Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) research projects

The TOEFL is the most widely used English language test in the world, used principally for the selection of students from non-English-speaking backgrounds for entry to higher education in the US and elsewhere.

Centre staff and associates have a long history of association with the TOEFL program through service on the TOEFL Committee of Examiners and the TOEFL Board, as well as through the conduct of TOEFL-related research. In 2015, the LTRC was awarded two new grants through the internationally competitive grant scheme, which started in early 2016.

Project 1: TOEFL Writing

Using a verbal reporting methodology, this study is designed to investigate the strategic behaviours displayed by test takers across three proficiency levels when completing the TOEFL iBT (internet Based Test) integrated writing task.  
It is anticipated that the results will build on current understanding of the skill integration processes used by second language learners at different levels of ability and proficiency with the view to (1) providing validity evidence for the TOEFL iBT integrated writing task, (2) arriving at a theoretical model of skill integration, and (3) providing insights to further inform and improve current information processing models.

Project 2: TOEFL speaking

An investigation of the way in which content from stimulus materials is processed and incorporated by test takers into speaking performances on the TOEFL iBT integrated reading and listening to speaking tasks.
Performance on integrated tasks requires candidates to engage skills and strategies that extend beyond language proficiency in ways that can be difficult to define and measure for testing purposes. This study will investigate how content from stimulus materials is processed and integrated into oral performances by test takers across three levels of proficiency on the TOEFL-iBT reading and listening to speaking integrated task. An innovative discourse analytic approach will be used to provide a thick analysis of content produced by test takers in task responses, particularly the integration of source materials into performances. This data will be analysed in conjunction with verbal report data, which will in turn inform theoretical insights into the way in which strategies interact with comprehension skills, speaking ability and task characteristics to impact the discourse produced in speaking performances. By combining a rich analysis of the content of speaking performances with an analysis of verbal report data, the proposed study represents a significant step forward in providing important theoretical insights into the nature of the reading- and listening-to-speak construct. Furthermore, the study will provide useful empirical evidence for test evaluation and validation purposes.