Introduction Language testing for higher education is extremely widespread, and most of it is English testing for academic purposes. Score users are normally academic institutions who wish to know whether an international student has the language abilities necessary to succeed in an academic environment. Of course, an admissions tutor in a University will take many factors into account when making a decision. These factors may include previous learning experience and evidence of content knowledge, references from previous teachers, personal statements, and even indications of personability, ability to work with others, and enthusiasm. If the applicant is a postgraduate it is common to take into account the ranking of the University from which they received their first degree. In addition, the tutor will wish to be reasonably certain that the applicant will be able to read the texts expected of first year students, take part in seminars, tutorials and lectures, and crucially to write assignments in the relevant academic genre. Universities offer both pre- and in-sessional language support programmes that may provide additional assistance. Students are frequently referred to such programmes if their scores on the language test are within the error range of the established cut-score for admission.
Testing English for Academic Purposes (EAP) is now a huge industry. The first thing we need to consider is just why English has become the primary language of higher education, not only in countries where English is the first language, but increasingly around the world (see this paper by Coleman on the use of English in Europe). In his book English as a Global Language, and this YouTube video, David Crystal argues that it is because of power: the language of science and the language of economics has been English for the last 400 years. This has given English, and English medium Universities, both status and advantage. Studying in these Universities has therefore become a goal of more and more international students, as their programs are perceived to provide more opportunities and career enhancement. As a result English language testing has expanded rapidly and is now a multi-million pound industry with the main test providers competing fiercely for market share.
The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) was originally developed in the 1960s, but underwent a major retrofit in readiness for the release of the internet based test (iBT) in 2005. You can read about the retrofit in a book by Chapelle et al. (2008). ETS has long developed tests for University access, including the GRE and the College Board's SAT. In this YouTube video, released by ETS for its 60th anniversary, the CEO of the company explains the rationale behind the work: to provide meritocratic means of giving access to Universities - an aim that goes back to the 1930s. The TOEFL iBT is a linear test, even though its CBT predecessor was computer adaptive. Other novel features include the use of integrated tasks. The format is as follows:
Read 3-5 passages from academic texts and answer questions.
Express an opinion on a familiar topic; speak based on reading and listening tasks.
Express an opinion on a familiar topic; speak based on reading and listening tasks.
Write essay responses based on reading and listening tasks; support an opinion in writing.
Similarly the International English Language Testing System has undergone many retrofits since its inception in the late 1970s. Much of this is documented in Davies (2008), which also contains sample test tasks from various versions of the test. IELTS had two forerunners in the United Kingdom. The first was the English Proficiency Test Battery (EPTB), which was developed in the 1960s by Alan Davies. This was superseded by the English Language Testing Service in the late 1970s. ELTS differed from IELTS primarily in the provision of subject-specific modules in additional to a general academic module: life sciences, medicine, physical science, social studies, and technology. Following a number of studies, including an ELTS validation study, IELTS was launched in 1989. The major change was the removal of the subject specific (ESP) modules, primarily because research had shown that given the generality of the material in the test, subject specific knowledge did not provide an advantage on a subject specific test (Clapham, 1996). Further retrofits have taken place at intervals since its introduction. The format is as follows:
Pearson PTE The PTE Academic was rolled out in 2009 with the explicit aim of taking market share away from the two established tests (see the review of 2009). In this YouTube Video Professor John de Jong introduces the test. It differs from the others primarily in the fact that testing is 'on demand' rather than on set test dates, and the scores are issued within 5 working days. This speed is achieved through the use of automated scoring, even for the speaking component. For an introduction to automated scoring see the video on this topic by Xiaoming Xi. PTE Academic also claims to have the most advanced biometric test security system to ensure that ghost writers cannot take tests on behalf of others. The format of this computer based test is as follows:
Speaking and Writing
77 - 93 minutes
Speaking, speaking and reading, speaking and listening, writing.
Personal introduction, reading aloud, repeating sentences, describing a picture, re-tell a lecture, answer short questions, summarize a text, write an essay.
A complete test overview is available in this tutorial. Pearson makes available a number of scored (for a fee) and unscored (free) practice tests. Pearson makes its research available on this website.
