The TOEFL iBT was launched as a new generation of test, supplanting the old paper-based exam and its original online version. ETS has over 2600 test centres – where candidates take the TEOFL iBT using special computer suite Tom Ewing, the company’s spokesman, says that they have tested over 148,000 people using this method s far.
But there have been many reports of problems. In September, 150 test takers in China were unable to finish their writing tests after a server broke down at ETS’s Princeton, headquarters. Oops! The candidates were given a different test instead.
TOEFL iBT is also marketed for the speed with which takers get results. In the high-pressure environment of international universities, getting reliable results on time is crucial.
Last month The Washington Post reported that test takers in the US were having a lot of difficulty getting spots at test centres and that there were many last-minute cancellations of tests.
Ewing says that these are isolated problems. “When you completely redesign the world’s most popular English language assessment test and the testing network, there are going to be occasions when technical difficulties arise. They are, however, few and far between.” Hmmm… well, okay.
“The rate of candidates who show up on test days and are not able to test is running well below one half per cent. Sometimes it is because of local power outages or the local connectivity issues over which we have no control.”
These challenges show no sign of curbing ETS’s ambitions for the iBY version of TOEFL. Ewing says that 1600 new test centres are to open soon and that ETS is now accepting registrations in 112 countries, compared to 80 for the old online test.
“We now have the world’s largest testing network. We are on schedule for our rollout and continue to refine the process.”