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Frequently Asked Questions About ETS

Who is ETS?

Is ETS a government agency or part of the College Board?

We're neither. ETS is a private nonprofit organization devoted to educational measurement and research, primarily through testing. We develop and administer more than 50 million achievement and admissions tests each year at more than 9,000 locations in the United States and 180 other countries. We develop and administer a broad range of educational products and services for government agencies, academic institutions and corporations, including the TOEFL® and TOEIC® tests, the GRE® General and Subject Tests and the Praxis® assessments.

Is ETS an unregulated monopoly?

No, on both counts. We hold ourselves to the highest professional standards of the measurement community and we are governed by a 16-member Board of Trustees. Board members represent various levels and areas of interest in education and business. Among other things, they select the ETS president, oversee the leadership provided by the ETS officers, set policy and determine future directions for the entire organization. Although we are the world's largest testing organization, there are competitors for most of the testing programs and related products and services we develop.

Aren't ETS and the College Board really the same thing?

No. ETS develops and administers the SAT®, the Advanced Placement Program® Exams and other programs on behalf of the College Board. The College Board sponsors these testing programs and decides how they will be constructed, administered and used. While the College Board is our largest client, we also work with dozens of other organizations and associations.

Standardized Tests and Fairness

Why are standardized college and graduate admissions tests important?

Several types of information are used to evaluate a student's readiness for college or university work. High school grades have great value, but they are subject to variability from place to place. Teacher recommendations are also important, but they too can vary. Standardized admissions tests offer colleges and universities a fair and impartial way to compare students from different school situations. Literally thousands of studies have found that the combination of grades plus test scores is a more effective predictor of a student's readiness than either one alone.

Are standardized tests fair to women and minority students?

ETS conducts extensive research and applies rigorous quality standards to ensure that the tests we develop are fair to people worldwide. Every question on every test that we produce undergoes a careful review process to ensure that it does not favor — or penalize — any particular group of students.

Groups of students (such as male, female, Black, Hispanic, etc.) may have different average scores on the same test. This does not necessarily mean that the test is biased. If the groups actually have different knowledge and skills because of different educational backgrounds and opportunities, the scores will reflect those differences.

How does ETS develop test questions?

The knowledge areas and skills that a test will cover are defined by the educators or other professionals who use the test scores. For example, history teachers help us define the content for a history achievement test. In most cases these same professionals also help us write the actual test questions.

How does ETS set the pass/fail point for a test?

We don't. Passing scores are usually established by the colleges and universities or state agencies that use the test scores.

Don't really good students do poorly on standardized tests?

We know that there are a small number of students whose standardized test scores are inconsistent with their school grades. Such disparities are among the reasons why no single factor should be used as the sole criterion for any important educational decision. No single test can give a complete picture of an individual and we urge score users to view a test score as simply one of the many pieces of information available about a student.

What does ETS think about the coaching programs that promise to raise students' scores on the SAT and other admissions tests?

ETS does not recommend expensive and elaborate coaching courses. Although the courses vary according to objectives, duration and method, we believe that most of the claims made by commercial coaching companies are overblown.

However, we do recommend that students prepare for any important test. The best way to do that is to familiarize yourself with the format of the test and to review the content areas the test will cover, and you can do this on your own. ETS and the testing program sponsors provide these details, as well as practice tests (printed materials and a growing number of software versions) at a very low cost for all of the testing programs we create. We encourage all of our test candidates to review this material to help refresh their memories of particular content, reduce their anxiety and increase their confidence on test day. Note, however, that last-minute cramming will never replace years of study and effort.

Are ETS assessments used primarily in the United States?

No. ETS products and services are used by organizations around the globe to advance equity in education for people worldwide. With more than 50 million tests annually administered and scored, ETS serves people at more than 9,000 locations in more than 180 countries.

For more information about our testing programs, send an email to

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NAEP and ETSETS has assisted the NAEP program in introducing numerous psychometric and assessment design innovations over the years.

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