ETS Publishes Best Practices for Developing English-Language Proficiency Assessments for International Test Takers


Princeton, N.J. (October 9, 2013) —

With English now the preferred language of global education and business, Educational Testing Service (ETS) today published guidelines for best test development methods to ensure the validity and fairness of English-language proficiency tests. Funding was provided by the TOEFL® program as a contribution to the profession and language-testing community.

The new document, Guidelines for Best Test Development Practices to Ensure Validity and Fairness for International English Language Proficiency Assessments, was co-authored by John W. Young, Youngsoon So and Gary J. Ockey, three members of ETS's Research & Development Division.

The guidelines complement two existing ETS publications, ETS International Principles for Fairness Review of Assessments (2009), which focuses primarily on general fairness concerns and the importance of considering local religious, cultural and political values in the development of assessments used with international test takers, and Guidelines for the Assessment of English Language Learners (2009), which spotlights assessments for K–12 English learners in the United States.

"We have covered a broad range of topics, including definitions of key terms, planning and developing an assessment, scoring selected- and constructed-response items, statistical analyses, validity research, and providing guidance to and receiving feedback from stakeholders," says Young. "We intend for these guidelines to be widely disseminated and hope that the application of the guidance contained in the publication will advance and improve the assessment of English-language proficiency of candidates worldwide."

"As with any scientific endeavor," Young adds, "continuous improvement must be a goal, and so we encourage anyone involved in the practice of assessing English-language proficiency to share their wisdom and experiences with us so that we can continue to refine and improve this publication in the future."

"ETS is committed to ensuring that our assessments and other products are of the highest technical quality and as free from bias as possible," says Barbara Kirsh, Executive Director of the Office of Professional Standards Compliance. "To meet this commitment, all ETS assessments and products undergo rigorous formal reviews to ensure that they adhere to the ETS Standards for Quality and Fairness, which include specific guidelines related to fairness issues, which are set forth in a series of six publications dating back to 2002."

ETS Standards for Quality and Fairness are being reviewed currently and will be revised to remain comparable to the new American Psychological Association, National Council on Measurement in Education, and American Educational Research Association's Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing, when they are published in late 2013 or early 2014.

About ETS

At ETS, we advance quality and equity in education for people worldwide by creating assessments based on rigorous research. ETS serves individuals, educational institutions and government agencies by providing customized solutions for teacher certification, English language learning, and elementary, secondary and post-secondary education, as well as conducting education research, analysis and policy studies. Founded as a nonprofit in 1947, ETS develops, administers and scores the TOEFL® and TOEIC ® tests, the GRE® tests and The Praxis Series™ assessments.