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TOEFL® Test Research and Design

ETS has rigorously pursued ongoing research to ensure test quality for more than 50 years. Using a high-quality test means more accurate decisions about international applicants for your institution.

Our in-depth Classroom Needs Assessment identifies the skills students need to succeed in an academic environment. Only those tasks that demonstrate test takers' academic English-language proficiency are included in the test.

We have published more than 240 peer-reviewed research reports, books, journal articles and book chapters to support our test design and validity — so you can be sure you're making an accurate decision about academic English-language proficiency.

Development and Analysis Process

  • Creating test questions based on test specifications
  • Administering questions
  • Analyzing results
  • Rejecting or revising questions
  • Releasing test questions in a test form

Research Studies

Research studies on TOEFL test design and validity include:

  • Ling, G., Powers, D. E., & Adler, R. M. (2014). Do TOEFL iBT scores reflect improvement in English-language proficiency? Extending the TOEFL iBT validity argument (ETS Research Report No. RR-14-09). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.
  • Sawaki, Y., & Sinharay, S. (2013). Investigating the value of section scores for the TOEFL iBT® test (TOEFL iBT-21). Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.
  • Bridgeman, B., Powers, D., Stone, E., & Mollaun, P. (2012). TOEFL iBT Speaking test scores as indicators of oral communicative language proficiency. Language Testing, 29(1), 91–108.
  • Weigle, S. C. (2011). Validation of automated scores of TOEFL iBT tasks against nontest indicators of writing ability (TOEFL iBT-15), Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.
  • Chapelle, C. A., Enright, M. K., & Jamieson, J. M. (2008). Building a validity argument for the Test of English as a Foreign Language. New York, NY: Routledge.

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Test Security Matters to Us

ETS has long been at the forefront of combatting test security concerns. Our strategy is a 3-pronged approach of prevention, detection and communication, which is designed to protect the integrity of test scores.

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