The South Carolina Board of Nursing now accepts iTEP as fulfillment for their English language assessment requirements.
iTEP International names long time partner, Jim Brosam, to lead operations in US headquarters.
International students have long been an integral part of American colleges and universities. Their opinions challenge the assumptions and beliefs expressed by U.S. students and faculty members both in and outside of the classroom. Their lifestyles bring cultural diversity and new ways of doing things to campus life. For many institutions, they also help keep the school afloat, providing billions of dollars to the economy every year and helping subsidize the education of American students. In the last few years, the number of students coming overseas to study in the states has dwindled—due in many parts to changes in visa and immigration policy. Even Reuters reports that new enrollments for the 2017-2018 school year slumped 6.6 percent compared with the previous year. What can universities do to recruit international students amid a rough few years? Here are few ways to make the process easier and increase international enrollment in 2019.
Need for speed
For many years, the availability of space could not keep up with the influx of international students in the U.S. This is no longer the case. International student recruitment has become an increasingly competitive field, with both large public universities and small liberal arts colleges trying to attract—and retrain—students from all over the world that want to study in another country. Now, more than ever, schools need to change their approach to international recruiting and be more proactive—and that includes getting the results from an English proficiency test as quickly and efficiently as possible.
iTEP is now accepted by over 800 schools and continues to follow an upward trend each year, banking on bringing in more international applicants because of iTEP’s on-demand English language evaluation. Graded in 24 hours and backed by native English-speaking ESL professionals. iTEP Academic has everything post-secondary institutions need to make informed admissions and assessment decisions quickly.
No roadblocks to apply
The math is easy—the harder it is to apply, the fewer applicants you will get. While this concept is nothing new, many institutions that recruit international students didn’t always notice because the demand was so high. The easiest way to skirt this problem is to streamline the application process and make it simple for prospective students to schedule and take an exam.
Think about it this way: If applicants have to wait weeks for a pre-set test date, and schools have to wait even longer to receive a score report, disillusionment and discouragement can easily follow. You can’t really sell the merits of your university if the application and enrollment process is needlessly difficult. That’s why iTEP makes it easy to take an English proficiency test and get the results back the next day.
In addition to on-demand scheduling at test centers in 51 countries around the world, iTEP now offers remote proctoring with Examity, an online proctoring service that helps ensure the academic integrity of online testing.
New avenues for testing
While in-person testing isn’t going away just yet, more and more students want the flexibility to take an English language proficiency test online, from any location. Many of Examity’s 500-plus higher education clients are moving aggressively away from in-person proctoring. This technology opens up new doors towards attracting and enabling remote applicant pools to apply for education in the United States.
We often hear from schools—including highly prestigious, recognizable institutions—that they get applications from international students they want to admit, but aren’t able to get the English proficiency test squared away in time. This can happen for a number of reasons. The most frustrating situation is when students have such a command of English that they don’t realize the English assessment test score requirement applies to them. This happens more often than you would think. With on-demand scheduling and remote proctoring, iTEP eliminates the need to wait for a test date—which can be the difference between the student choosing another school or delaying enrollment by a semester.
Fast turnaround should be mandatory
In our fast-paced world, there is really no excuse for long English test turnaround times. One foolproof way to recruit international students is to let them know right away if they’ve passed their English evaluation. iTEP gets scores to institutions within 24 hours, which lets you respond to students faster and spend less time jumping through administrative hoops.
The Welcome Project is a joint endeavor by the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI) and iTEP International, offering individuals classified as refugees assistance with the verification and evaluation of their international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence and determining their language proficiency through an approved language assessment test.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, as of 2017, there are more than 68 million people who have been displaced because of war, violence and persecution. In an effort to serve this displaced population already in the U.S., The Welcome Project© combines ACEI’s international credential verification and evaluation with iTEP’s English language proficiency test.
“As an international credential evaluation service provider, we see it as our responsibility and moral imperative to do our part to support the integration of refugees, where possible, by offering our expertise in this field, at the onset of their resettlement in the U.S.,” says Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert, President & CEO of ACEI. “By partnering with iTEP International through The Welcome Project©, we are able to combine our evaluation and English language proficiency test capabilities at specially reduced fees to make it affordable and amenable to institutional and organizational clients.”
“We feel that through our combined expertise, individuals displaced by war and persecution will be able to receive recognition of their education achievements and language competency,” says Dan Lesho, Executive Vice-President of iTEP International. “This recognition will enable them to integrate into their new adopted community much faster as they set out to further their studies or qualify for jobs.”
The Welcome Project© is made available to U.S. schools, colleges and universities, and employers who wish to provide these vulnerable and displaced individuals access to education and employment by ensuring they meet academic and English language proficiency requirements.
