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EF moves into testing with free online exam

EF Education First, one of the world’s largest English language training providers, has announced it will move into standardised testing with the launch of a free online exam that aims to rival established testing brands including TOEFL and IELTS due to its scope and accessibility.

The test will launch later this month

"We’re not concerned about cheating, because if they cheat they’re just cheating themselves"

The company has not specified a target number of test-takers it hopes to reach, but Minh Tran, Director of Research and Partnerships, said EF expects that the number of people taking the EFSET  “will at least match, if not exceed” those taking the IELTS and TOEFL given it is “of equal accuracy and quality”.

“[Other test providers] aren’t aiming for every single test taker; they’re aiming for a very specific type of English learner who needs that certification for university admissions, immigration or employment,” he said.  “So we are going after a bigger pool.”

Tran added that EF will promote the exam among its own students. “We expect that we’ll have millions internally and millions externally.”

“We really see this as a shift of power from the test-maker to the test-taker, so the test-taker can now decide when, where, why and how they take the test”

Rolling out at the end of the month, the EFSET will use an algorithm to adjust the difficulty level of the test’s content in real time according to the individual’s pattern of correct and incorrect answers, which EF says enables accurate measurement across all proficiency levels.

Students are then scored on a 0-100 scale aligning with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

Online delivery allows for greater user autonomy, removing the need for traditional test centres and close monitoring.

“We really see this as a shift of power from the test-maker to the test-taker, so the test-taker can now decide when, where, why and how they take the test,” said Tran.

Because responsibility is in the hands of the learner, EF said security isn’t an issue. “If all that they want to know for themselves is what their English level is, that’s what the EFSET is for,” said Tran.

“We’re not concerned about cheating, because if they cheat they’re just cheating themselves.”

However, the company has expanded marketing efforts to target both education institutions and government ministries, especially in countries that may lack the resources to pay high prices for language testing.

“It’s obscene how much money we spend on testing in the US”

In these cases institutions using the test for official purposes will control how the exams are administered and regulated, the company said.

According to EF, the company is already working with “several prominent universities” in developing countries who are interested in using the test for internal placement and to track students’ progress.

“It’s obscene how much money we spend on testing in the US,” commented Tran.

“[The EFSET] is extraordinarily compelling to institutions who want to know where their students are on an international benchmarking, but don’t have the budget.”

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