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TOEFL® Young Students Series Research Program: Research Grants — 2019 Call for Proposals


The TOEFL® Young Students Series (YSS) Research Grants are intended to support research related to the TOEFL YSS assessments (the TOEFL® Primary and TOEFL Junior® tests) as well as foundational research that promotes high-quality language assessment related to young English language learners between ages 8 and 15. This year, priority will be given to proposals that address the topics identified in the research agenda below.

For the current grant period, ETS is able to provide funded researchers with a complete TOEFL Junior Standard test form and corresponding item-level data, including demographic information about test takers. Requests for research instruments and data for other ETS Young Students Series assessment products (e.g., the TOEFL Junior Speaking test, the TOEFL Primary tests) will be considered on a case-by-case basis and granted when feasible. Please be aware that legal concerns related to the protection of test taker identity may limit what data can be shared with external researchers. ETS welcomes grant applications from researchers who plan to recruit participants and collect data locally in countries around the globe.

Please Note: Applicants for the 2019 cycle are required to submit a brief Letter of Intent containing a description of the project prior to the submission of a full research proposal (see detailed instructions below).

Eligibility: Researchers around the world who hold a Ph.D. (or equivalent doctoral-level research degree), have expertise in English language learning and assessment, and who are affiliated with an academic institution or not-for-profit organization.

Amount of grant: Up to US $50,000

Research Topics

Potential research topics include but are not limited to the following:

  1. Construct/Content Relevance
    1. Relationship between TOEFL Junior or TOEFL Primary test scores and young language-learners' English communication skills in non-testing contexts
  2. Foundational Research Topics
    1. Theory of language development in young English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners
    2. Policy related to the assessment of young EFL learners
    3. Innovations in learning or assessment of young EFL learners
    4. English education and assessment practices for young EFL learners
    5. The types of assessment or other evidence teachers use to inform the teaching and learning of young EFL learners
    6. Domain analysis of communication skills for young EFL learners
    7. Language development patterns of young EFL learners (including meta-analyses and studies that analyze longitudinal data)
    8. Cognitive and affective factors that influence language development in young EFL learners
    9. Impact of large-scale standardized language assessments on young EFL learners, teachers, parents and society

Important Dates

May 1, 2018 Letters of Intent due
May 11, 2018 Response to Letters of Intent
July 13, 2018 Proposals due
March 1, 2019 Tentative start date for funded projects (See FAQ # 3)

Application and Proposal Process

Letters of Intent must be submitted via email to by 11:59 p.m. ET on Tuesday, May 1, 2018. Applicants who submit Letters of Intent by the deadline can submit full proposals by 11:59 p.m. ET on July 13, 2018.

Letters of Intent must include the contents outlined below under Letter of Intent Content Requirements. ETS will respond to each letter of intent via email by May 11, 2018. In some cases, suggestions may be provided to improve the quality of the proposal. Therefore, it is recommended (but not required) that applicants wait to receive the response to their letter of intent prior to writing a full proposal.

Proposal submissions must include the following documents:

  • 2 copies of the study proposal (1 blind copy, 1 non-blind copy; see detailed requirements below)
  • Principal Investigator's CV

Letter of Intent Content Requirements

Interested researchers are to submit a brief letter of intent by May 1, 2018. The letter must be submitted via email to with "Letter of Intent" in the subject line, and should contain the following information:

  • the names and institutional affiliations of the principal investigator and any co-investigators
  • the research topic the proposal addresses
  • a very brief description (maximum 400 words) of the proposed study, including a high-level, tentative description of the research questions, planned methods and significance to the field
  • a description (as detailed as possible) of any anticipated need for ETS support in the form of materials (e.g., test instruments) or data from ETS testing programs

Receiving letters of intent from potential applicants informs ETS about the approximate number of applications that may be received and allows for more efficient planning of the grant review process.

