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OUP unveils new “mid-stakes” online English proficiency test

Oxford University Press (OUP) has launched a global online proficiency test that developers say bridges the gap between low-stakes tests and high-stakes exams.

The test will be available through a network of institutions globally, with centres opening initially in 13 countries

Endorsed by the University of Oxford, the “mid-stakes” Oxford Test of English (OTE) gives students an externally validated assessment of their language level based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) but is not an accepted test for university admissions or student visa applications.

“There’s a huge niche for this type of exam,” Joanna Borysiak Product Manager of OTE told The PIE News. “Sometimes test takers want hard proof of their level that’s not just a certificate from their school but they don’t need to use it to study abroad.”

“Sometimes test takers want hard proof of their level that’s not just a certificate from their school”

While not currently a formal language level qualification, there is a possibility that in future OUP will push for the exam to become a competitor of common high-stakes exams like IELTS and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

“Once OTE is considered an alternative for admission to universities, it would be a natural next step,” confirmed Borysiak.

The test will be available through a network of institutions globally, with centres opening initially in 13 countries including Argentina, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and the UK.

Institutions must apply for ‘Approved Test Centre’ status before they are able to book and schedule invigilated tests. Each Test Centre will determine the price of the test based on market conditions, with some European markets pricing the test at around €100, already.

Pricing will reflect the modular approach that allows learners to take modules separately or in one sitting, and some centres may include the test in the overall course fee.

Early feedback from the intuitions has been very positive, and many more Approved Test Centres are in the pipeline in the build up to the global launch according to Romy Short, Sales and Marketing Director, Learning and Assessment.

Short cited “secure online delivery, adaptive nature of the test, flexibility around the choice of time and modules, as well as quick turnaround times” as features that are particularly attractive to institutions.

She added: “But most importantly, the Oxford Test of English enables the institutions to benchmark their students against the CEFR with an assessment that, unlike self-made tests, gives their students a proof of their proficiency in English in the form of a Report Card, externally validated by OUP and endorsed by the University of Oxford.”

Early adopters include Universitat International de Catalunya, International House London, Cultura Inglesa Belo Horizonte in Brazil.

Students will be tested in four areas – reading, writing, speaking, and listening – and will be awarded individual module scores as well as an overall score and CEFR level on a report card. Learners can take the test 24 hours a day, seven days a week through an online platform.

There is a possibility that in future OUP will push for the exam to become a competitor of common high-stakes exams

The OTE builds on the OUP’s experience of producing online placement tests since 2009 but developers say the advancement of broadband access worldwide and the flexibility of online testing are driving the demand for a broader scoped exam from OUP.

“We saw the appetite for online assessment and had the base understanding of the approach based on our previous online placement tests,” said Borysiak. “The market is ready for flexibility and we are one of the few options in the market that offers it.”

The exam is part of a suite of exams that OUP will roll out this year. The first assessment introduced to the market will test students for CEFR B-level. Another exam testing for lower A-levels will come out later this year, followed by the highest C-level.

 

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