Jose Carillo's Forum


Getting ready to take English proficiency tests

The Forum has put up this section to help Forum members prepare for any of the English-language proficiency tests required by prospective employers or for college or graduate school admission. The Forum presents a set of practice tests in four of the most commonly measured areas of English-proficiency: vocabulary, grammar, syntax, and reading comprehension. Most of the testing instruments for English proficiency today also measure picture identification skills, listening comprehension, writing ability, and speaking competence, but since these instruments require sophisticated technical equipment and scoring by actual human raters, the Forum won’t be able to provide practice tests for them here. Instead, it will concentrate on pencil-and-paper tests that can be self-administered and self-scored by the test taker: grammar error recognition, incomplete sentences, and reading comprehension. For parts of English proficiency tests that involve visuals and sound, those preparing to take the actual tests soon are encouraged to get the practice tests in the CD-ROM format that are offered by the testing or test-review companies.

After reading the overview to this section, “Is Your English Good Enough?”, simply click the link to the practice tests for the week and start testing yourself. Always remember when taking these tests: Practice makes perfect!

This Week’s Practice Tests:
1 .G-TELP Level 3 Grammar Test No. 1        Click to take it now!
2. G-TELP Level 3 Reading and Vocabulary Test No. 1     Click to take it now!

Previous Practice Tests:
1. TOIEC Incomplete Sentences Test No. 1   Click to take it now!
2. TOEIC Error Recognition Test No. 1         Click to take it now!
3. TOEIC Reading Comprehension Test (Part VII) No. 1         Click to take it now!
4. TOEFL English Structure and Written Expression Test No. 1  Click to take it now!
5. TOEFL Reading Comprehension Test No. 1    Click to take it now!
6. G-TELP Level 2 Grammar Test No. 1        Click to take it now!
7. G-TELP Level 2 Reading Comprehension and Vocabulary Test No. 1     Click to take it now!

A debatable set of answer choices in an English practice test

Feedback from Claudlene, a new Forum member based in France, as coursed through the Forum moderator (June 10, 2013): 

Regarding G-TELP Level 3 Reading and Vocabulary Sample Test #1" as posted in the Forum, I think that the answer for Test Item No. 56 is “b” and for Test Item No. 62 is “c.”

My reply to Claudlene:

June 10, 2013

Dear Claudlene,

Thanks for your feedback regarding the answer choices for Item 56 and Item 62 of G-TELP Level 3 Reading and Vocabulary Sample Test #1 as posted in Jose Carillo’s English Forum.

You raised the point that the answer for Item 56 should be “b” instead of “a,” and that for Item 62 should be “c” instead of “a.”

Let’s review the particular passages involved and the test questions that pertain to them:

1. ITEM 56

Pertinent Passage:

“Jacqueline Lee Bouvier was born in Southampton, New York, on July 28, 1929…

“When Mr. Onassis died in 1975 and she was widowed for a second time, Jacqueline began a career in publishing and eventually became a senior editor at Doubleday, where she specialized in works on performing arts and on Egyptian art and literature. She died in New York City on May 19, 1994.”

56.  How old was Jacqueline when she died?

      (a) more than 66 years 
      (b) about 65 years old
      (c) than 62 years old 
      (d) exactly 63 years old

      Answer: (a) (b) (c) (d)

Based on the passage, Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was born on July 28, 1929 and died on May 19, 1994. We can therefore arithmetically compute her age upon her death as follows:

Died on:          1994  –  5th month  –  19th day
Born on:          1929  –  7th month  –  28th day
                       -------   ------------    ---------- 
Age upon her
    demise:      64 years     19 months     21 days

Based on this computation, Answer Choice “(a) more than 66 years” couldn’t be the answer because it’s off by 1 year, 4 months, and 12 days.

Answer Choice “(b) about 65 years old,” although in excess of about 5 months of her true age upon her death, is a close and reasonable approximation.