Providers of tests of English for University entry are in competition with each other and therefore promote their tests widely.
This is particularly the case with social media and the internet.
ETS, Cambridge and Pearson all have YouTube channels. The latest video from each of these companies is imported here.
Study in Australia
International students talk about why they chose to study in Australia.From:
Education Posted on 17 July, 2013
English Language Learning Tips - Tenses Part 1
English language learning tips from Cambridge English Language Assessment. In this clip learn about Tenses, content useful for all exams. This collection of ...From:
Education Posted on 18 November, 2013
Online preparation resources for PTE Academic English test from Pearson
The PTE Academic Practice Tests and Test Booster are coming soon! Our enhanced suite of innovative practice resources will assist you to improve your skills ...From:
Education Posted on 27 March, 2013
Testing and Immigration
In many European countries and Australia language testing for University entrance has become wrapped up in immigration policy (see Extra et al., Hogan-Brun et al., and Slade et al.). This is partly because countries have tried to attract students into higher education with the promise that on graduation they may stay and work, and that their spouses may obtain a work permit while they are studying. When the financial and economic climate is not so good these are usually withdrawn. Also, a reduction in student numbers is one of the few ways that governments can be seen to control immigration. In this news clip from the United Kingdom the controversy is clear. On the one hand students are seen as vital to the economy, while on the other politicians wish to restrict student visas and insist that students return home at the end of their studies. The use of set scores on language tests as a criterion for issuing student visas is the easiest way to implement such policies, but it is a highly controversial practice.
The primary users of language test scores for higher education are admissions tutors. Do a Google search on 'admissions tutor': what precisely is their job? Can you think of other kinds of information they may take into account apart from those listed above? What are the consequences of making a poor decision?
Look at sample materials from the three tests mentioned on this page, along with the overview of the test from the website of the test provider. In what ways are they similar? How is each one distinctive? Are there any features that you think are particularly attractive or problematic?
Each of the tests listed on this page publishes research into the validity of the test for its intended purpose. What kinds of evidence does each present? Select one piece of research and write a critical review.
Tests are designed for particular purposes. The constructs, skills, abilities or knowledge that the test is designed to measure are defined in the test specifications. The tests described on this page are all intended to serve the same decision making purpose. For this reason decision makers sometimes wish to have score comparisons, like this one produced by ETS: Score Comparison Tool. You can also find a link on this page to the research conducted to construct this tool. Why do you think admissions tutors wish to have this kind of information even though it is very difficult to compare results on tests that are not generated by the same specifications?
Look at the news links on the right side of this web page. Choose one or two that look interesting and/or controversial. What are the issues that are of concern to the wider public in language testing for University entry?
Using these language tests in immigration policy is highly controversial and raises many ethical issues. But as Bishop (2004) correctly argues there is nothing in the Standards for Educational and Psychological Assessment, or even the ILTA Code of Ethics, that clearly makes such use unethical. Yet, it makes many language testers uneasy. Why do you think this is the case? What is your position on this use of tests?
When designing domain specific tests it can be useful to have access to a corpus like the Michigan Corpus of Academic English (MICASE). Look at examples of specific speech events from this corpus. How might you use this data in researching a test of spoken academic English?
U.S. News & World Report (blog) 5 Things to Consider Before Transferring to a U.S. College U.S. News & World Report (blog) Take TOEFL and U.S. college entry exams ASAP: Almost all American universities require students to report their score on the TOEFL, the test of English as a foreign language, wh...
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spyghana.com The Suspension Of TOEFL And GRE Tests In Nigeria spyghana.com The suspension of the conduct of Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) in Nigeria by the United State's-based Education Testing Service(ETS) has come to the affected beneficia...
UFJF oferece 360 vagas para curso de inglês preparatório do TOEFL Globo.com A próxima aplicação do teste TOEFL-ITP será realizada nos dias 20 e 21 de dezembro nos anfiteatros A e B do Instituto de Ciências Humanas (ICH), das 14h às 18h. Outras aplicações estão previstas para acontecer no decorrer d...
