Through our vibrant network of distributors, iTEP is available in 49 countries across the globe. Until recently, there has only been one corporate office for iTEP International in Canoga Park, California. That is about to change.
iTEP International is opening its first international office in Guadalajara, Mexico, this month. “English language centers and universities in Mexico have taken a special liking to the iTEP family of exams,” says iTEP President Jemal Idris. “Our office in Guadalajara will allow us to offer more personalized support to clients, and to ensure every English language program in Mexico is introduced to iTEP.”
Guadalajara is the second largest metropolitan area in Mexico. It is centrally located and home to many top 100 universities in the country.
Michael Salenko, iTEP Executive Director, is managing and overseeing this expansion. Michael has been with iTEP since 2010, and no one possesses a deeper understanding of iTEP’s English assessment products and how they can be applied to the benefit of all sorts of organizations. Prior to joining iTEP International, Michael is fluent in Spanish and spent several years as an EFL teacher in Chile and Spain, before completing his MA degree in Germany and MBA degree in Shanghai.
“Michael is uniquely qualified to oversee this exciting international expansion, and we all look forward to furthering iTEP’s growth in Mexico and beyond,” says Idris. “This is the first of several international offices scheduled to open over the next 3 years in order to serve the growing demand of our international customers.”
iTEP (International Test of English Proficiency) is now exclusively distributed in Colombia by eDistribution S.A.S, which has facilitated large-scale language education initiatives reaching millions of Colombian students. eDistribution works in partnership with the Colombian government as well as educational institutions and private companies.
“iTEP is a proven resource used by governments around the world for major language, hiring, and education programs,” says iTEP International President Jemal Idris. “In eDistribution, we have a partner perfectly positioned to implement our English assessment tools on a wide scale.”
“iTEP offers high quality, very accurate exams,” says eDistribution President Laura Victoria Zabala Jaramillo. “I see great potential in the Colombian market because iTEP obviously has a superior product.”
English language programs in Colombia may already be familiar with iTEP. The suite of English exams has been available through EduSource, the previous exclusive distributor in Colombia, for some time. EduSource will continue to distribute iTEP as a partner of eDistribution, iTEP’s exclusive distributor in Colombia.
The International Test of English Proficiency (iTEP) was introduced in 2008 to meet the need for a comprehensive English test that could be scheduled on demand. From the outset, it was decided the test had to be accurate, cost effective for students, scheduled at the students’ convenience, include all language skills, and be graded within 5 business days. There are currently several iTEP exams for different markets: iTEP Academic for higher education and intensive English programs, iTEP SLATE for secondary school students, iTEP Business for hiring and business applications, iTEP Hospitality for use in the hospitality industry, iTEP Au Pair for assessing au pair candidates, iTEP Intern for interns and entry level business hires, and iTEP Conversation, a new exam launched in 2016 to assess conversation skills in 30 minutes that is graded by certified and trained native English speakers (as are all iTEP exams). More than 700 colleges, universities, high schools, and boarding schools accept iTEP results for admissions. Applicants can take iTEP at 650 test centers in 49 countries. iTEP International is headquartered in Los Angeles. itepexam.com
About eDistribution S.A.S
eDistribution S.A.S was founded in 2007 to support bilingual programs using new information technologies to benefit students and teachers. Through development of thousands of educational resources, partnerships with the Colombian government and major universities, and study abroad opportunities, eDistribution S.A.S has helped millions of students learn English as well as French, Portuguese, Mandarin, and Spanish.
The same year TOEFL was introduced, I entered the field of international education. It was 1964. Before that, most colleges and universities had no English language admission requirement. You showed up and prayed.
TOEFL was a godsend—finally, an objective way to know about applicants’ English skills. At this point, the test was paper-based, of course, and only included multiple choice questions. It was basic, but it was so much better than nothing that English assessment essentially continued in this form for more than two decades. From 1970-1998, I was President of ELS Language Centers. During this period, I observed the price of English tests rising, with little change in the product.
