Right from immigration scams that cause inequity among students to understanding the significance and impact of changes made by Educational Testing Service (ETS) this year, Sachin Jain, ETS Country Manager for India, spoke to the Free Press Journal about recent updates, scholarships, and what ETS is doing to protect honest candidates.
Earlier this year, The Educational Testing Service (ETS) made certain changes to the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) tests, including a reduction in test duration.
Excerpts from the first part of the interview:
Australia paused use of TOEFL as changes were under review, when do you see the curbs being lifted?
While the recent change which has made TOEFL today, the shortest test globally from a three hour exam to now being one hour fifty-seven minutes to be precise, was simply a product innovation by ETS. Although, in all the right ways, the Australian Government considered this to be a whole new test in order to review it.
Second, in Australia, there are two types of universities: low risk and medium to high risk, and the risk rating is based upon a lot of parameters set by the Australian government. There is autonomy given to the universities themselves for the low risk universities, so you can call and choose which of the English proficiency tests you want to take. For example, you may have heard of The Group of Eight (Go8), which is all of Australia's top eight universities listed on the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) website, where if it is a low risk university, the autonomy is with the university to decide, and TOEFL is still 100% approved by those universities.
The only places where DHA requires an official English proficiency test are in high-risk universities. The TOEFL approval process is still ongoing, and we believe that outcomes will be out within the next three to four months.
Are there Indian states which have more TOFEL test takers than others?
Seven or eight years ago, study abroad was more of a metro or tier one phenomenon whereas it has now spread to tier four and tier five cities. The aspiration of students to study abroad is no longer concentrated in a single state and students from as remote as Azamgarh, Rajkot or Khammam in Andhra Pradesh have study abroad dreams.
Moreover, gone are the days when students considered the United States to be the best study abroad destination. Canada now outnumbers the US in terms of student population. New destination markets such as France, Ireland, and Germany are on the horizon, reflecting India's dispersion.
What are some of the recent scholarships introduced by ETS?
ETS TOEFL has collaborated with the National Indian Students and Alumni Union (NISAU) to launch the ‘UK-India TOEFL Scholarship’. The scholarship will support at least 25 Indian students with a scholarship worth Rs 60 lakh.
There are already over 50-60 GRE based scholarships which students can just Google about. Although we are taking a couple of routes to extend our scholarships programs and make it more country focused.
In addition, we are launching scholarships in Indian universities. We are collaborating with universities in India where students want to take the GRE TOEFL and study abroad. If a student receives a baseline GRE score of 300 and a TOEFL score of 100, we will offer the top two scores with a 1.5 lakh and a 1 lakh scholarship to students.
We have recently launched an institutional MOU with Lovely Professional University (LPU) where we have also included a scholarship of 2.5 lakhs, which may potentially exceed based on the number of students taking the GRE and TOEFL exams.
How is ETS handling the rising number of test fraud cases?
We remain committed to protecting honest takers of the GRE and TOEFL tests across India and around the world. As such, we strongly denounce cheating – the risk is not worth the reward.
We believe 99% of the test takers are doing it ethically with full integrity and there are just a few cases where we have found students or test takers to be using unethical means. ETS has recently incorporated AI tools such as facial recognition and biometric technologies to prevent fraud and we are very clear that there is no room or tolerance for any such acts of cheating. The moment our AI tools detect a red flag with a standard pattern in terms of the speed of answering or opening a new browser window during the test, the score is withheld.
No matter which exam the students took, in the recent case of 1000 students being deported from the US. I want to tell these students that while using these shortcuts may help them get a foot in the door, they will eventually catch up with them. After being deported, what does their passport say about their future? When someone is deported from a country, like the US, they are unable to travel or even apply for a visa.
The case of 1000 students started with them securing a good XYZ score but failing to perform. Even if there is a 0.01% leakage of someone who made it through. They'll have to come back at some point. If not now, then in six months or a year, because if you are not prepared, it will show up in some way or another.
ETS has formed the Office of Test Security (OTS), with a Chief Security Officer and a whole team dedicated to maintaining ethical behaviour and monitoring the entire test by a proctor online.