June 2006
Volume 10, Number 1

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Standard setting for next generation TOEFL Academic Speaking Test (TAST): Reflections on the ETS Panel of International Teaching Assistant Developers

Dean Papajohn
Pima County, Tucson, Arizona, USA


While many institutions have utilized TOEFL scores for international admissions for many years, a speaking section has never before been a required part of TOEFL until the development of the iBT/Next Generation TOEFL. So institutions will need to determine how to set standards for the speaking section of TOEFL, also known as TOEFL Academic Speaking Test (TAST). International Teaching Assistant (ITA) developers as a group have a long history of assessing oral English through semi-direct tests, interviews, and performance tests (Ginther, April, 2004; Briggs et al., 1997; Briggs, 1994; Smith et al., 1992; Plakans & Abraham, 1990). Educational Testing Service (ETS) convened a panel of nineteen ITA developers in Philadelphia on Sept. 24, 2004. This article reflects on that panel specifically and about standard setting in general. Although the focus here is on the speaking component of TOEFL, the process for standard setting recommended by ETS for the other three sections of TOEFL, namely writing, listening, and reading, is similar. Resulting cut off scores are only as good as the standard setting process from which they are derived. Understanding the standard setting process will lead to a more accurate interpretation of standards.

Keywords: EFL, ESL, TOEFL, assessment, speaking

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