In the ‘90s, TOEFL’s first competitor emerged, IELTS. The introduction of speaking and writing sections moved the industry forward and began to distinguish between those with a real command of the language, and those who simply mastered the ability to test well. There was, however, still a long way to go.
By 2000, the rise of the Internet was in full swing. Yet, English assessment had not taken advantage of this tool. Tests were still largely paper-based—TOEFL iBT (Internet-Based Test) wouldn’t launch until 2005—and as technology increased the speed of communication and business, the scheduling and grading of English proficiency tests remained incredibly slow and laborious. Students had to wait weeks or months for the next pre-scheduled test date, and institutions didn’t get the results for some 14 days.
Plus, TOEFL and IELTS were (and continue to be) incredibly long and expensive tests, lasting four hours and charging $200+. My frustration with this state of affairs—both on behalf of students and institutions—led to the initial conversations that eventually became iTEP.
When we launched in 2008, our competitors had a 44-year head start, but we had the advantage of being able to rethink English testing from the ground up. YouTube had launched a couple of years before, and on-demand entertainment was clearly the next trend for young people. So, we thought, what is the purpose of these pre-set test dates? Why can’t an English test be scheduled on-demand? We also figured, in the age of email, couldn’t we get results to institutions quicker? Indeed we could–we now offer 24-hour grading for English language programs.
Furthermore, we wondered, why does the exam have to last four hours? Extensive testing prior to our launch revealed that a 90-minute test was no less accurate than the standard half-day. We went on to address the price of English assessment–we’re still not sure why a test needs to cost more than $100, let alone $200+. We also took a new look at what the information results provide, ultimately using streaming technology to let institutions hear the speaking samples generated by their students or applicants.
In some respects, the rest of the English assessment industry has caught up. In others, it has not. We’re thrilled that more than 700 institutions share our vision for an English test designed to provide convenience, accessibility, and accuracy to test-takers and schools in 2016. Here’s to the next chapter of English assessment history.
Last week, iTEP Chairman Perry Akins was in China for a wide variety of activities organized by Hunan Province iTEP Distributor Eduteches. In Changsha, Perry spoke at a high profile press conference, introducing iTEP and announcing three new iTEP test centers in the area. Hunan Broadcasting System’s Mango TV was there to cover the event and interview Perry. China National Radio also published a story about iTEP’s increasing popularity in the province.
After his talk, children interested in studying abroad rushed to meet Perry and ask him questions.
Perry also visited and met with a number of schools, companies, and governmental agencies either already using iTEP for English proficiency testing, or interested in exploring the possibilities of collaboration. The Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press published some photos and information about Perry’s visit on their website. Perry also visited Beijing Foreign Language University and State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs and in Beijing. Perry showed his appreciation to Jason and Sofia Liu of Eduteches for arranging the trip by taking care of the transportation while they were in the city.
One question we hear many times is “Will your test work on our computers?” With more than 600 test centers around the world and over 100 schools using iTEP for in-house English assessment, there is quite a variety of computer installations. Every business and educational institution has different hardware, but the short answer is that iTEP works on all fairly modern computers. Are there specific computers that work better than others?
For the best performance of the iTEP a direct connection to the internet is preferred over WiFi. Desktop and Tower computers work great, and usually have a direct connection, but might need a web cam added for our FotoSure feature. For convenience, laptops have all the necessary hardware, including speakers, microphone, and web cam, but keep in mind that connecting a quality headset will provide for a better testing experience. Laptops will also work better if they have a direct connection to the internet, but for the Chromebook, which only has WiFi, just be sure to have a strong WiFi signal in the testing area.
When it comes to a secure testing environment, Internet Explorer and Chrome are the best browsers to use. They have a secure mode for running web applications called kiosk mode. This mode blocks out other windows on the screen and makes it difficult to switch applications. It also hides the menus and search features that are normally present on the screen. Internet Explorer is available on all Windows PCs and allows for an easy install of our desktop icon to start the iTEP quickly in the secure kiosk mode. Chrome is available on Windows, Macs, and Chromebooks. Our Chrome install for Windows will create a desktop icon for easy startup of the iTEP in kiosk mode. We are looking forward to creating kiosk mode environments for Mac and Chromebook also, but that requires extra work to create an installation that will be accepted in the Apple Store and Chromebook Store.
