|TOEFL - the
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,"
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
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,"
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
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
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