New test unites written, oral language skills

Janet N. Aronica

The new Internet-based format of the Test of English as a Foreign Language exam is changing the way English is taught in other nations.

Known as TOEFL, the test is a required English proficiency exam for international students.

Launched in September, the new TOEFL exam will test the same skills as before, only they won’t be tested separately. Reading, writing, listening and speaking will be overlapped, said Klaus Gommlich, director of the Kent State University English as a Second Language Center.

“I absolutely think this was a good thing for teaching English around the world,” he said. “Before it was a computer-based test with a reading section, and they had to write an essay. Now one skill is dependent on the other, and the topics are overlapping. Now they will look at the quality of the speaking. It’s not more difficult – it’s different. It’s more appropriate to what we expect from an incoming student.”

There will be changes to both the written and oral parts of TOEFL. The written exam will no longer directly test grammar knowledge. Also, in the speaking portion, students are now required to have their voice recorded.

The new test has met some criticism, Gommlich said.

“Traditions in language teaching do not change well. You need well-trained personnel, and that’s not done all over the world,” he said. “The institutions that complain are practicing outdated methods, and you won’t hear complaints from those who kept their methods updated toward communicative skills.”

While institutions are revising their English curriculums, the ETS company, which distributes TOEFL, is making new test centers, according to a company press release.

The lack of testing centers is a problem, Gommlich said.

“If you’re in Africa there might be one TOEFL test center in the capital and that’s it,” he said.

Despite logistics problems, Gommlich is optimistic about the long-awaited new test.

Contact Janet N. Aronica at [email protected].