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TOEFL - the Next Generation
source : University of Delaware English Language Institute

The Test of English as a Foreign Language - known to international students worldwide by its acronym, the TOEFL - is undergoing a revolutionary change.

The latest version of the language test, which international students must pass in order to study at an American university, is set to launch in September 2005.  For a sneak preview of the next generation of the TOEFL, ELI faculty members Walt Babich and Barbara Morris traveled to Drexel University in Philadelphia on June 13 to attend a two-hour seminar conducted by the Educational Testing Service (ETS).

They were joined by about 30 other participants from intensive English programs at local colleges and universities, including Dr. Barbara Hoekje, director of Drexel University's English Language Center.

"I am very pleased by the direction the new TOEFL is going," said Hoekje.

That direction, explained ETS spkesperson Gena Netten, transforms the test form a hurdle which students must leap into an instrument which measures their ability to communicate in real academic situations.

"Students really feel this is an authentic experience," said Netten.

The most sweeping changes include authentic spoken and written texts - the type of language students would actually hear and read on college campuses - and the use of only realistic language tasks.

Gone completely, for example, are questions about grammar, currently one fourth of the test.

New are questions which require students to integrate information, for example, listening to a lecture and reading a passage and then answering a question using those sources.  This replicates what students, in fact, have to do once they enter a university.

"This should eliminate the problem of students who skip English class because they're staying up all night cramming grammar for the TOEFL," said Morris.

Between 10 and 15 percent of ELI students take the TOEFL exam annually.

"Students (who want to study at an American university) should be even more motivated to attend class," Babich said. "We know we're teaching them what they need to succeed.  Now they will see that, too"

For the first time, in addition to testing students' listening, reading and writing, the TOEFL will include a section on speaking.  Unlike the rest of the test, the speaking section will not be used for university admissions, but rather for placing students in English language classes or for evaluating their speaking progress.

"We will be making appropriate changes to our TOEFL preparation class," said Babich, who regularly teaches the seven-week evening course.  "We want to familiarize students with the new form of the test and help them develop the skills that will be evaluated on it."
est. 9/1999
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