15 Reasons Nigerian Students Fail the TOEFL iBT


The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) which is offered as an internet-based test (iBT) in Nigeria can be very tricky and difficult to pass for many Nigerian students. A large number of Nigerian students have come to see the TOEFL (iBT) as a nightmare; however, research, surveys, and general review of various scenarios over the years have shown that Nigerian students fail the TOEFL (iBT) because some important factors are not given thorough consideration and attention. Nigerian students’ failure in the TOEFL can be attributed to quite a number of factors which include:

1. Poor Planning/Preparation: Many Nigerian students usually fail to prepare for the TOEFL test properly. They always like the fire brigade approach, trying to patch things up in the last minute. If you ask them why, they will be quick to defend themselves, telling you that the TOEFL test is no big deal but just an English language examination. It is very common to hear reckless responses like this because most of them are ignorant of the TOEFL test content and structure. They usually think that the English language knowledge they have acquired over the years in the normal classroom teachings of their various schools is enough to help them succeed in the TOEFL test. Little wonder that students in this category fumble at the test and they end up failing the exam.

2. Faulty/Weak Background in Classroom English Language Learning/Studies: Many Nigerian students do not have strong and solid foundation in the rudiments of English language because English language is not our native language (mother tongue) in Nigeria. Therefore, there is a high possibility that, such a weak background will reflect on the student’s performance at the TOEFL test. Students who lack the fundamentals of English Language usually have limited ability to understand, analyze and connect information.

3. Incoherent English Language Communication Skills: A large number of Nigerian students usually experience difficulties in expressing themselves in English; they are, most times, unable to convey their personal ideas clearly and coherently in verbal/spoken English. When they speak, they do so with great difficulty and there are usually lots of noticeable distortions in their statements and sentences. They also have difficulty in understanding lectures and conversations in English that involve abstract or complex ideas and recognizing the relationship between those ideas.

4. Poor Writing Skills and Punctuation Problems: These problems occur/appear in the writing section of the TOEFL (iBT). A large number of test takers in Nigeria cannot compose impressive and informative essays. They also have problems with common punctuation marks; not knowing how and when to apply paragraphs, commas, quotation marks, question marks, capital letters and full-stops. Tests Raters (people who review your tests and award marks) are easily discouraged and turned off when they come across poorly punctuated essays. It is similar to driving a rickety car on a bumpy road; it is usually an unpleasant experience.

5. Inability to Familiarize with the QWERTY Keyboard: The QWERTY keyboard is an important hardware device used for the TOEFL test; so, a student who is not familiar with it might have difficulties in typing on the writing section. Many Nigerian students lack proper knowledge of the QWERTY keyboard (its layout and structure), so they will waste much of their time trying to find alphabets on the keyboard. As most test takers know, the TOEFL test clock/timer cannot be paused, it will continue to tick away and this will eventually have a negative effect on the student’s composure and response delivery in the writing section.

6. Technical Issues at the Test Centers: There have been reported cases of poor facility and equipment management/maintenance by Test Center Owners/Administrators (TCAs) in Nigeria. We have heard and seen cases of malfunctioning computer systems, faulty earphones and microphones, abrupt power outage, internet server breakdown due to unreliable internet service providers or inclement weather among other issues. Problems like these more often than not, dampen the morale, self-confidence and enthusiasm of the test takers. Sometimes, as a result of these technical issues, the scheduled TOEFL test may even be cancelled/terminated and rescheduled for a future testing date.

7. Unnecessary Apprehension: Some Nigerian students, by nature of their upbringing and the environment in which they find themselves, are not inclined to computer system hardware and the technology behind its operation; so, they become confused on the TOEFL exam day regarding the use of the computer system. Such students usually find it difficult using the mouse to navigate the test screen. Though this may appear funny, but some Nigerian students have a phobia for technology, especially the computer system because working on the computer system makes them uncomfortable. This kind of feeling plunges them into a state of anxiety.

8. Bad Management of Test/Examination Time: Many Nigerian students do not give the right priority to time management in all their activities and engagements. This bad time management syndrome goes on to affect their use of time during the TOEFL test. The TOEFL test is time bounded, so test takers who are not conscious of this may not be able to complete the test within the allotted time. Unnecessary tardiness can be a great hindrance to scoring high in the test.

9. Carelessness and Nonchalant Attitude of Students towards the Test: Most test takers in Nigeria do not plan their TOEFL examination day seriously. Experience has shown that fixing a major appointment for this day can be counter-productive. Lateness to the center, more often than not, jeopardizes test taker chances of scoring high in the test. If you are required to take a long trip to the test center, please create enough time to arrive early at the test center. Most students who get to their test centers after the reporting time/check-in time usually have difficulties settling down for their exams. Some even go to the TOEFL test centers without the appropriate/acceptable identification documents.

10. Examination Phobia Caused by Sad Tales and Ugly Experiences of Previous Test Takers: Many Nigerian test takers have been fed overtime with scary stories by some lazy students/test takers. They are told of how tough and tasking the TOEFL test can be, and these unpleasant stories are registered in the minds and brains of the prospective test takers. The implication of this is that students become disoriented towards the examination and this will negatively affect their performance on the test day.

11. Refusal to attend a Coaching/Training Class: It is never enough for students to prepare for the TOEFL exam alone. Experience over the years has shown that students who attend coaching/training classes perform better than their counterparts who studied on their own. Experience, they say, is the best teacher; so, why not create time to get tutelage from tutors who can help you develop intellectually and succeed on the test. Though we must give credit to some self-trained students who went through serious personal study drills to develop themselves and ended up scoring high in the TOEFL test.

12. Inability of Students to deal thoroughly with past Exam/Test failure Experiences: Students who failed at one standardized test at some points in their lives are likely to think low of themselves when they are required to write another standardized test. Many students have failed to learn from their past failures and this continues to affect their performance in future test/exam.

13. Ignorance: Some Nigerian students fail their TOEFL tests because they are ignorant. They are oblivious of vital information that abounds all around them because they fail to make exhaustive and extensive research about the test they intend sitting for. This is very appalling going by the number of TOEFL test forums and other relevant discussions that are available 24/7 on the internet. There are also various TOEFL test prep/study materials available for free on the internet. Rather than take advantage of this, they prefer to waste their time on chatting and browsing through social media and websites.

14. Lack of Willingness/Enthusiasm to Succeed in the Test/Exam: For some Nigerian students, the willingness and zeal required to strive for success in their examinations is missing. This could be caused by illness, family issues, poverty, indecision, emotional stress and many more. As much as this could be understandable, the TOEFL test owners/organizers (ETS) do not give students any form of considerations based on these grounds.

15. Over-confidence: Though this might not look like a real problem; however, the truth is that it has caused the failure of several intelligent Nigerian students in their academic pursuit. Some students approach the TOEFL test in an egocentric manner; some test takers feel too important about themselves that they find it difficult to obey simple test center instructions/rules. Some even gloat or boast unreasonably about their English language skills/abilities before the actual test. Over-confidence in students is not encouraged; rather, self-confidence is the key to success. As a professional academic consultant, I recommend that prospective TOEFL test takers and re-takers should consider the above points seriously so they can prepare well for their TOEFL exams/test and achieve high scores. Remember that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Best of LUCK!!! See you at the top soon.

Culled and slightly modified from the blog site: http://www.urch.com/forums/toefl/143226-15-reasons-nigerian-students-fail-toefl-iBT-test-exam.html