TOEFL iBT Testing Continues Seamlessly Despite COVID-19 Pandemic


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Updated on Feb 3, 2022 01:39 IST

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has completely uprooted our daily lives and made it more difficult to plan for the future as we navigate its short-term and long-term impacts. Employees of companies in every industry are concerned about job stability, parents are navigating homeschooling and child care logistics, and people of all ages are postponing and cancelling milestone events — birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and everything in between. Students are concerned about graduations and transitioning to online curriculums, while prospective undergraduate students are anxious to understand how this will affect such an important period of their lives — applying to university.


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ETS empathizes with these concerns. We recognized early on that we would need to move at a rapid pace to offer a solution quickly that meets the needs of students and institutions. A solution that ensures students can continue their educational journeys even while being at home. With these factors in mind, the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition was born.

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The TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition enables Indian students to take the TOEFL iBT test from the comfort and safety of home. The content, format, on-screen experience, price, and scoring of this version of the TOEFL iBT test are identical to the usual testing experience, as are the test prep resources to prepare for success on test day. In fact, it’s the same test institutions rely on to measure academic English-language proficiency around the world, and scores are accepted and used in the same way. In addition, unlike other at-home tests, the security of the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition is strong and includes the use of live, remote proctoring for real-time human monitoring throughout the test session, in addition to best-in-class artificial intelligence technology measures, such as gaze tracking and facial recognition.  

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The at-home version of the TOEFL iBT test continues to meet ETS’s high standards for validity, reliability, and security and is accepted almost universally by universities that already accept the TOEFL iBT test. This includes more than 11,000 universities across 150 countries, including every university in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, U.K. and Ireland, and English-taught programs across Europe, Asia, and worldwide. ETS is hearing from institutions around the world that they are thrilled that this solution is in place so that they can continue to welcome the best and brightest students to their incoming classes — so many of which hail from India. Tens of thousands of students from all over the world, including from India, have successfully taken the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition since it was launched in late March.

Over the last year or so, prior to this new reality spurred by COVID-19, the TOEFL program introduced several enhancements to the TOEFL iBT test experience that focus on the needs and interests of students and institutions. Many of these enhancements are features inherent to the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition and help to improve the testing experience.

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To start, the TOEFL iBT test time was reduced by 30 minutes to just three hours while continuing to assess all of the required competencies with fewer tasks in the Reading, Listening, and Speaking sections. The at-home version also offers test takers the same reduced test time. Test takers will benefit from a shorter test time as it helps to reduce test-taking fatigue and it puts time back in the test taker’s pocket.

Last fall, we introduced afternoon testing sessions, which expanded testing capacity pre-COVID. While test centres are closed or operating at a lesser capacity, at-home testing offers plenty of testing opportunities to students who are looking to register. The at-home test has seats that are available through at least September 2020, with multiple test dates each week and multiple test times throughout the day to accommodate students with having options to choose what works best for their individual schedules.

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Given that the scores on the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition are as valid and reliable as scores generated from the usual TOEFL iBT testing experience, score reports will continue to showcase the MyBest™ scores feature, which combines the highest section scores from multiple test dates, allowing students to show their best performance to admissions officers. To date, we have tracked more than 200 institutions and programs that accept MyBest Scores. This feature applies to students who may have taken the TOEFL iBT test in the past and are now planning to take the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition, test takers who take the at-home test more than once, and students who plan to take the at-home test and may later decide to take the test in test centres. In all of these scenarios, the score reports will reflect a student’s best section scores from all valid TOEFL iBT tests during a two-year period.

Most recently, we announced that unofficial TOEFL iBT Reading and Listening section scores can now be viewed by students upon finishing the test. This unofficial score feature is also part of the at-home testing experience, which can be used as an early performance indicator prior to receiving official scores and can help students make informed decisions on score reporting and retesting, if necessary.

Preparing for university in general, let alone at an institution abroad, can be an arduous task. For those looking to go abroad, there are not only the logistics but several application components that students are compiling to present their best selves to admissions officers. Compounding this already stressful time with a global pandemic can be difficult, but being able to test to prove English-language proficiency — safely in the comfort of home and in time for application deadlines — shouldn’t be an additional concern for test-takers.

For more information about the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition, including how to register and FAQs, visit the TOEFL official website.

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About the Author



Srikant Gopal is the Executive Director of the TOEFL Program at Educational Testing Service. He is a graduate of the Birla Institute for Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani, India, and earned his MBA from Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA. He has lived and worked in six countries, and has experience across North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America, combining marketing and business experience from companies like Procter & Gamble and Nestle with a passion for education and student development. Srikant is also a part-time educator and teaches a course on Economics and Ethics at the Philadelphia Ethical Society.

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