; and supported by other members of English Department teaching staff composed of Dra. Lucy Suraiya, M.A; Handoko, S.S, M.Hum; and Neansy Nurhandayani, S.Hum., M.Hum.

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