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Toward an Understanding of the Role of Speech Recognition in Nonnative Speech Assessment TOEFL iBT

Zechner, Klaus; Bejar, Isaac I.; Hemat, Ramin
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Report Number:
ETS Research Report
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Subject/Key Words:
Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), Internet Based Testing (iBT), LanguEdge Courseware, Language Proficiency, Speaking Assessment, Automated Scoring and Natural Language Processing


The increasing availability and performance of computer-based testing has prompted more research on the automatic assessment of language and speaking proficiency. In this investigation, we evaluated the feasibility of using an off-the-shelf speech-recognition system for scoring speaking prompts from the LanguEdge field test of 2002. We first established the level of agreement between two trained scorers. We then adapted a speech engine to the language backgrounds and proficiency ranges of the speakers and developed a classification and regression tree (CART) for each of the five prompts based on features computed from the output of the speech recognizer. In a validation on held-out data, we found that while our features are not sufficiently comprehensive to adequately score these prompts, collectively these features appear to capture reliably some aspects of speaking proficiency.

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