The SAT may be optional. The ACT may be optional. SAT Subject Tests may be no more (or soon be no more for international students). But the TOEFL, the Test of English as a Foreign Language, which is used by American universities to measure the English skills of non-native speakers, is still a requirement for non-native English speakers at the vast majority of our nation’s elite universities. Yet a new TOEFL, dubbed the TOEFL Essentials as opposed to the TOEFL iBT (which will continue to be offered as well), is being released. And why? Well, that’s an easy one. Competition! During this past year, Duolingo offered an alternative to the TOEFL that has quickly gained marketshare. It’s a shorter test. It’s also less expensive. So ETS, the maker of the TOEFL, is essentially keeping up with the Joneses.
ETS Unveils A New TOEFL Exam
As Scott Jaschik reports for Inside Higher Ed in a piece entitled “The Battle to Test International Students,” “The new TOEFL will take an hour and a half to complete (roughly half the time of the old TOEFL). The cost of the new test will be $100 to $120, ‘roughly half’ of the cost of the original form of the test. (There is no set fee for the TOEFL; its charges vary by country where it is given. It costs $225 to take in the U.S., less in some countries, more in others.) The new test measures four skills: listening, reading, writing and speaking. Unlike the original TOEFL (but like Duolingo), the English skills it measures are in both academic English and conversational English in a variety of settings.”
Testing Competition Spurs Change
We anticipate our nation’s highly selective colleges will accept both the TOEFL iBT and the TOEFL Essentials this next year for non-native English speakers and indeed it will be interesting to see if TOEFL Essentials ultimately turns TOEFL iBT into an anachronism. We shall just have to wait and see as we watch the new TOEFL compete against the old TOEFl and Duolingo’s alternative. Duolingo’s alternative is now accepted by 3,000 colleges, reports Jaschik. That’s a far cry from how many colleges accepted the exam just a few years ago. Isn’t competition beautiful? A new entrant in the testing of English as a foreign language space has led ETS to rethink its game plan.
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