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An Inquiry into Possible New Items of Background Information about TOEFL Candidates TOEFL

Feldmesser, Robert A.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Educational Background, English (Second Language), Foreign Students, Predictor Variables, Student Characteristics, Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)


Candidates taking the Test of English as a Foreign Language™ (TOEFL®) are currently asked to supply several items of background information: birth date, sex, number of times TOEFL has been taken before, whether they are seeking status as undergraduate or graduate students, their native country and native language, and (for prospective graduate students only) their intended field of study. The candidates provide this information on one side of their answer sheet, according to instructions given in the handbook sent to each candidate upon registration. In view of the extreme heterogeneity of the TOEFL candidate population, it seems likely that additional information would be valuable. Foreign students (39 undergraduate and 18 graduate) were interviewed at four institutions. Four variables emerged as being the most promising: total number of years of formal study of English; reading of English-language newspapers, books, and magazines; number of years of father's education; and number of years of mother's education. Collectively, these variables offer the promise of enhanced research on various aspects of the TOEFL candidate population and on foreign students generally. The appendices include the interview questions used in the study, as well as interviewees' comments on TOEFL.

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