With a new speaking section, the new TOEFL iBT promises to be exciting.

Undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate programmes around the world require students to demonstrate their ability to communicate in English as an entrance necessity.

TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language) gives students the opportunity to prove they can communicate ideas effectively by simulating university classroom and student life communication. The language used in the test reflects real-life English-language usage in university lectures, classes, and laboratories. It is the same language professors use when they discuss coursework or concepts with students. It is the language students use in study groups and everyday university situations, such as buying books at the bookstore. The reading passages are from real textbooks and course materials.

The test measures how well students use English, not just their knowledge of the language. Because it is a valid and reliable test with unbiased, objective scoring, TOEFL confirms that a student has the English language skills necessary to succeed in an academic setting. That’s why it has become the most popular and accessible English language test in the world. It has been administered more than 20 million times since 1964, and is available in more than 180 countries. It is also the most accepted test in the world. More than 6,000 colleges, universities, and agencies in 110 countries accept TOEFL scores. That means that students have the flexibility to use their TOEFL test scores worldwide.

The TOEFL iBT?

It tests all four language skills that effective communication requires: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. It emphasises and measures English usage and communication ability in academic settings.

A Speaking section has been added. This section includes six tasks that require test-takers to wear headphones and speak into a microphone when they respond. The responses are digitally recorded and sent to ETS’s Online Scoring Network. To ensure maximum objectivity and reliability, three to six certified ETS raters evaluate the responses on a scale of 0 to 4. The average rating is then converted to a scaled score of 0 to 30. Raters are constantly monitored every time they score a test to ensure the highest accuracy and quality control possible.

The Writing section has been expanded. The new test requires test-takers to write a response to material they have heard and read. In addition, test-takers must compose an essay in support of an opinion. Test-takers’ typed responses to the writing tasks are sent to ETS’s Online Scoring Network where two to four raters evaluate the responses on a scale of 0 to 5. The average rating is converted to a scaled score of 0 to 30.

Some questions require the test-taker to use more than one English-language skill and combine or integrate information from more than one source, the same way students use English language every day in the classroom. For example, sometimes test-takers read a passage, listen to a short lecture about a topic, and then provide a written or spoken response. TOEFL iBT helps test-takers prove they can combine their English language skills to communicate ideas effectively. This ability is the key to academic success.

Note-taking is allowed. Test-takers can take notes on any section of the test the same way they would in a real college class. Test-takers can use the notes when answering test questions. The notes are collected and destroyed before the test-takers leave the test centre.

The new test takes about four hours. Test-takers complete all four sections of the test in one day, eliminating the need to travel to the test centre twice. It is delivered on computer via the Internet at secure test centres around the world.

The new scores help explain a test-taker’s English-language skill level. ETS provides comprehensive scoring information, including four skill-section scores and a total score.

Scores are now reported online. Test-takers can view their scores online 15 business days after the test. They can also choose to receive a copy of their score report by mail. Colleges, universities, and agencies can go online to view the scores of those students who selected them as a score recipient. They also continue to receive scores in paper and electronic formats.

Why the changes?

To assess the ability to communicate successfully in an academic setting. The new test helps test-takers determine their academic readiness. It also helps institutions identify and select students with the English-communication skills required to succeed.

To simulate university communication. The new integrated tasks, which require more than one language skill to complete, reflect the way language is used on campus every day — from the classroom to the bookstore. By simply preparing for the new TOEFL, students will build the skills they need for academic success.

The writer is Centre Head, IBS Training & Education

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