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Setting Language Proficiency Score Requirements for English-as-a-Second-Language Placement Decisions in Secondary Education TOEFL ESL

Baron, Patricia A.; Papageorgiou, Spiros
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), TOEFL Junior, English as a Second Language (ESL), Standard Setting, Cut Scores, Student Placement, Secondary Education, Middle School Education


The purpose of this study was to collect recommendations for minimum score requirements (cut scores) on the TOEFL Junior English-language proficiency test in order to guide decisions on the placement of learners into English as a second language (ESL) support classes. The TOEFL Junior test, intended primarily for students ages 11 and above, measures the academic and social English-language skills representative of English-medium instructional environments in secondary education. The study focused on three ESL placement decisions that affect international students applying for admission to English-medium independent or private secondary schools: (a) deny admission due to insufficient English-language skills, (b) admit conditionally with placement into ESL support, and (c) admit unconditionally (for students who have sufficient language skills at the time of admission to attend mainstream classes without ESL support). A combination of a modified Angoff standard-setting approach and a modified Performance Profile standard-setting approach was followed to identify the TOEFL Junior scores for schools to include in their decision-making process. A total of 16 language experts from private schools in 12 U.S. states served on the standard-setting panel. The results of this study provide policymakers with the minimum cut scores recommended by the panel for each section of the two testing modes: the TOEFL Junior Standard and the TOEFL Junior Comprehensive. Recommendations for the use of these scores and limitations of the results are discussed.

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