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Distributions of ACTFL Ratings by TOEFL Score Ranges ACTFL ESL TOEFL

Boldt, Robert F.; Courtney, Rosalea G.; Larsen-Freeman, D.; Reed, M.S.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
RR-92-59, TOEFL-RR-41
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Achievement Rating, American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), English as a Second Language (ESL), Language Proficiency, Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)


The purpose of this study was to align verbal descriptions of test takers' language performance with distributions of the numerical scores they received on the three sections (Listening Comprehension, Structure and Written Expression, and Reading Comprehension and Vocabulary) of the TOEFL® test (Test of English as a Foreign Language™). The study used the American Council of Teaching Foreign Languages (ACTFL) descriptors as anchors for the TOEFL scores. The ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines, from which the descriptors were taken, are widely used. Qualified English as a Second Language (ESL) instructors rated their students' listening, reading, and writing proficiency using the ACTFL descriptors. Very shortly thereafter, the ratees took the TOEFL test. Students' ACTFL ratings were quantified and cross-tabulated with TOEFL section scores. Results were analyzed as follows: First, the need to adjust for rater difficulty was investigated. Second, typical descriptive data were developed. Third, several schemes were used to quantify the verbal descriptors from the ACTFL Guidelines. Fourth, the ratings and test scores were correlated. Fifth, the issue of the differential validity of the measures of speaking, listening, and reading was examined. Sixth, several estimates of the reliability of the ratings were obtained. Finally, the distributions of ratings at levels of the TOEFL section scores were developed. These latter distributions can be helpful in interpreting TOEFL scores in terms of language performance. Although there was no one-to-one correspondence between the TOEFL score level and the ACTFL rating level, the correlations between ratings and scores were substantial. (48pp.)

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