Proposal Content Requirements

The non-blind copy of your proposal must include all of the following key components:

  • A cover page, which must include:
    • the name, institutional affiliation, and country (or countries) of citizenship of the principal investigator and any co-investigators
    • the physical address, email address and phone number of the principal investigator
    • the name, physical address, email address and phone number of a representative of the principal investigator's research institution who is responsible for negotiating and signing contracts
    • the title of the proposed project
    • identification of the research topic(s) addressed by the proposal
    • the date of submission
  • An abstract page, which must include:
    • the title of the project
    • a statement of the problem including a brief description of the project proposed and a brief discussion of the implications or utility of the anticipated outcomes (250 words maximum)
    • identification of the research topic(s) addressed by the proposal
  • The body of the proposal should be approximately between 1200 and 1500 words and must include each of the following sections:
    • Rationale (statement of the problem or the issue and relevance to one or more of the research topics above)
    • Literature review (focused summary of related research)
    • Research questions (specific question(s) or research objectives to be addressed by the project)
    • Methodology (explanation of the proposed research methodology, including a description of the study context and participants; instruments to be used; data collection procedures; identification and coding of variables; and analyses)
    • Implications (a brief discussion of the implications or utility of anticipated or possible outcomes and relevance to practice or theory)
  • References
  • Budget (See our sample budget for needed specifications.)
  • Schedule: List of the major activities of the project and the period in which each will be conducted; please assume March 1, 2019, as the start date for the project.
  • Publication plan: Please specify, in as much detail as possible, how you plan to publish the manuscript(s) resulting from the funded research (e.g., as journal article, an ETS Research Report, or other venue).

The blind copy of your proposal should be the same as the non-blind copy, except it must not include:

  • the cover page
  • the author(s)' identifying information (including names and affiliations) anywhere in the abstract page, body, references, budget and schedule

Proposal Format Requirements

Please follow the following format:

  • Microsoft® Word (.doc or .docx)
  • Times New Roman font size 12
  • 8.5" x 11" (U.S. "Letter") page size
  • One-inch (1.0") margins on all sides
  • Double (2.0) spaced
  • For page numbering, paragraph indentation, references, graphs and tables, please follow APA style (American Psychological Association, Sixth Edition)

Proposal Evaluation Process

Each proposal will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • relevance to the research topics identified by the researcher
  • soundness of the methodology
  • feasibility of the proposed research
  • potential contribution to theory, research or practice
  • qualifications of the principal investigator

Applicants invited to revise and resubmit proposals will receive constructive comments. An invitation to submit a revised proposal does not guarantee that applicants will receive a grant.

Reporting Requirements and Payment Schedule

All grant winners will be required to submit a mid-grant progress report roughly 6 months after the commencement of their funded study. The exact due date for the progress report depends upon the individual project schedule. Please indicate the date by which you intend to submit your mid-grant progress report in your project schedule.

Grant funds are generally disbursed in 3 payments, aligned to study milestones. A typical grant might receive a first disbursement near the beginning of the project to help defray expenses incurred during data collection, second disbursement after the mid-grant progress report is approved and a final disbursement after the project's final report has passed review. The timing and amount of grant disbursements is flexible, depending on the project's needs. In your budget and project schedule, please estimate the specific amounts you will need for specific purposes on specific dates. For each payment that is disbursed, ETS must receive an invoice that itemizes the relevant project deliverables for which grant funds are requested.

Dissemination Plan

Authors are expected to submit a publishable draft report as the final deliverable of the grant. Typically, the research can be published either as an ETS Research Report or as an article in a scholarly journal. When a final grant report successfully passes technical review, it can be submitted for publication. In your proposal, please specify the publication venue you plan to pursue.

Grant recipients are required to appropriately acknowledge the support of the TOEFL program when disseminating the results of the funded work. The following standard disclaimer should be included in any publications including conference presentations:

This research was funded by Educational Testing Service (ETS) under a Committee of Examiners and TOEFL research grant. ETS does not discount or endorse the methodology, results, implications or opinions presented by the researcher(s).


If you have additional questions about the application process or the grant in general, please contact us at

Frequently Asked Questions

1. I am a foreign national working in the United States. Can I apply for the grant?

Yes, but to make sure you will be able to perform the work associated with the project, you must first discuss potential involvement with your university or institution.