The iTEP uses Flash to record audio in the Speaking section. One advantage Chrome has over Internet Explorer is that it comes with Flash built-in. When using Internet Explorer or the new Edge browser on Windows, Flash needs to be installed on the computer separately and we recommend keeping the version of Flash current for proper functionality. Other browsers might work fine for non secure iTEP Core tests, but if you are administering Plus tests, stay away from Firefox and Safari. We are slowly moving away from the use of Flash in our tests, but it’s still going to be around for a while until we are able to fully test browser internal capabilities of recording audio.
Overall, secure tests are best run on Windows PCs whether Internet Explorer or Chrome is used. Non secure tests will work well on Windows, Macs, and Chromebooks as long as the internet connection is strong. With the phasing out of Internet Explorer in Windows, Chrome will probably end up being the preferred browser for running the iTEP, but we will continue to try to make the iTEP work in a variety of browsers giving test centers as many options as possible.
More than 600 educational institutions now accept an iTEP exam for admissions. From boarding schools to community colleges, and state universities to liberal arts schools, each has different admissions criteria. We have assembled the following resources to help schools select an appropriate minimum iTEP score.
iTEP Academic Ability Guide What tangible abilities does a person with a given iTEP score in a certain language skill posses? This document allows administrators to imagine how individuals at different iTEP scores are likely to interact in an English-language classroom setting.
Since one of the advantages of accepting iTEP for admissions is that, with 640 test centers around the world and a lower price point than the competitors, iTEP is more accessible to many potential applicants. Therefore, we advise our partner schools not to set their minimum score higher than necessary, as doing so may cause them to miss out on qualified applicants.
US Highway Billboard English Lesson: The Lonely Pony Express
Taking a road trip, or long driving journey, is an American tradition. Drivers on the highways of the United States pass hundreds of billboards. These advertisements communicate a message in a very short amount of time. They also present an opportunity for teaching and practicing English! For instance:
Here are some English exercises based on this billboard.
What does it mean to explore? Use “explore” in a sentence.
Describe the scenery in the picture. What part of the US do you think is shown here?
What does it mean to be “lonely”? How can a road be “lonely”?
What is a pony? (Hint: it’s a young animal. But which one?) Do you know words for other baby animals?
In the 19th century, mail was delivered by people riding horses known as the “Pony Express.” What does the Pony Express have to do with “the Loneliest Road in America?” What is being advertised on this billboard?
We currently have approximately 400 international students. Our IEP is a seven-level program, and each session lasts for eight weeks, with a new intake of students happening five times per year. The number of students entering each session varies from 75 to 300+, depending on the session. We do placement testing with approximately 600-800 new students at CESL per year.
I joined CESL in 2011 as the new Assessment Coordinator, and one of my first jobs was to review the placement test in place. This review lead to a major overhaul, including replacing the existing commercial test with the International Test of English Proficiency (iTEP), produced and administered by Boston Educational Services (BES). I researched a number of different commercially available tests, and, decided to go with iTEP for our placement testing needs. We have been satisfactorily using the test since 2012.
BES have various versions of their proficiency tests available, and were very accommodating to our requests and were able to customize a test for our needs. We asked BES to create an academic placement test with Reading, Listening, and Grammar sections, and they created the 50 minute version of our current CESL Placement Test (which we supplement with our two in-house Writing and Speaking tests). We also asked BES to modify and simplify the test registration page to accommodate new students with very low levels of proficiency.
Responsive and knowledgeable staff ensure that any questions or requests are taken care of efficiently and professionally.
Eddy White, Ph.D. Assessment Coordinator Center for English as a Second Language University of Arizona
We know IEPs have varied English assessment processes and requirements, so we’re thrilled that our highly customizable and flexible exams and support staff have been able meet the needs of Dr. White and the UA CESL.
