By Srikant Gopal
For over a year, an unimaginable event has forced the world to adapt in all facets of life and work — education being one of them. Buzzwords like remote/hybrid/blended learning, unprecedented, disruption, solutions, post-COVID, and “the new normal” have fueled conversations around education worldwide. While some terms may fade over time, some are destined to become commonplace. At ETS, we’ve acknowledged these challenges and brought forth solutions — like the TOEFL iBT® Home Edition — to students and institutions worldwide at a time when they needed them most. The idea of a customer-focused, needs-based, solutions-driven mindset is exactly what we’ve always had as a mission-oriented nonprofit, but one that has been amplified even more so over the last year.
This mindset accelerated the timeline for the development of our newest product — the TOEFL® Essentials™ test — a versatile, at home English-language test measuring foundational elements of English proficiency for communication in both academic and daily life contexts, for university admissions and beyond, and the first of its kind in the industry.
From our perspective, a return to normal means that students begin traveling abroad again, and that our test centre network opens to full capacity for test takers who wish to take a TOEFL® test in person.
It also means that students and institutions have options. Not just options in terms of testing locations (e.g., in person and from home), but options for actual tests students can take and institutions can accept as a valid and reliable demonstration of English-language proficiency. We are investing in both our at home tests and tests delivered in test centres and believe that the future of the industry is a combination of offerings that cater to test taker preferences.
The tenets of the TOEFL at home tests are their high quality, security, convenience and student-friendly features — all the reasons test takers need when deciding which English-language test to take on their educational journeys.
About TOEFL at home tests
The TOEFL program is now offering two at home testing options – the TOEFL iBT Home Edition and the TOEFL Essentials test. The first administration for the TOEFL Essentials test is set for August 21 and registration is currently open.
TOEFL iBT Home Edition is a four-skills English-language test (reading, listening, speaking and writing) with 100% academic content, comprised of tasks that simulate real university experiences, such as listening to a lecture or writing an academic essay. It has the same content, format, on-screen experience, scoring and pricing as the traditional TOEFL iBT test taken in person, just delivered from the comfort of home with security provided by live, human, online proctors.
The TOEFL Essentials test is also a four-skills test of English proficiency, and the first test in the industry to pair high quality that universities want and trust, with convenience and affordability that students value. It is comprised of 50% academic and 50% general content that provides expanded insights into test takers’ skills beyond academic English settings (e.g., for interviews and internships). In addition, it features a five-minute, unscored Personal Video Statement that allows test takers to show their personality to institutions.
Quality tests should maintain high standards
Regardless of testing location or format, a test should be a high-quality measure of English-language proficiency. ETS and TOEFL embed quality into every level of the end-to-end testing process, starting with the test’s design and development — where test items are created by human assessment experts and tested with real people in the field to ensure they are fair and unbiased for test takers around the world — all the way through scoring protocols, where trained human raters score Speaking and Writing section responses due to their complex nature. Maintaining these standards has earned ETS and TOEFL the reputation they have today and is something we prioritize throughout all aspects of the assessments we offer to students and institutions worldwide.
A combination of human-led + AI-supported processes
Security is a big priority at ETS, especially for the at home tests. The protocols we employ for the TOEFL iBT Home Edition — and the soon-to-be administered TOEFL Essentials test — have been successfully demonstrated over the last sixteen months and feature an optimal combination of human-led and AI processes to maintain test security and preserve the integrity of the test. Security measures include:
- 100% live, online human proctoring of tests from start to finish;
- a comprehensive security check, ID review and test environment scan with the proctor who secures the testing environment prior to the start of the test;
- computer pre-check and qualification in advance of the test;
- video recording of each test from start to finish;
- and best-in-class AI-powered measures, such as facial recognition and gaze-tracking.
A human-centered process supported by AI functionality yields the best possible results and assures us that scores are valid and reliable measures of English-language proficiency.
Convenient, student-friendly features
Both the TOEFL iBT Home Edition and TOEFL Essentials tests have a variety of friendly features developed with students in mind. MyBest® scores allow test takers to showcase their best section scores from a given test (e.g., all TOEFL iBT and TOEFL iBT Home Edition scores in a two-year period, or all TOEFL Essentials scores in a two-year period), so their score reports automatically present their profile to institutions. In addition, test takers can view their unofficial Reading and Listening section scores to gauge their performance immediately following the test; receive official score reports as soon as six days after testing; test from the comfort and safety of home; and complete the entire test in one sitting.
Both tests have a variety of test dates and times to choose from as well. Test takers can choose from test appointments 24 hours per day, four days per week for the TOEFL iBT Home Edition, and for a 24-hour period one day per week for the TOEFL Essentials test. Test takers are also provided the option to take the TOEFL iBT test in person from a traditional test centre locations up to 60 times a year, and test centres across India are actively reopening after COVID-related closures.
Why choose a TOEFL test for study abroad?
The TOEFL iBT test didn’t become the premier English-language test for study, work and immigration overnight. Decades of proven success have contributed to the test’s success. The world-renowned TOEFL iBT test is accepted by more than 11,000 universities in over 150 countries worldwide and boasts universal acceptance in popular English-speaking destinations including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the U.K. and Ireland, as well as in all English-taught programs around the world including in Europe and Asia.
Given that the TOEFL iBT Home Edition is the same TOEFL iBT test, students can expect universities that accept the TOEFL iBT test to also accept the at home version, but it’s always a good idea to check with them to confirm their requirements, as not all universities may specifically publish their acceptance of the TOEFL iBT Home Edition if they already list the TOEFL iBT test in general.
The TOEFL Essentials test continues the TOEFL heritage of quality and fairness — created by the same experts who brought forth the TOEFL iBT test — and as such, we anticipate institutions around the world to accept the test. In fact, in a recent survey of nearly 250 institutions in the United States, Canada and the U.K., 90% indicated they would likely accept TOEFL Essentials scores for classes enrolling in 2022. The list of institutions accepting the test is growing rapidly, and we expect to publish a list of these institutions in the coming weeks.
There are lots of factors to consider when choosing an English-language test, and we’ve developed a chart to help compare the TOEFL iBT (including TOEFL iBT Home Edition) and TOEFL Essentials tests to help students navigate which test is right for them. For example, students who prefer a faster-paced, shorter test (just 1 1/2 hours) with more, shorter tasks and an engaging experience, prefer to test from home and want to showcase their personality through the Personal Video Statement, all for a highly affordable price (100 USD; 7,300 INR) may choose the TOEFL Essentials test. Aspirational students who prefer a more immersive test experience typical of an academic environment, prefer having the choice between testing at a traditional test centre or from home and want to highlight their academic English-language proficiency may choose the TOEFL iBT test (or TOEFL iBT Home Edition).
No matter the decision, the TOEFL® program has a test for all test takers to choose from for study abroad and beyond. To learn more about the TOEFL iBT and TOEFL Essentials tests, please visit https://toefltest.in.