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Testing: ETS reveals TOEFL Essentials test

ETS has announced TOEFL Essentials, a new English language test that promises versatility, affordability and accessibility to students and institutions.

TOEFL Essentials features an unscored 5-minute personal video statement where test takers respond to two general questions. Photo: Unsplash/ surface

The content in the TOEFL Essentials test includes 50% academic English and 50% general English

The 90-minute test, which is expected to be made available worldwide beginning August 2021, measures four skills essential for communication in both academic and non-academic contexts, such as in interviews and internships.

TOEFL Essentials also features a 5-minute personal video statement to “allow test takers to showcase their personalities to universities”.

“At a time when international student enrolment has been greatly impacted as a result of Covid-19, institutions are conscious of their desire to have accessible, affordable assessments for their students – to remove as many barriers as possible to keep them on track – that also uphold the high standards of quality they rely on for decision making,” the testing provider noted.

“We now have two high-quality, yet distinctly different options”

While the iBT Test – which ETS rolled out as an at-home test in 2020 – focuses 100% academic English content drawn directly from university-level academic sources, the content in the TOEFL Essentials test includes 50% academic English and 50% general English.

By accepting both tests, ETS suggests that institutions will able to broaden the range of qualified international applicants.

“With the development of TOEFL Essentials, we now have two high-quality, yet distinctly different options under the TOEFL Family of Assessments suite that can each be used on its own for high-stakes admissions decisions,” Srikant Gopal, executive director of the TOEFL program, said.

“Students can choose the test most suitable to their testing style, so that they can perform their best and demonstrate their abilities to prospective institutions, while institutions can evaluate applicants using either of the two secure, valid and reliable measures of English language proficiency.”

With TOEFL iBT scores, students communicate to institutions that “they are prepared to succeed in a rigorous higher education environment requiring a high standard of academic English”, he added.

As a “distinctly different” test, appealing to a different range of test takers, TOEFL Essentials is a “perfect complement to the gold standard TOEFL iBT test to help draw in new, additional applicants for the institution”, Gopal highlighted.

Other providers such as iTEP, Paragon Testing, IELTS and Cambridge have introduced online options in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of US institutions accepting Duolingo’s English Test increased over 2020, too.

The most important criteria for prospective applicants and students around the world when choosing an English language test is the “acceptance of and preference for a test by universities, followed by the perceived ability to perform well on a test”, Gopal noted.

Institutions are enthusiastic about TOEFL Essentials, he continued, and ETS expects institutions to formalise decisions around acceptance shortly.

A recent survey of nearly 250 institutions in the US, Canada, and the UK, found that 90% indicated they would be likely to accept TOEFL Essentials scores for classes enrolling in 2022. Some 95% said they saw the test as beneficial in attracting quality applicants, Gopal explained.

While price is a “relatively minor factor in test choice” for students, as a non-profit ETS “strives to keep its test fees as low as possible in order to provide opportunities to test takers around the globe”, Gopal said.

“The costs reflect the complexity that goes into developing, managing, administering and scoring these tests, among other factors.”

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