TOEFL Internet-Based Test (iBT)
TOEFL iBT Availability
The TOEFL iBT is administered more than 50 times throughout the year in numerous countries around the world. Educational Testing Service (ETS) lists available test centers and dates on its website (www.ets.org/toefl). The TOEFL can be taken on most Fridays and Saturdays, but availability varies at individual test centers. The TOEFL is also widely offered internationally, usually at test centers in or near major cities. Test-takers outside of North America should check the ETS website for test centers, test dates, and fees. Registration for the TOEFL may be completed online, by mail, or by phone.
TOEFL iBT Skills
The TOEFL iBT evaluates English-language abilities in four areas: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Each of these competencies is represented by an individual section of the exam, and the exercises included in these sections duplicate situations commonly encountered in postsecondary coursework and everyday university life. Test-takers must be able to answer questions based on reading excerpts from college textbooks and spoken lectures, articulate their own opinions and analysis in written and spoken form, and demonstrate their general ability to interact with others at universities in which the primary language is English. The TOEFL is deliberately designed to assess communication skills rather than mere knowledge of the English language, and it is therefore difficult for students to receive high scores without functional capabilities in all TOEFL areas.
Taking the TOEFL iBT
Students take the TOEFL iBT entirely on computers at official test centers. The reading section includes text passages and answer choices in split-screen format, while the listening section features audio recordings of lectures and conversations. Responses for the writing section are entered into the computer, and students are provided with a microphone headset to record their answers to speaking section exercises. Unlike many electronic standardized tests, the TOEFL iBT is not computer-adaptive (the difficulty level of questions is not affected by previous answers). Note-taking is allowed on all sections of the test, but for test security reasons, ETS mandates the collection and destruction of all notes at the conclusion of the exam. Total testing-time is 200-250 minutes, depending on the number of experimental questions included in the reading and listening sections (students will not know which questions are experimental) and the number of passages in the reading section. Test-takers can access their score reports online, or they may receive hard copies of their reports by mail.
TOEFL iBT Scoring and Assessment
Each section of the TOEFL iBT is scored from 0 to 30 in one-point increments. Score reports include classification of each section’s score range. Reading skills are considered “high” if the reading sub score is between 22 and 30; reading scores of 15-21 and 0-14 are classified as “intermediate” and “low” respectively. The same three categories apply to listening skills, with a slightly different scale (22-30=high, 14-21=intermediate, and 0-13=low). Writing skills are either “good” (writing sub score of 24-30), “fair” (17-23), or “limited” (1-16). Speaking sub scores can be “good” (26-30), “fair” (18-25), “limited” (10-17), or “weak” (0-9). The TOEFL total score is calculated by adding all four sectional scores (0-120), which has also been classified by score range as follows: 118-120=expert, 110-117=very good, 94-109=good, 60-93=competent, 35-59=modest, 32-34=limited, and 0-31=extremely limited. The writing and speaking responses are assessed by human graders, and score reports include descriptions of the appropriate scoring ranges on these sections.
TOEFL iBT Development
The TOEFL iBT was first administered in September of 2005 as a replacement for the computer-based test (cBT), which was introduced in 1998 and discontinued in 2006. ETS asserts that the TOEFL iBT “emphasizes integrated skills and provides better information to institutions about students’ ability to communicate in an academic setting and their readiness for academic coursework.” In the view of ETS, this makes the TOEFL iBT a better assessment than other English-language tests. Development of the iBT began in 1996 with a team of ETS staff members and external experts in subjects such as applied linguistics, test development, and psychometrics. The team produced frameworks for each of the four sections that would be included on the iBT (reading, writing, listening, and speaking), including proposed exercises for the assessment of these four areas as well as agendas for further inquiry. Final test specifications were designed to ensure comparability of test questions across tasks. The TOEFL iBT development process is extensively documented by a series of ETS monographs and a book published externally.
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