TOEFL® Young Students Research Program: Small Research Grants — 2015 Call for Proposals


The Small Research Grants under the TOEFL® Young Students Series are intended to support research related to the TOEFL Young Students assessments (i.e., the TOEFL® Primary™ and TOEFL Junior® tests) as well as foundational research that promotes high-quality language assessment related to young language learners between ages 8 and 16. This year, priority will be given to proposals that address the topics identified in the research agenda below. Particular preference will be given to validation research on the TOEFL Primary and TOEFL Junior tests.

Please note that, for the current grant period, ETS is able to provide researchers with a TOEFL Junior Standard test form and corresponding item-level data including demographic information about test takers. However, we are not yet able to provide similar test materials and data for the TOEFL Primary test. Nevertheless, ETS welcomes grant applications from researchers who plan to recruit participants and collect data locally in countries where TOEFL Primary is administered.

Eligibility: Researchers around the world who hold a Ph.D. (or equivalent doctoral-level research degree), have expertise in English language learning and assessment, and who are affiliated with an academic institution or not-for-profit organization.

Amount of grant: Up to US $50,000

Research Topics

  1. Construct/Content relevance
    1. Relationship between TOEFL Junior or TOEFL Primary test scores and young language-learners' English communication skills outside of testing contexts
    2. Effects of test takers' characteristics (e.g., age, cognitive capacity, affective factors) on TOEFL Junior or TOEFL Primary test scores
    3. Relationship between young language-learners' strategies and TOEFL Junior or TOEFL Primary test scores
  2. Test use and impact
    1. Impact of the TOEFL Junior or TOEFL Primary tests on learning and teaching
    2. Uses of TOEFL Junior or TOEFL Primary test scores (e.g., Can TOEFL Junior scores be used to measure progress in English language learning over time for program placement?)
    3. User perceptions of the TOEFL Junior or TOEFL Primary tests
  3. Foundational research topics
    1. Theory of language development of young English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners
    2. Domain analysis of communication skills of young EFL learners
    3. English education and assessment policy for young EFL learners
    4. Language development patterns of young EFL learners (including meta-analyses and studies that analyze longitudinal data)
    5. Innovations in learning or assessment of young EFL learners
    6. The types of assessment or other evidence teachers use to inform the teaching and learning of young EFL learners
    7. Impact of large-scale standardized language assessments on young EFL learners, teachers, parents and society
    8. Cognitive and affective factors that influence language development in young EFL learners

TOEFL Junior® Test Form and Dataset for Public Use

A TOEFL Junior Standard test form and corresponding item-level data including demographic information about test takers (age, gender, native language, etc.) can be made available to grant recipients. For a more detailed description of the available data, see here.

Important Dates

March 13, 2015 Proposals due
May 15, 2015 Response to proposals; selected authors invited to revise and resubmit
July 10, 2015 Revised proposals due
September 11, 2015 Notifications sent to grant winners
January 1, 2016 Work on funded research begins

Application and Proposal Process

Proposal materials must be submitted electronically via email to by 11:59 p.m. U.S. ET on Friday, March 13, 2015.

The submission must include the following documents:

  • Proposal (please see detailed requirements below)
  • Principal Investigator's CV

Proposal Content Requirements

The proposal must include the following key components:

  • Cover page (name and affiliation of the principal investigator and any co-investigators, the email address and phone number of the principal investigator, the title of the project, identification of research topic(s) addressed by the proposal, and the date of submission).
  • Abstract page including (1) the title of the project, (2) a statement of the problem including a brief description of the project proposed and a brief discussion of the implications or utility of the anticipated outcomes (250 words maximum), and (3) identification of the research topic(s) addressed by the proposal. Please do not include any of the authors' personally identifying information (i.e., names and affiliations) on the abstract page or in the body of the proposal.
  • Body of the proposal ( between 1200–1500 words), which must include the following sections:
    • Rationale (statement of the problem or the issue and relevance to one or more of the research topics above)
    • Literature review (focused summary of related research)
    • Research questions (specific question(s) or research objectives to be addressed by the project)
    • Methodology (explanation of the proposed research methodology, including a description of the study context and participants; instruments to be used; data collection procedures; identification and coding of variables; and analyses)
    • Implications (a brief discussion of the implications or utility of anticipated or possible outcomes and relevance to practice or theory)
  • References
  • Budget (see sample budget )
  • Schedule (list of the major activities of the project and the period in which each will be conducted; please assume January 1, 2016, as the start date for the project).

