TOEFL: tried and tested

July 17, 2014

I read with interest Karen Harris’ article “Degree-level study without language competency is absurd” (Opinion, 3 July).

Harris incorrectly identifies which English language test featured in a recent BBC Panorama investigation. The issue involves the TOEIC test of workplace English. The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), which was never the focus of the Home Office investigation, is the gold standard for English language testing for universities and colleges and is built on unique principles.

The TOEFL emphasises communicative competence. To do this, it utilises integrated questions that require the student to combine language skills to respond. For example, a test taker is asked to listen to a short academic lecture, read text on a related topic and then speak or write about what was read and heard.

The TOEFL is 100 per cent academic in content, drawn from university-level textbooks and lectures.

Security of our tests is a major priority. Uniquely biometric voice analysis has been used for TOEFL testing in the UK for a year and a half.

No English assessment should ever be the sole criterion for admission to an English-speaking university. It is only one factor of many used to determine eligibility.

Finally, no English assessment can match the robust communication tasks found in the classroom. However, with its emphasis on communicative competence, and use of academic content and integrated questions, the TOEFL comes close. For a half century, it has played an important role in attracting talented students to the UK and ensuring that business remains competitive on the global stage.

David Payne
Vice-president and chief operating officer
Global education, Educational Testing Service

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