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Mapping the TOEFL iBT Test Scores to China's Standards of English Language Ability: Implications for Score Interpretation and Use TOEFL iBT CSE

Papageorgiou, Spiros; Wu, Sha; Hsieh, Ching-Ni; Tannenbaum, Richard J.; Cheng, Mengmeng
Publication Year:
Report Number:
RR-19-44, TOEFL-RR-89
ETS Research Report, TOEFL Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
TOEFL iBT, Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), China’s Standards of English Language Ability (CSE), Score Mapping, Standard Setting, Cut Scores, Alignment of Standards, Score Interpretation, Selected Response Items, Constructed-Response Items


The past decade has seen an emerging interest in mapping (aligning or linking) test scores to language proficiency levels of external performance scales or frameworks, such as the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR), as well as locally developed frameworks, such as China’s Standards of English Language Ability (CSE). Such alignment is ultimately a claim about the interpretation of test scores in relation to external levels of language proficiency. To support such a claim, established procedures should be carefully implemented and multiple sources of evidence should be collected. In this research report, we demonstrate the application of a series of steps in building an argument for aligning the scores of the TOEFL iBT test, an international, large-scale language proficiency test of English as a foreign language (EFL), to the levels of the CSE. The alignment process comprised the following steps: (a) establishing construct congruence between the TOEFL iBT test and the CSE; (b) establishing recommended minimum test scores (cut scores), set by local experts, to classify language learners into the local proficiency levels; (c) collection of scores by test takers (N = 1,326) and evaluations of the test takers’ proficiency levels by their teachers, based on the local framework; and (d) consideration of the results of other alignment studies in the local context as well as the link between the CEFR and the CSE levels. We conclude with a discussion of the contextual issues that should be considered when interpreting test scores in relation to external proficiency levels. These contextual issues are important considerations because they have the potential to impact score-based decisions on individuals and institutions. We also discuss the implications for similar alignment research.

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