We periodically feature our iTEP partner schools on our social media and in our test-taker newsletter to let prospective and recent iTEP test-takers know all of the great schools they can apply to using their iTEP score as proof of English proficiency. Typically, these schools are in the US or Canada. But recently, we have been highlighting some of our new partner schools in Mexico and Colombia.
iTEP is now accepted for admissions at the following institutions:
As English continues to grow as the global language, we’re proud to have partner schools in a growing number of countries including Canada, China, France, Iran, Iraq, and the UK in addition to those mentioned above.
iTEP Founders in South America
iTEP founders Perry Akins and Sharif Ossayran recently visited iTEP partners in Colombia, Brazil, and Argentina to discuss opportunities for the continued growth of iTEP in the region. They are seen above with iTEP’s Colombian distributor, First Class English, who has set an example with their innovative use of iTEP in government initiatives.
Perry and Sharif also met with our trusted longtime Brazilian distributor Trends & Business who has been very successful with the iTEP Business exam (seen below), as well as new Brazilian distributor MK Consultoria. They rounded out the trip in Buenos Aires pursuing some promising opportunities there.
The appeal of computer grading for the speaking and writing sections of an English test is obvious. Instantaneous results that measure these skills would be useful for schools and English programs in a number of ways.
The trouble is, these results are not yet reliable. Anyone who has ever tried to use Siri or other voice activated software can tell you it’s far from perfect. Is this software, that transcribes our text messages with hilarious inaccuracy, really capable of determining a student’s language ability? Can we trust it with placement and admissions decisions that can have a major impact on a student’s future? Plus, there are advantages to human graders that may not be immediately apparent.
Content Matters in Our Subjective World
You may have noticed that word processing software assigns a “grade level” to your documents. This is accomplished using the Flesch-Kincaid algorithm which detects vocabulary and sentence structure. Grading software operates on the same principle. Using sentences that hinge on a “therefore” or conditional verb tenses can clock in at a higher level than writing samples using simpler structures, even if the idea expressed in short sentences is more complex.
For instance, the following nonsense sentence taken from Jorge Luis Borges’ story “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” passes a grammar check on the leading word processor:
Upward, beyond the on streaming, it mooned.
Grading software used by test providers is likely more sophisticated than word processors. However, we communicate in a subjective world. The purpose of language is to communicate from one human being to another. At this point, only humans can truly answer questions such as, “Does the response make sense?” and “Is there a complete idea expressed in the response?”
Correcting for Human Error
A common criticism of human graders is that they are bound to vary in their estimation of the level of a test-taker’s speaking or writing. However, there’s a lot that can be done to mitigate the margin of error, almost to the point of nonexistence.
At iTEP, we work with a wide network of trained ESL graders to score the speaking and writing sections of our tests (the multiple choice sections—listening, grammar, and reading—are scored by computer). Our graders are typically active ESL teachers working in the classroom in addition to grading tests for us. Many of them have 10, 20, or even 30+ years of classroom experience and a deep understanding of the psychology behind language learning. In addition to their qualifications, each of our graders is trained on a grading rubric we provide.
Once they begin grading exams for us, our graders do note work in isolation. We regularly conduct norming exercises that show how our graders’ evaluations compare to their peers, enabling them to recalibrate and adjust. Our master grader is in frequent contact with each of our graders, offering feedback and guidance.
A Matter of Priorities
Ultimately, we feel that grading software simply isn’t as reliable as human graders at this point, and without reliability, an English assessment tool has little value. So we do our best to compete against the advantages electronic grading does provide. We’ve condensed our grading turnaround to one business day for IEPs, and iTEP is one of the most affordable English tests for admissions.
Does the grading method play into the choice of English tests you use at your institution? Which factors do you consider most relevant? How would your ideal English test be graded?
Read this article as it originally appeared on the LinkedIn in page of BES Director of Operations & Academic Content Marielle Marquette.