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TOEFL ‘Essentials’: A Shorter, Less Costly English Test

FILE - Young Chinese students practise their English with a foreigner at an open-air English Corner in Shanghai March 25, 2005. China, the world's most populous nation, has become the world's largest market for English learning. (REUTERS/Claro Cortes IV)
FILE - Young Chinese students practise their English with a foreigner at an open-air English Corner in Shanghai March 25, 2005. China, the world's most populous nation, has become the world's largest market for English learning. (REUTERS/Claro Cortes IV)
TOEFL ‘Essentials’: A Shorter, Less Costly English Test
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The TOEFL iBT has been the most common English test for international students seeking entrance to American colleges. This year, there will be a shorter, less costly test called TOEFL Essentials.

The letters T-O-E-F-L stand for Test of English as a Foreign Language. And iBT stands for internet-based test. Both the iBT and Essentials are administered by the American educational company Educational Testing Service, known as ETS.

Since 1964, colleges and universities in the United States have used the TOEFL to measure an international student’s level of English. And schools in Australia, Canada and other English-speaking European nations started using the International English Language Testing System, or I-E-L-T-S, in 1989.

These two tests have been the main choices for colleges to measure English ability. In recent years, companies including Duolingo and EF Education First, have developed new English language tests that are low-cost or free and easy to use. These tests aim to do more than just offer more choices in the college admissions process. Some people use them to measure their English proficiency for employment.

The new TOEFL Essentials

Srikant Gopal is the executive director of the TOEFL program at ETS. He said the new TOEFL Essentials is shorter and less costly than the TOEFL iBT.

The TOEFL iBT takes about three hours to complete. And it costs $200 or more, depending on where in the world you live. The TOEFL Essentials takes 90 minutes and is expected to cost about $100.

While Essentials is shorter, Gopal said it still measures students’ academic and general English ability. He explained that ETS made the test “adaptive,” which means the test will give a student a harder question if they answer the previous question correctly.

“What we've built into TOEFL Essentials, for example, is many new and innovative features, such as a personal video statement or a multi-stage adaptive design, and to really offer something very unique and something that’s distinctly different from TOEFL iBT.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, ETS only offered its test in-person at centers around the world where test-takers could be watched by proctors. When testing centers closed last year, ETS moved quickly to develop a secure home-testing system to watch students and speed up the launch of Essentials.

Gopal noted security is important for university admissions. And he said that makes the TOEFL test different from those of its competitors.

Gabriel Guillen teaches language studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California. He took the TOEFL in 2010 before studying for a higher degree in the U.S.

“This is good news for the field, and for...students who are applying for college in the U.S.,” Guillen said.

He noted that it is not a coincidence that ETS created a shorter and less expensive test, given the popularity of the Duolingo English test. The test is accepted by many universities, takes one hour to complete and only costs $49.

“I don’t know the insights of ETS, but it is pretty obvious for anyone that they are responding to the competition of Duolingo.”

Most of the schools contacted by VOA said they are still waiting for more information about the new TOEFL Essentials.

Anneli Richter is the Associate Dean for Graduate Admissions at Duke University. In an email, she said, “the school is reviewing the test and has not decided yet whether to accept it.”

Some schools like Temple University Law School, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the University of San Francisco have told ETS they will accept results from the new test. And ETS said it will publish a list of universities that intend to accept the Essentials test after the first phase of testing.

Registration for TOEFL Essentials starts June 17 and the first test date is August 21. ETS said it will continue to offer iBT because most universities do not have experience with the new test. And students who are considering the Essentials test can also practice on the ETS website.

I’m Dan Friedell.

Dan Friedell wrote this story for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

Have you taken the TOEFL? How was it? What do you think about the new test? Tell us in the Comments Section and visit our Facebook page.


TOEFL Essentials Practice Questions

TOEFL 'Essentials' Practice Questions
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ETS provided VOA with a sample test question.

Test image of TOEFL Essentials. (Courtesy of ETS)
Test image of TOEFL Essentials. (Courtesy of ETS)

The correct answer for this question is the second choice, “Until August 15.”

The company also sent the following example of a listening question. On the test, students will listen to audio and then answer questions.

“Hello, everyone. I’m Jennifer Wilson from the career center. Thank you all for attending this resume-building workshop. Today my colleagues and I will cover several useful strategies on how to make your resume stand out to potential employers. First, I want to give the floor to my colleague Pierre Moreau, who will go over the Career Center services such as career advising help with internships and one-on-one appointments.”

Test image of TOEFL Essentials. (Courtesy of ETS)
Test image of TOEFL Essentials. (Courtesy of ETS)

The correct answer is the fourth choice: “listen to a short talk on the Career Center.”

Editor’s Note: the TOEFL content is © 2021 by ETS. All rights reserved. ETS, the ETS logo and TOEFL are registered trademarks of ETS in the United States and other countries. TOEFL ESSENTIALS and the "T" logo are trademarks of ETS.


Words in This Story

administer –v. to manage the operation of (something, such as a company or government) or the use of (something, such as property)

proficiency –adj. good at doing something

academic –adj. relating to schools and education

innovative –adj. introducing or using new ideas or methods

stage –n. one section of something that includes a series of steps

unique –adj. something that is different from everything else

distinctly –adv. different in a way that you can see, hear, smell, feel, etc. : noticeably different

proctor- n. a person who watch students who are taking an examination

coincidence- n. a situation in which events happen at the same time in a way that is not planned or expected

insight –n. an understanding of the true nature of something

phase –n. a part or step in a process : one part in a series of related events or actions

sample –n. a small amount of something that gives you information about the thing it was taken from