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TOEFL From a Communicative Viewpoint on Language Proficiency: A Working Paper TOEFL

Duran, Richard P.; Canale, Michael; Penfield, Joyce; Stansfield, Charles W.; Liskin-Gasparro, Judith E.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
RR-85-08, TOEFL-RR-17
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Communication (Thought Transfer), Language Proficiency, Language Tests, Performance Factors, Test Construction, Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)


This report examines the content characteristics of the TOEFL® test (Test of English as Foreign Language™) from a communicative viewpoint based on current theory in applied linguistics and language proficiency assessment. After a review of relevant literature, the authors developed and applied a four-part operational framework for analyzing the communicative characteristics of a language proficiency test. The first component of this framework consists of the grammatical, sociolinguistic, and discourse competencies required by test tasks. The second component consists of eight factors that could influence test performance. The third component consists of judgments of the relevance of the content of test items to academic and social language use. The final component relates the language and language tasks appearing in TOEFL test items and sections to a criterion-referenced scale of language proficiency. In this case, the Interagency Language Roundtable scale was used. Finally, the report discusses test design features that might improve the quality of language proficiency tests.

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