Learning about the TOEFL iBT®

By Anne Hodgson

Thank you to Franziska Ruehl for a very enlightening all-day workshop with the opportunity to better understand the thinking behind and the assessment of the TOEFL iBT® test, administered online and recognized/required as an entry level test by over 9000 institutions world-wide.

It was a great opportunity to see how the oral and written exams are assessed. We were given benchmark recordings and written answers, and then had the opportunity to try to assess other examples ourselves. Understanding how the standards are defined is obviously key, and we had interesting discussions comparing why we would assess each as we did. I for example found that I would generally be much more lenient with speakers of English, being accustomed difficult accents and slow and considered speaking, but that I would be tougher in assessing written work. So it was very helpful to understand the thinking that goes into these assessments, i.e.

  • candidates need to speak English intelligibly within the US (rather than in an international environment more able to handle/ accommodate for accent), and
  • candidates are not required to follow standard English essay structure before being inducted into that system of thought.

Franziska provided us with good materials from ETS to use in prep courses, and told us that she regularly provides such workshops and materials to schools whose students need to pass the TOEFL, i.e. highschools (Gymnasien) and colleges with students planning to go to the US or elsewhere on exchange programs and internships.

She also shared with us the many online opportunities that students have to prepare for the test on their own, including:

  • First and foremost, the TOEFL go anywhere website to be used by students to register for the test and plan their studies abroad. It provides an institution’s score requirements and program information as it lists all the different institutions that have obtained a TOEFL code.
  • The http://www.ets.org/toefl site is your go-to for free sample questions, practice tests, interactive skill-building programs, and detailed tips and information on scores and improving them. ETS recently made a detailed video about all the tools that can hel…
  • If you want to know more, you can sign up for the TOEFL Newsletter, or contact Franziska for details by emailing her at FRuehl (at) etsglobal (dot) org.

This workshop was held at the Language Testing & Service GmbH (LTS) testing center in Berlin and fully sponsored by ETS Global. Berlin. Thanks again!