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TOEFL iBT® Test

The premier test of academic English communication

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TOEFL iBT Test Security

In the academic community, we’re all dealing with a world where the motivation and capability to commit academic and admissions cheating is on the rise. There is significant competition among students applying to academic programs, which can result in attempts by test takers to gain an unfair advantage on required tests or falsify score information.
 

Results you can trust

ETS has long been at the forefront of combatting test security concerns, and with more than US$60 million invested in state-of-the-art security annually, the TOEFL iBT test offers the best security of any English-language assessment.

  • Test-day security procedures include biometric voice identification, facial recognition and the use of electronic wanding at test centers.
  • For the TOEFL iBT Home Edition, ETS employs both live human proctors and artificial intelligence technology to prevent and detect suspicious activity.
  • The TOEFL Speech Sample Service and test-taker photos confirm student identity.
  • All human rating is done anonymously, eliminating opportunities for fraud between test takers and interviewers.
  • Since scoring isn't done at test centers and records aren't stored there, opportunities for scoring fraud are virtually nonexistent.
  • Tests are delivered directly from ETS to the test taker's computer, minimizing opportunities to steal content.

How we protect score integrity

We employ a three-pronged approach of prevention, detection and communication designed to protect the integrity of TOEFL iBT scores.

In addition, the ETS Office of Testing Integrity constantly monitors testing, investigates security issues and strives to ensure score validity worldwide, maintaining its long-standing commitment to reliable and secure test scores. And we will continue to adopt best practices and create new technologies to prevent and detect breaches of test security.
 

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 employs 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 that 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 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 samples1
  • 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:

Even with the most stringent security prevention measures in place, some test takers will try to gain an unfair advantage on the test. ETS investigates all reported incidents of misconduct, which can include photographic review, handwriting analysis and voice biometric analysis. The results of an investigation may lead ETS to cancel the scores or ban the test taker from future ETS tests.

ETS uses biometric voice identification software similar to the technologies used in the banking, law enforcement and healthcare industries. This technology helps ETS identify suspected impersonation and cancel those TOEFL iBT scores before they are reported.

ETS closely monitors all security incidents that happen during a test administration. Test centers that don’t meet ETS standards are closed. When test takers don’t follow security policies, the test administration is canceled or the incident is reported for further investigation.

ETS also conducts random inspections of test centers as well as audits at centers where concerns have been raised through supervisor reports, tips or test taker complaints. In some cases, ETS collaborates with local and national law enforcement agencies to prosecute professional impersonation rings.

Monitoring score statistics

ETS reviews and analyzes scores after each test session using statistical analysis methods to help identify invalid scores. The ETS Statistical Analysis team monitors score trends by test center, country and region.

  • System-generated irregularity reports are reviewed after each test administration.
  • Site historical performance data is maintained to identify any discrepancies that need to be addressed.
  • Online proctors are monitored for adherence to ETS policies and procedures.

Keeping score users informed is our priority. ETS works very closely with the institutions and agencies we serve around the world. When scores are canceled, ETS informs institutions that have the test taker's score report that the scores have been canceled. Learn more about our test-taker score cancellation policy available in the Bulletin.

Additionally, every concern regarding test results reported by an institution or agency is investigated. If you have a concern about a test taker's TOEFL iBT scores, please fill out the TOEFL iBT® Score Inquiry Form (PDF) and send it to communicatetestsecurity@ets.org .

We encourage you to contact us with any security questions or concerns.

Email:   communicatetestsecurity@ets.org
Security Hotline: 1-800-750-6991 (toll free for test takers in the United States, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Canada)
1-609-406-5430 (all other locations)

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