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An Investigation of Proposed Revisions to Section 3 of the TOEFL Test TOEFL ESL

Schedl, Mary A.; Thomas, Neal; Way, Walter D.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
English as a Second Language (ESL), Reading Comprehension, Test Construction, Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), Vocabulary


The TOEFL® testing program is currently exploring a change in Section 3 of the TOEFL test that would replace the vocabulary subpart with additional reading comprehension questions. This change has been proposed by internal test development specialists and is supported by external experts in the field of English as a second language. The purpose of this study was to investigate the proposed revision to Section 3 in terms of the length and timing that would be necessary to address concerns of test speededness of the section. The study was carried out using an experimental design with test length and testing time defined as independent variables, and examinee test performance defined as the dependent variable. In addition, several psychometric issues relating to the proposed revision to Section 3 were investigated as part of the study. The results of the study supported the implementation of a revised TOEFL Section 3 consisting of five reading passages with a total of 50 items. The results of the study also suggested that a total testing time of no less than 55 minutes should be allowed for the revised TOEFL Section 3. Additional psychometric analyses indicated that the current TOEFL score scale can be maintained with the revised Section 3, and that the proposed revisions will not appreciably affect the reliability and validity of Section 3 of the TOEFL test.

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