The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) has now been shortened to less than two hours instead of three. According to Educational Testing Service (ETS), the move will provide the test takers a better experience and reduce anxiety and fatigue.
In order to provide Indian students with a better understanding on how to prepare for TOEFL, while keeping recent developments in mind, the Free Press Journal posed some questions to Sachin Jain, Country Manager, ETS India and South Asia. The following are excerpts from the second part of the interview:
To begin with, TOEFL has become the shortest and most widely approved exam available today. Along with that, the entire test is done in one sitting, and once completed, candidates instantly receive a prediction score for two portions which is the Reading and the Listening section. Candidates are also instantly notified of the official result date immediately upon test completion. These changes implemented by ETS have reduced anxiety and fatigue among students.
ETS also takes care of the mother tongue influence. Our Speaking section is scored not just by an AI moderator but a human moderator. No matter how good or bad one speaks it takes care of the mother tongue's influence. For example, in the speaking section the word ‘education’ is pronounced differently in British English and in American English. Now in an AI model, if it is aligned to an American English, the moment one pronounces education in a different way, it will mark it as negative. But ETS has made it a fair test, understanding that there are mother tongue influences.
We believe the candidates need to speak slowly and in smaller sentences. Don't use any fancy words, we are not looking for their vocabulary but rather for their articulation. In a classroom setting, it is not that one needs to speak Shakespearean English, they need to speak in a language that is comprehensible and which their peers understand. No complex words are required, one can repeat the same word as many times as they want.
Same goes for the Writing section. In the Writing section, we want the candidates to write smaller and simpler sentences. They can repeat words as many times as they want, there is no expectation of fancier words.
Is there a rise in female candidates taking TOEFL?
If you ask me, I believe there has been steady progress. Currently, roughly 40% of TOEFL takers are female, which is an improvement over previous years. It is consistently getting better, and the most positive indicator is that it is improving across all domains rather than just a few. As a result, it is not confined to STEM or natural sciences. I believe that female test takers outnumber male test takers across all domains.
Is ETS planning on any new developments in India?
With almost 40 million students in the Indian higher education ecosystem, we are focusing on collaborating with this sector. India would have about a million students studying abroad, but the proportion of foreign students from other nations studying in India is only 0.1%.
For instance, there are about 2.2 million international students pursuing management education in the US, representing nearly 20% of all international students, compared to barely 0.5% in India. This represents a stark difference in the number of international students in both counties.
We're looking at how source nations like India may become the host countries for international students as they have the best faculties, resources, and campuses among the top 100 QS rankings, such as IITs. How do we turn this wonderful apple cart upside down?
The underlying idea is to first partner with Indian institutions. There are currently 400,000 GRE test takers from 190 countries. If we focus on the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, and South East Asia—countries that are closer to India and where there is a desire for and appreciation of Indian higher education—we can simply begin pitching Indian institutions and their programs.
It has the potential to significantly boost India's economic growth. Indian students in the United States have contributed 33 billion dollars since they are not only learning but also establishing an economy. Consider this: if 10% of it comes to India, it can do miracles in terms of economic expansion. That is how other UK and US colleges contacted us all. Why aren't we doing it? It won't happen overnight, but it will happen eventually. In 5 years, that trickle may become a flow.
Many experts and students have questioned ETS scores' limited validity. Your response?
Indian students have better English capabilities than most of the world where it isn’t the first language, but the main point is the level of proficiency.
We, as a testing firm, are not claiming that one must retake the test, but if you look at the post-study work permit regulations, the government also states that one must take a refresher test. When one transitions from academics to the workforce, the proficiency required is different. The government wants to ensure when a candidate enters the employment domain, they've got what it takes to be successful in that country. It's not a doubt; it's like a safety net.