Answer Choice “(c) more than 62 years old,” although short of her true age upon her death by 1 year, 19 months, and 21 days, satisfies the arithmetical criterion for someone who died at age 64 years, 19 months, and 21 days. It is therefore logically unassailable as an answer to the question.

Answer Choice “(d) exactly 63 years old,” couldn’t be the correct answer considering that her exact age upon her death is over 64 years.

This therefore leaves us a choice between Answer Choice “(b) about 65 years old” and Answer Choice “(c) more than 62 years old” as the correct answer.

Strictly from a logical standpoint, Answer Choice “(b) about 65 years old” should be the correct answer. However, from a cultural standpoint and particularly in the case of women, someone who dies a few months short of reaching a certain age is normally considered not of that age but one year below that age. (In the Western world, don’t you dare telling a woman that she’s already 30 years old two or three months before her 30th birthday. It’s guaranteed to make her hate you forever!) Based on this arbitrary criterion, Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis would more properly be considered “about 64 years old,” not “about 65 years old,” upon her death. 

This being the case, Answer Choice “(c) more than 62 years old” becomes the most plausible and best answer to the question. Unfortunately, though, this answer choice evidently would be understandably passed over by many test-takers because of a proofreading error in the test sheet, where it appeared as “(c) than 62 years old,” without the word “more”—thus making it seemingly nonsensical. For that proofreading error, we would like to offer our profuse apology to you and to everyone else who took that practice test.

On hindsight and viewing this particular question much more critically, though, I can see now that the answer choices to Item 56 need to be revised for being too arithmetical, too culturally bound, and too dependent on imprecise and arbitrary reasoning. I am therefore greatly thankful to you for reporting this questionable test question to us, for it gave us this opportunity to make this more thorough analysis and to amend the answer choices so as to put them on a more logical and unassailable footing.

Right after this reply to your report, we will be amending the answer choices as indicated below, with “(c) about 64 years old” as the only possible correct answer.

Question with Revised Answer Choices:
56.  How old was Jacqueline when she died?

      (a) more than 66 years old 
      (b) less than 62 years old 
      (c) about 64 years old
      (d) exactly 63 years old

      Answer: (a) (b) (c) (d)

2. ITEM 56:

Pertinent Passage:
“I’ve already made several nice friends here, but don’t worry—no one could ever match you as my most trusted friend! After school, I sometimes go to my classmate Melinda’s apartment. She likes the same music and the same movies you and I enjoy. In fact, Melinda and I are attending Taylor Swift’s concert here next month!”

(The letter is signed by Annie and addressed to Jennifer)

62.  Who is Melinda? 

 (a) Annie’s classmate 
 (b) Annie’s Mom
 (c) Annie’s best friend
 (d) Annie’s teacher 

 Answer: (a) (b) (c) (d)

The correct answer provided by this test is Answer Choice “(a) Annie’s classmate,” but you think that it should be “(c) Annie’s best friend.” This is definitely not the case based on the pertinent passage above, where Annie is telling Jennifer in the letter: “I’ve already made several nice friends here, but don’t worry—no one could ever match you as my most trusted friend!” Clearly, then, it is Jessica that Annie considers as her best friend, not Melinda, so Answer Choice “(c) Annie’s best friend” couldn’t be the correct answer.

On the other hand, that Answer Choice “(a) (a) Annie’s classmate” is the correct answer to the question “Who is Melinda” is validated by this part of Annie’s letter, where she says: “After school, I sometimes go to my classmate Melinda’s apartment.” Here, we can see that Annie is describing Melinda simply as her classmate, not as her best friend. This makes Answer Choice “(a) Annie’s classmate” as the only possible correct answer to the question “Who is Melinda?”

I am posting this explanation in the Forum for the benefit of other Forum members who might have likewise taken that practice G-TELP test and got confused by the faulty answer choices. 

Once again, Claudlene, please accept our sincere thanks and great appreciation for your feedback. We hope to see you often in the Forum and please don’t hesitate to share with us your thoughts anytime on English grammar and usage as well as on any related subject that interests you.

Sincerely yours,
Joe Carillo

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