Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) research projects 2015-2019

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.

In 2015, the LTRC team worked on two TOEFL projects, awarded through an internationally competitive grant scheme, which started in early 2016 and were completed in early 2019.

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.

Project 1: An Investigation of the Relationship between Writing Proficiency Level and the Strategic Behaviours Involved in Integrated Listening- and Reading-to-write Performances


Using a verbal reporting methodology, this study was 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: An investigation of the way in which content from stimulus material is processed and incorporated into speaking performances on the TOEFL iBT integrated reading


In this project, we investigated the way test takers across three proficiency levels use information from reading and listening passages in their responses to a TOEFL iBT integrated speaking task. We combined discourse analytic and verbal report methods to analyse two sets of relationships: relationships between the content test takers produce and content from the source texts; and relationships between test takers' strategy use and the way content from source materials is integrated into performances. Findings will provide theoretical insights into the nature of the reading- and listening-to-speak construct, particularly the way in which strategies interact with comprehension skills, speaking ability and task characteristics to impact the spoken discourse produced by test takers.

Project  1

Sponsor / grant scheme

Educational Testing Service / TOEFL Committee of Examiners Research Grant

Associate Professor Ute Knoch
Dr Sally O'Hagan

Project 2

Sponsor / grant scheme

Educational Testing Service / TOEFL Committee of Examiners Research Grant

Project team members

Professor Gillian Wigglesworth
Dr Kellie Frost