The International Test of English Proficiency was introduced in 2008 to modernize English assessment with on-demand scheduling, fast scoring, and rich, accurate data. iTEP offers a variety of assessment tools for university and secondary school admissions and placement, hiring and employee assessment (including tests for specific industries) and iTEP Conversation, which assesses conversation skills in 30 minutes and is graded by certified and trained native English speakers (as are all iTEP exams). More than 750 colleges, universities, high schools, and boarding schools accept iTEP results for admissions. Applicants can take iTEP at more than 700 test centers in 51 countries. iTEP International is headquartered in Los Angeles, California. itepexam.com
ACEI is dedicated to the advancement of international academic exchange and understanding through the dissemination of information on world educational systems and evaluation of international educational documents.
ACEI works closely with U.S. colleges and universities, Professional State Licensing Boards, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (Immigration Division) and the Human Resource Departments of several U.S. corporations with the evaluation and verification of international educational credentials. Our organization is actively involved in the training and professional development of admissions officers at U.S. institutions and examiners at U.S. State Boards, as well as officials at U.S. government agencies on matters concerning world educational systems, credential evaluation, diploma mills, and detecting document fraud. acei-global.org
Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc.
9461 Charleville Boulevard, Box 188
Beverly Hills, CA 90212, USA
Diablo Valley College shares their experience in adapting iTEP for the IEP world.
What makes one English communication test easier or harder than the next?
The University of São Paulo is a top 5 university in Brazil with a rich history and a high level of prestige in the country. Two USP graduate programs now accept iTEP scores for proof of English proficiency for admissions: The Drugs and Medicines Post-Graduation Program, and Professional Master Program in Civil Engineering.
Cátia Kajihara, executive director of iTEP’s Brazilian distributor, MK Consultoria em Idiomas, says these USP programs were attracted to iTEP’s ease of use and flexibility. “They like it is an international test available on demand, and that iTEP offers students a lower price,” she says. “They also like the detailed score reports and quick-turnaround for scoring.” iTEP is scheduled on demand at more than 700 test centers around the world–including two in the city of São Paulo.
“It’s an honor for iTEP to be accepted at what is essentially an Ivy League school in Brazil,” says iTEP International President Jemal Idris. “We set out to create a world-class, top-of-the-line English assessment tool, and we consider it a major success when institutions of this caliber join our growing list of partner schools around the world.” iTEP is accepted by over 800 institutions globally.
The Drugs and Medicines Post-Graduation Program of USP is part of the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, which was founded in 1898. The undergraduate course has approximately 950 students and the graduate programs have around 500 students.
The Professional Master Program in Civil Engineering is part of the Escola Politécnica da Universidade de São Paulo (Polytechnic School of University of São Paulo), also known as POLI-USP. Founded in 1893, POLI-USP was the first engineering school in the state of São Paulo. USP was founded in 1934 and incorporated POLI in the same year.
“POLI-USP has great importance in the scientific and academic fields in Brazil,” says Kajihara. “Its graduates have occupied prominent positions in public service and industry, including mayors and governors of São Paulo.” POLI has 4500 undergraduate students and 2500 graduate students.
Since 2013, the Virginia Tech Language and Culture Institute has been using iTEP Academic-Plus to help accurately place incoming students, administering the test upon the students’ arrival to get an instant baseline score of their English language proficiency. Testing and Assessment Coordinator Eric Moore says the relationship has been highly beneficial, praising iTEP as a user-friendly English test.
“The quickness of scoring is great, the database is great, and to be able to go in and locate a student’s test score right away is very valuable,” Moore says. “iTEP has really made things simple and very user-friendly.”
iTEP Academic-Plus is broken down into five segments: grammar, listening, reading, writing, and speaking. The first three parts of the test are multiple-choice, and are scored electronically in real-time. “The quick turnaround is really helpful,” Moore says. “I can log in and see if someone is done and go in and look at the scores right away to get an idea of where the incoming students are with grammar or listening.”
The speaking and writing sections of iTEP are graded by native English-speaking ESL professionals. Institutions can also opt to have their own staff grade the test if needed. Virginia Tech uses this option, and during a semester break, the same ESL trained instructors that teach the universities courses will come in and read through the essays and listen to the speaking sections of the test, which Moore says gives them a good idea of the students’ abilities before classes start. (See iTEP Business Development Manager Cerise Santoro’s explanation of why iTEP uses human graders.)
Small company, big heart
A large institution like Virginia Tech needs a user-friendly English test that is also flexible. Before each semester, the university has to get all the incoming international students to take a placement exam, but managing the schedules of so many college students can be very difficult. The school values iTEP because of the personal, hands-on customer service it offers.
“We don’t have to go schedule something with iTEP and say we’d like to have a test on a certain day, and then have to jump through hoops if we want to add another test,” Moore says. “If I call iTEP, I get someone helpful right away. The ease of scheduling is great—if we have one in the morning, we can schedule another in the afternoon and it’s no problem.”
Every school, business, or organization that uses a test has their own unique set of circumstances and obstacles to overcome to get the best results from an English proficiency test. iTEP understands that every situation is different, and works with institutions to customize the exam to different settings or to test different skills.
For example, Virginia Tech found that a few essay topics for its placement test were appearing more frequently than others. Moore contacted iTEP, and immediately noticed that the randomization of essay prompts is much improved. Each individual iTEP test is assembled from an “item bank” of thousands of questions, decreasing the chances of seeing the same question twice. In addition, iTEP utilizes a live, rotating item-bank that serves test questions randomly.
