The problem with for-profit language schools is that TOEFL teachers often have little or no prior training or experience in TOEFL. They simply apply for the job because it tends to pay more than ESL. This means they won’t know TOEFL well, including the strategies to use or the format of the test. For example, I have heard stories from students who attended for-profit language schools about teachers who did not know that each speaking prompt was scored from 0-4. Another TOEFL teacher was unaware that a speaking rubric existed! Furthermore, remember that not everyone in the class will be as motivated as you. Some are only there for a student VISA, and may be disruptive; or the class may go off-topic. This happens often in large classes. If you are serious about TOEFL you simply do not have time for this.
Are all language school bad? No! Some have fantastic TOEFL teachers. But you HAVE to ask questions. Remember, it’s YOUR money and YOUR time.
It’s perfectly reasonable to ask how much experience the TOEFL teacher has and how they were trained. Many TOEFL teachers in language schools either had no training or were trained very quickly by the school itself, so there is no guarantee of the quality of their training. You should also ask to sit in one day for free to see if the class is a good fit for you. If the language school does not let you observe for an hour or two, my advice is to leave immediately. This is a warning sign.
The same applies to private tutors. I have heard terrible stories about private tutors. Before you hand over your hard-earned money, make sure the teacher knows the TOEFL. Ask about their experience, but also ask them questions about the TOEFL. If they cannot answer simple questions such as, “How long is the test?” “How many questions are there per reading passage?” “How many speaking prompts are there?” RUN! These questions are VERY BASIC, and if they can’t answer them, they don’t know TOEFL and should not be tutoring it. Many tutors misrepresent themselves and charge ridiculous amounts of money while lying about their experience, I am sorry to say!
THE BOTTOM LINE: Studying for TOEFL is hard, and you need an experienced teacher. At HOUSE OF TOEFL, Kathy does most of the tutoring herself, or employs a highly trained colleague who knows TOEFL. Kathy has been teaching TOEFL for six years, has written 2 books about TOEFL (the second one will be ready soon!), and has been trained by the ETS. Demand that your tutor has had at least some of these experiences.