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India Education Diary Free Propell® Workshop for the TOEFL iBT® Test in Cochin, India India Education Diary Report by India Education bureau, Cochin: Educational Testing Service (ETS), creator of the TOEFL® test is pleased to announce the upcoming Propell® workshop taking place in Cochin, India, on ...
ecns Students urged to practice foreign tongue ecns Lyu Hui, product manager of IELTS (the International English Language Testing System) in China with the British embassy, said they hope to encourage more English learners and IELTS takers in China to speak and practice more through real-life scenar...
Awarding The Toefl Junior Challenge 2013 SGGP ... Challenge 2013. On 23-11, Ho Chi Minh City Department of Education and IIG Vietnam - official representative of Educational Testing Service United States (ETS) in VN Awards held TOEFL Junior Challenge 2013 contest for junior high school students.
Kaplan International Vancouver Becomes Official IELTS Test Center Newsday With an increasing demand for IELTS courses and exam dates in Canada, Kaplan Vancouver is delighted to become an official British Council IELTS open test center. (PRWEB UK) 25 November 2013. Kaplan International Vancouver is ...
TOEFL Suspension: British Council Recommends IELTS For Candidates Leadership Newspapers Following the recent suspension of accredited centres for foreign based Graduate Records Examination (GRE) and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) in Nigeria, the British Council in the country has urg...
Times of India Nigerian Bulletin - Latest News, Politics, Business, Sports in Nigeria Nigerian Bulletin For Nigerians who had dreams of furthering their education abroad, the recent cancellation of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and the Test of English for Foreign Learners (TOEFL) in Nigeria ...
ETS Experts Share the Latest Information on the TOEFL® and GRE® tests at ... India PRwire (press release) Experts from Educational Testing Service (ETS), creator of the TOEFL® and GRE® tests, will participate in the upcoming QS World Tour student fairs in India over the next few weeks. The November...
FutureLearn to provide the platform for the British Council's first ever MOOCs Times of India Building on this experience, the British Council and FutureLearn are working closely together to create a portfolio of English language MOOCs, and to provide a route for learners to take International Engl...
The New Indian Express EXCLUSIVE: Real reasons ETS suspended GRE, TOEFL in Nigeria Premium Times Despite the claim by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) that it suspended the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and the Test of English for Foreign Learners (TOEFL) in Nigeria due to security concerns...
Educación incluye a nuevas entidades e instituciones académicas para ... el periodic ... in English y el BEC Vantage de Cambridge University, el IELTS de Cambridge, British Council e IDP IELTS Australia, el ISE II del Trinity College, el TOEFL iBT y el TOEIC de Educational Testing Service y el PTE ...
Prosperity Officer - Phnom Penh Post Posted on 31 July, 2012 Excellent written and spoken communication skills in English (equivalent IELTS score of 6.5+) and Khmer, including the ability to write reports and give presentations, and use MS Office packages routinely. The ability to think independently, research and ...
Links to Websites
Posted on 11 December, 2013 PTE Registration - Pearson VUE Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic) Customer Service. PTE Academic is delivered worldwide through our network of test centers.
Posted on 10 December, 2013 TOEFL: Home The TOEFL® Test Gives You an Advantage: Most Widely Accepted, Most Popular and Most Convenient Choice. The TOEFL® test is the most widely respected English-language ...
Posted on 10 December, 2013 TOEFL | Go anywhere from here. The world's most common requirement for university and college admissions, ETS TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is an English proficiency test that opens ...
Posted on 9 December, 2013 The TOEFL Test: Find Your Format - ETS The TOEFL® test is offered in two formats: the TOEFL iBT® test, administered via the Internet, or the TOEFL® PBT test, administered in a paper-based format.
Davies, A. (2008). Assessing Academic Egnlish: Testing English proficiency 1950 - 1989 - the IELTS Solution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Extra, G., Spotti & P. Van Avermaet (Eds.) (2009). Language Testing, migration and citizenship: Cross-national perspectives on integration regimes. London and New York: Continuum.
Hogan-Brun, G., C. Mar-Molinero & P. Stevenson (Eds.) (2009). Discourses on language and integration: Critical perspectives on Language Testing regimes in Europe. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.