By Christa Hansen
The next generation TOEFL, also known as TOEFL iBT, will be officially introduced in the United States as a secured testing instrument for admissions decisions in September 2005. It will be phased in other parts of the world, starting October 2005, with Canada, Germany, France and Italy, and elsewhere in 2006. This latest version of the TOEFL exam offers a number of innovative changes that make it considerably different from the paper-based TOEFL (PBT) or the computer-based TOEFL (CBT). One of the most notable changes is that the iBT is a test of academic English, rather than a general English test, that reflects the language used in college and university settings with tasks that require test takers to integrate and synthesize information in order to communicate effectively. This major change is designed to provide better information about a test taker’s ability to communicate effectively in an academic setting.
Another noteworthy change in the TOEFL iBT is the inclusion of an oral component. All iBT test takers will be assessed on their speaking skills. While this change cannot assure schools that students have the requisite speaking skills for academic success, it will provide some degree of quantification of this skill. It is anticipated that the speaking scores could be used by university graduate departments in place of the Test of Spoken English.
Unlike the current TOEFL versions, the iBT will assess performance in four skill areas: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. There will no longer be a Structure/Written Expression section. Many of the tasks require test takers to synthesize information in order to respond. For example, test takers will read and take notes and/or listen and take notes in order to complete some of the speaking and writing tasks. Yes, test takers will be allowed, even encouraged, to take notes as they read and listen. Note taking not only facilitates the integration of information from the different media, but it also simulates the demands of the academic setting, thereby reinforcing the importance of the academic skill of note taking.
In addition to the above described major format changes, the new iBT will undergo a delivery mode change—it will be delivered via the Internet at secured sites around the world. Exams will be offered on a regular schedule rather than on-demand like the current CBT. All test takers will have to keyboard their written responses since handwritten essays will no longer be accepted. Spoken responses will be recorded over the Web. Although this is a computer-delivered exam, it is not a computer-adaptive exam. Test takers taking the same form will see the same questions. All of these changes in format also require changes in the scoring and score reports. Five scores will be reported on the iBT score reports:
Total score: 0-120
Reading: 0-30
Listening: 0-30
Speaking: 0-30
Writing: 0-30
For more detailed information on setting new score standards, including comparisons between current CBT and PBT scores and the new iBT scores, see NAFSA conference attendees will also be able to learn more about the standard-setting procedure at the Wednesday 9:15 Setting Scores for the Next Generation TOEFL Test session. Before coming to this presentat ion, par t i c i pant s should vi s i t and become familiar with the scoring information provided there.
Christa Hansen is director of the American English Institute at the University of Oregon.