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Technologies for Language Testing TOEFL

Frase, Lawrence T.; Gong, Brian; Hansen, Eric G.; Kaplan, Randy; Katz, Irvin R.; Singley, Kevin
Publication Year:
Report Number:
RM-97-05, TOEFL-MS-11
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Language Tests, Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), Educational Technology, Test Construction


This paper reviews current and emerging technologies relevant to language assessment. It provides a user-centered perspective on technology-based language assessment. We first discuss eight stages involved in the development of language tests, and seven functions implicated in those stages, to provide context for the discussion of computer and other technologies. A separate section is devoted to user-centered design in the context of test development, with particular emphasis on repeated user testing and an evolutionary approach to test design. Thus, the paper addresses the cognitive and social technologies that are needed to support efficient technology-based language assessment. The paper then reviews hardware, software, and item development technologies. A functional description is given of a complete language assessment system, which includes authoring, delivery, administrative, and infrastructure substrate components. Implications of this review for test development, technology implementation, and research are then described. System integration is perhaps the weakest link in the development chain. For instance, statistical measures are rarely incorporated into language systems in any sophisticated way; hence, communicative acts, the technology that entails their performance, and statistical models of those performances often comprise bits and pieces rather than a unified and connected language assessment system. The final section of this paper includes recommendations for strengthening the test development process, the management of technology, and research in order to develop a strong and coherent technology-based assessment infrastructure, including technical, social, and corporate supports.

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