Troubleshooting made easy
It’s been said that excellent customer service helps strengthen your brand. At iTEP, we strive to offer our customers the best experience possible, and treat everyone with total respect. Moore repeatedly mentions iTEP’s excellent support team and how they’ve always been there, no matter the time, to help resolve problems. “When we’ve had issues, we’ve been able to reach a tech person with iTEP and been able to receive great customer service to help walk us through the issue,” he says. “The troubleshooting has always been handled very well.”
Created by education professionals
iTEP was founded in 2002 by two individuals with deep roots in the international education field. They wanted to create a user-friendly English test that addressed the needs of the international education community. The company wasn’t created as a business ploy, but as a true labor of love, something that Moore says makes it easy to believe in iTEP. “It’s nice knowing the background of a lot of the individuals that are a part of the organization,” he says. “What [iTEP Executive Vice President] Dan Lesho says, I trust. They have what’s important for the students in mind. Being smaller than other test companies, they have the ability to offer really tremendous support to any school or organization they work with.”
Artificial Intelligence and the ESL Teacher
English language assessment tools have come a long way since the introduction of TOEFL, the first English proficiency test, in 1964. Back then, everything was done by pen and paper, without a computer in sight. But as technology has advanced, so has the way these tests are administered, designed, and used. While computer grading is now the norm for many companies, artificial intelligence doesn’t eliminate the importance of using human graders—especially English as a second language (ESL) teachers—in assessing the writing and speaking sections of an exam. There’s no doubt AI plays an important role in the future of English language assessment tests, but there are many advantages to using ESL professionals to judge the competency of test-takers.
Computers Can’t Detect Nuance
We communicate in a subjective world. The purpose of language is to pass information from one human being to another. Artificial intelligence is not yet advanced enough to answer complicated questions or place the response in context of what else is around it. An ESL teacher has been trained to think about the big picture and ask questions like “Is the idea expressed here complete or incomplete?” and “Does this response make sense?” when grading an exam.
Language is highly dependent on context and on the different denotations and connotations of words and word combinations. The important thing to understand with AI evaluation of language is that the evaluation does not happen directly. Instead, AI evaluation depends on ratings arrived at through algorithms that compare speaking and writing to set models, and statistical analysis is often employed to “predict” the likely proficiency of the test taker. AI evaluates writing and speech characteristics not the communicative quality and critical analysis of a response. Human beings are still needed for that.
ESL-trained graders can detect this critical thinking and complex sentence structures. An exam grader, whether human or computer, needs to understand the language at several different levels, including the appropriate meaning of words in a sentence and how they interact grammatically to convey meaning, as well as the situation and contexts in which the words are used. Human graders are much more adept at this than any computer, no matter how good the AI is.
Often times, tests that use AI are simply asking the test taker to repeat a short utterance or read directly from a displayed text. In some cases, test-takers are asked to transcribe a short listening passage. Again, statistical analysis is used to “predict” the likely proficiency level of the test taker. Many have raised concerns that this invites test-takers to craft their responses with the automated grading system in mind, incorporating elements in their speech or writing that will trigger the best rating by the algorithm. This raises larger concerns about the washback effect of AI graded testing, especially in terms of promoting language learning. Specifically, these concerns involve sending a misbegotten message to language learners that successful communication means checking off component features of formulaic speech or writing rather than focusing on the effectiveness with which a unified idea is communicated to another person. Shifting the focus to the effective and authentic communication of an idea between human beings has been a theme in the field of language learning and teaching for many decades now.
Certified Teachers Make a Difference
The typical iTEP grader is an active ESL teacher who works in a classroom in addition to grading language assessment tests for us. Our graders have years of experience working with students of different levels of English comprehension and a strong knowledge of the psychology behind language learning. In addition to their qualifications, each of our graders is trained on a grading rubric we provide and have completed an extensive iTEP Grader Certification program.
Once they begin grading exams for us, our graders are required to participate in regular norming exercises that show how their evaluations compare to both their peers and the standards we set out for them. Our graders don’t live in a vacuum—this essential and frequent training gives them the skills to recalibrate and avoid internal bias. iTEP also employs a master grader who is frequently in contact with our graders to offer feedback, answer any questions, and help eliminate human error.
An Extra Level of Care
At iTEP, we sincerely care about what we do. iTEP International was founded in 2002 by former TESOL professionals with deep roots in the international education field. The goal was to create an English proficiency test that addressed the needs of the international education community, and the members of this community are iTEP’s constant partners in the continual development and improvement of iTEP tests. The company and its offerings have their roots in the communities they serve.
We don’t have outside investors looking to make easy money through a sale or public offering. We value the importance of language learning and how transformational it can be for people to become competent in a foreign language. We hire and train educators who apply their expertise to designing exams that provide reliable results. Without reliability, an English assessment tool has little value. While AI is more reliable than humans at many tasks, evaluating the skill level of spoken and written language is not one of them, and isn’t likely to be any time soon.