Proposal Format Requirements

Please follow the following format:

  • Word 2003 or later version
  • Arial or Times New Roman font size 12
  • 8.5" x 11" (U.S. "Letter") page size
  • One-inch margins on all sides
  • Double spaced
  • Page numbering and paragraph indentation following APA style (American Psychological Association, sixth edition)
  • For references, graphs, and tables, please use APA style
  • No personally identifying information (i.e., no author names and affiliations) on the abstract page or in the body of the proposal

Proposal Evaluation Process

Each proposal will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • relevance to the research topics identified above
  • the soundness of the methodology
  • feasibility of the proposed research
  • potential contribution to theory, research or practice
  • qualifications of the Principal Investigator

Applicants invited to revise and resubmit proposals will receive evaluative comments. An invitation to the next step does not guarantee that applicants will receive a grant. Grant recipients are required to submit final reports and to appropriately acknowledge the support of the TOEFL program when disseminating the results of the funded work.

Reporting Requirements and Payment Schedule

All grant winners will be required to submit a grant progress report roughly six months after the commencement of their funded study. The exact due date for the progress report depends upon the individual project schedule. Please indicate the date by which you intend to submit your progress report in your project schedule.

Grant funds are disbursed in three payments. The first payment is sent upon your signing of the grant contract. The second payment is sent after ETS has reviewed your grant progress report and found it to be satisfactory. The third payment is disbursed after your final report has been submitted and has successfully passed technical review. You may adjust the amounts of these payments in accordance with the needs of your project. To do this, please note the specific amounts you will need, for specific purposes, at specific dates in your budget and project schedule.

Dissemination Plan

Authors are expected to submit a publishable draft report as the final deliverable of the grant. Typically, the research can be published either as an ETS research report or as an article in a professional journal. Please specify which publication venue you plan to pursue, and be aware that the manuscript will have to pass ETS technical review before being submitted for publication.


If you have additional questions about the application process or the grant in general, please contact us at

Frequently Asked Questions

1. I am a foreign national working in the United States. Can I apply for the grant?

Yes, but to make sure you will be able to perform the work associated with the project, you must first discuss potential involvement with your department and university.

2. I am working outside of the United States. Can I apply for the grant?

Yes, but to make sure you will be able to perform the work associated with the project, you must first discuss potential involvement with your department and university.

3. When can work on the project begin?

Please consider January 1, 2016, as the tentative start date for the project. The actual start date will vary depending on the duration of the contract process involving your university and ETS.

4. How long can the project last?

The expected duration for each project is 12 months. However, individual projects may continue beyond the first 12 months. Decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis, with the caveat that project duration cannot exceed 24 months.

5. If the project continues beyond the initially agreed-upon end date, will additional funding be available to researchers?

No additional funding will be made available for projects that have been supported through this grant.

6. My project involves payments to participants. Should I include these in my budget?

Yes, please include in the proposal details about the payments you would have to make to potential participants. If your payments and other project expenses exceed the maximum award amount (US$50,000), please consider alternative funding resources to cover the difference.

7. Why is ETS unable to provide test forms and data for the TOEFL® Primary™ test?

Because the TOEFL® Primary™ tests are relatively new, there is not a test form that can be released for external researchers at the present time. The TOEFL Primary tests will be included in future calls for proposals when a public use test form and data can be made available.

8. Who will own the data and draft manuscript resulting from the project?

ETS will own the data and the copyrights of the reports/deliverables that are developed as a result of this research project. ETS encourages researchers to use the data and results for a scientific publication; however, manuscripts will be subject to prior review and possible redaction by ETS.

9. How about the dissemination of the research? Will I be allowed to present or publish it?

You will be able to present the research at professional conferences, but will need to request and obtain ETS's approval prior to the conference. You will also be able to publish the research report, but only if and when it passes ETS technical review. The technical review is carried out to ensure that all research reports funded through the grants are of high quality, regardless of the publication venue. Please inform us of your intended publication venue at the time of proposal submission.

10. How should I itemize the expenses that are listed in my budget?

For guidance on budgeting, please see the sample budget.