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TOEFL iBT® Test Security: Prevention

Here are some of the ways we use preventive measures to protect the integrity of TOEFL iBT® test scores.

Establishing Secure Testing Conditions and Training Proctors

The TOEFL iBT test is taken at test sites certified by ETS or from home, depending on the test taker's preferred delivery method.

Each test site undergoes a rigorous screening process to determine if the facilities meet security and technical requirements and to obtain verifiable references.

Test proctors are thoroughly trained to manage test administrations and are required to follow the procedures outlined in the Policies, Practices and Procedures Manual. As such, they are required to pass a certification exam to demonstrate their knowledge of test delivery, as well as testing policies and procedures, before they can serve as Test Center Administrators.

ETS conducts announced and unannounced audits of test sites, as well as visits by mystery shoppers, to observe and confirm that ETS standards are being properly applied at test centers around the world. Sites are subject to quality audits and third-party observation.

Using Human Monitoring and AI Technology for At Home Testing

For the TOEFL iBT® Home Edition and the Speaking section of the TOEFL iBT® Paper Edition, ETS is employing multiple best-in-class security measures that rely on both real-time human monitoring and artificial intelligence (AI) technology to see and respond to hard-to-detect incidents:

  • Live proctors will ensure constant vigilance, including confirming the test taker's identity and scanning their home environment before testing begins, flagging any suspicious activity, and intervening if necessary.
  • AI technology — such as facial recognition, gaze tracking and video recording of the entire session — will guard against malicious activity. Examples of test taker activities that AI will flag as possible cheating incidents include attempts to impersonate another test taker, open a new browser, run unpermitted software and use unpermitted objects, such as a cell phone during the test administration and breaks.

Before the test begins, photos are taken of the information within the ID document and of the test taker. The proctor verifies the identification document is current, valid and acceptable, and then uses facial recognition to compare the ID document with the person sitting at the computer. Artificial intelligence is then used to randomly verify the test taker matches the identification document multiple times throughout the test.

Delivering Test Content

Test content that is delivered directly from ETS to the test taker's computer uses the same internet security protocols as those used by major financial institutions for secure transmissions. The communication channel uses state-of-the-art encryption, and if a transmission is altered or disrupted, our software will detect it.

Centrally controlled, state-of-the-art algorithms and a large bank of test questions ensure that test content is different among test locations and across time zones, minimizing opportunities to steal content.

At the beginning of each test administration, the test software automatically closes all windows or applications that are not part of the TOEFL iBT test administration, including instant messaging (IM). It closes any applications that try to open during the test and then automatically logs the incident. The software also locks the desktop, suppressing key combinations so the test taker cannot switch to any other application.

Instituting and Enforcing Test Taker Rules and Requirements

ETS utilizes some of the most extensive and proven measures to ensure security on test day:

  • using trained proctors and test administrators as well as AI technology and electronic surveillance for test monitoring
  • adding new technologies such as wanding, mobile phone scrambling and other techniques (select locations)
  • collecting handwriting samples, signature samples*
  • photographs taken and embedded in score reports
  • adhering to strict ID requirements, appropriate for each country
  • after checking into the test session, test takers:
    • are prohibited from bringing items into the testing area that could be used as a testing aid or to collect, share or collaborate on test content.
    • have no access to personal items such as books, electronic devices, handbags and backpacks.

If a test taker refuses or fails to follow any instructions from the proctor, their test will be terminated. For the full list of security policies and procedures, download the TOEFL iBT® Information Bulletin.

Maintaining the Quality of Scoring and Score Reporting

To further safeguard against test takers obtaining unfair advantages, no scoring is done at the test center or by test proctors. ETS separates the scoring process from the testing process, eliminating many security issues that would arise from giving test administrators access to scoring tools. Also, proctors cannot be directly involved in English-language instruction or test preparation, and they cannot administer the test to an individual where it could present the appearance or actual possibility of a conflict of interest.

Because ETS separates scoring from test administration, raters receive spoken and written responses from test takers worldwide; there is no possibility they will know the individuals whose responses they are given to score. For more information, see:

Next: Detection

* Does not apply to the TOEFL iBT Home Edition or Paper Edition