2. I am working outside of the United States. Can I apply for the grant?

Yes, but to make sure you will be able to perform the work associated with the project, you must first discuss potential involvement with your university or institution.

3. When can work on the project begin?

Please consider March 1, 2019, as the tentative start date for the project. The actual start date will vary depending on the duration of the contract process involving your university or organization and ETS. Contract negotiation and study planning may take several months depending on the regulations of your university or institution.

4. How long can the project last?

The expected duration for each project is 12 months. However, in special cases, projects may continue beyond 12 months. Decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis, and projects cannot exceed 24 months. If you intend for your study to last more than 12 months, please include an explanation in your proposal's schedule section.

5. If the project continues beyond the initially agreed-upon end date, will additional funding be available to researchers?

No additional funding will be made available.

6. My project involves payments to participants. Should I include these in my budget?

Yes. In your proposal budget, please include details about the payments you plan to make to potential participants.

7. I need a data set for my study. Is there a dataset I can use?

For the current grant period, ETS is able to provide funded researchers with complete item-level data for the TOEFL Junior Standard test, including demographic information from about 1,000 test takers. Requests for data from other TOEFL Young Students Series assessment products (the TOEFL Junior Speaking test, the TOEFL Primary tests) will be considered on a case-by-case basis and granted when feasible. Please be aware that legal concerns related to the protection of test-taker identity may limit what data can be shared with external researchers. If you are considering a study that requires ETS support in the form of test instruments and/or data, please include a detailed description of your needs in your Letter of Intent and your proposal.

8. I am interested in administering the TOEFL Junior or TOEFL Primary tests for my research. How are the TOEFL Young Students Series assessments administered?

If you plan to administer a research test to your participants, ETS can share with you a complete version of the TOEFL Junior Standard test, which you can administer to your research participants free of charge. No research versions of the other young student assessments (the TOEFL Junior Standard test and the TOEFL Primary tests) are currently available; however, researchers may administer publicly available sample items.

If you intend to administer the secure, live test to your participants for research purposes, please be aware that the TOEFL Junior tests and the TOEFL Primary tests are administered locally to students in schools or other institutional settings. When approved by ETS, researchers are responsible for administering the assessment for the purposes of their study. For more information about the assessments, please visit TOEFL Primary tests FAQ and TOEFL Junior tests FAQ.

Please also note that ETS cannot provide live, secure assessments or constructed-response scoring services free of charge. If you plan to use the secure, live test in your research, or to use publicly available sample tasks to collect spoken or written responses to be scored at ETS, please contact to obtain more detailed information on fees you would need to budget in your proposal, and for any further questions regarding test administration for research purposes.

9. If I want to administer one or more of the assessments, how are the tests scored?

If you administer the TOEFL Junior Standard research version, ETS will provide you with an answer key that can be used for scoring purposes. If you administer a secure, live assessment such as the TOEFL Primary test, then the test will need to be scored by ETS and you will need to include a budget for scoring activities in your grant proposal. Please contact ETS at regarding an estimate for the budget.

10. Who will own the data and draft manuscript resulting from the project?

ETS will own all data associated with the funded research. The Principal Investigator or the Principal Investigator's institution will own and retain copyright to any paper that is presented at a conference or accepted by a journal for publication. ETS will own and retain the copyright of any manuscript that is either published as an ETS Research Report or NOT accepted for publication. ETS encourages researchers to use the data and results for scientific publications; however, all conference papers and manuscripts will need to be subject to prior review and possible redaction by ETS.

11. Will I be allowed to present the research at conferences?

Yes, we encourage our grantees to present their work at professional conferences. Grantees are required to submit an abstract and presentation slides to ETS for review at least 2 weeks prior to the date on which they are to be submitted or presented. In addition, grantees are required to include the standard disclaimer statement in their presentations (see Dissemination Plan above.)

12. How should I itemize the expenses that are listed in my budget?

For guidance on budgeting, please see the sample budget.

13. Can I request funds for computer software in the project budget?

Under normal circumstances, we do not provide funds for software purchases, as most universities or institutions already provide all necessary software.