The Mindset US Schools Need to Recruit International Students

The Mindset US Schools Need to Recruit International Students

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.

Virginia Tech Language and Culture Institute Chooses User-Friendly English Test iTEP

Virginia Tech Language and Culture Institute Chooses User-Friendly English Test iTEP

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.” 

Instant grading

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.”

Responsive listening

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 (AI) vs. the ESL Teacher


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.

Washback Matters

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.

6 Ways English Testing for Companies Makes Business Sense

English Testing for Companies

English is the global language for international business, making English testing for companies vital to assess the language skills of your employees. In most countries, English is often the default form of communication. No matter where an organization is located, an English proficiency test is a powerful tool that can help improve decision making, streamline communications, and provide data to justify hiring practices.


Every company needs to hire qualified workers, but it can be hard to accurately judge the English language proficiency of a potential employee during the interview process. English testing can be used to help differentiate between employees with the similar resumes and is an effective tool to screen candidates before the hiring process begins. But what type of testing works best?

iTEP helps determine the ideal test for your industry and need. Hotels, restaurants, cruise ships, and companies in the tourism industry that need a quick turnaround can use iTEP Hospitality, designed for fast-paced environments that tests listening and speaking and is graded in 24 hours.

Say, for instance, you need to hire 1,000 people very quickly and don’t have the time to conduct individual interviews with every candidate. An English language test can be used to set a baseline level of competency needed for the job. Testing can be administered on any modern computer, so companies can test applicants either on-site or with a remote test—a key accessibility feature that could help increase the diversity of your candidates. Results are provided fast in a simple format anyone can understand.


Even if you’re not doing a massive round of hiring, English language tests can help companies promote from within. Hiring is often a subjective exercise, but when deciding to promote an employee to a new position, it helps to have a quantifiable reason to make a decision. Administering an English language test will provide a score and benchmark executives can use to promote someone who has particularly strong English language skills, especially in non-English speaking companies.

Testing the specific language skills used on the job

It’s true that English testing for companies can help build a more skilled workforce. Yet not every industry needs its employees to converse in fluent English about complicated academic topics. A catering company needs to hire people who are knowledgeable about food and can make pleasant conversation, but doesn’t need someone to ace the writing section of an English test. iTEP has created English assessment tools for specific settings, such as au pairs and interns. At just 30 minutes, iTEP Conversation is a test that doesn’t feel like a test, and is perfect for companies that just need to evaluate the speaking and listening skills of their workforce. The convenience doesn’t end there—iTEP works with individual clients to design specific, branded English tests for any industry, such as an exam created specifically to evaluate English skills needed to work in the Japanese real estate market.

Using English skills of staff as a selling point

A recent LinkedIn survey revealed that 90% of HR Directors, CEOs and CMOs say that having English-speaking employees is beneficial to their businesses. Having qualified English speakers on staff is attractive to new clients, business partners, and potential employees. If your entire staff is fluent in English, you can point this out to customers as a way to distinguish your brand from competitors.

Evaluating ROI in English training

Companies that hire a large number of English as a Second Language (ESL) speakers, often choose to provide English language instruction to their employees. To see if the provided courses are effective, a company can administer an English language test before new employees start and after their instruction is complete. These results can help an employee understand their strengths and weaknesses, and also help an organization measure the ROI of its English instruction.

Shaping English training curriculum

English testing for companies can help modify the curriculum to best fit the needs of the organization. A good English language program should have clear goals, measurable outcomes, and metrics for success that the HR manager can easily track against. If test takers are scoring high on grammar but lower on other areas, these results can be used to shape how English is transmitted in your organization. iTEP is calibrated to show details that other tests might miss.

Administrators can also use the results to help improve the quality of its instructors.  Spotting patterns among test takers and making teachers aware of the outcomes of their courses can help them change the class to focus on improving the students’ weaknesses.

English Assessment Test

What makes an English assessment test effective?

English assessment test

English proficiency testing is crucial for educational institutions looking to admit qualified international students, and for companies that employ speakers of English as a second language. There are all sorts of English assessment tests out there, so what distinguishes a great English assessment test from a weak one? Here are a few things to look for when deciding on a test for your school or organization:


To get an overall picture of someone’s English language abilities, it’s important to test all of the language skills relevant to the test-taker’s study or work. For many industries, a simple overview of a prospect’s grammar skills is not enough. iTEP offers comprehensive exams that measure test-taker’s command of the English language both formally and informally, through verbal and written communication that occurs naturally in the workplace and in the classroom.

The proliferation of smartphones and the internet has given rise to a number of quick online-tests that purport to give a baseline level of a person’s English abilities. However, these tests typically don’t evaluate these skills in depth, and if they do, they fail to measure the speaking and writing abilities; both crucial skills to include when deciding on job prospects or potential students. Ensuring that you testing for both the speaking and writing abilities helps to showcase a test-taker’s command of voice and tone, the hardest thing to master in written language.

The flagship iTEP exams, iTEP Academic, iTEP SLATE, and iTEP Business all have five sections that asses speaking, writing, listening, reading and grammar. The score reports are intricately detailed, allowing for data gathering that tracks even the smallest improvements in a test-taker’s English proficiency. These reports are also very useful in helping identify areas that need more work.

Graded by man or machine?

Some English language tests seek to evaluate all language skills using artificial intelligence or non-native English speakers to grade the tests. Of course, there’s no reason multiple-choice sections of an English test shouldn’t be graded automatically and instantly. The difficulty arises in grading the active skills of speaking and writing, in which the test-taker generates organic content. Of course, it would be very fast and inexpensive to grade these sections automatically using artificial intelligence, but our research has found there to be no substitute for ESL-trained native English speakers.

Grading is an extremely complex task. Proponents of automatic grading argue that it’s more objective than human graders. To eliminate subjectivity, iTEP graders go through “norming” exercises which function as a type of calibration where all the graders are tasked with scoring the same test, allowing them to compare and adjust their standards based on a community-consensus, grading history, and expected performance per question. This ensures that results are consistent whenever the test is administered. Someday, AI technology may advance to the point of being able to provide accurate scores, but presently, only trained humans can reliably judge the intricacies and quirks that distinguish one level of English speaker from the next. 

The test should speak for itself

The nature of an English assessment test demands that the structure be sufficiently intuitive to the test taker so the questions can be understood without any extra explanation in the local language. All iTEP exams have a similar structure, a convenient administration procedure, and a standardized scoring rubric. Each type of question is formatted to be easily understood at first glance, even to a beginner English speaker.

Secure and convenient

Online English proficiency assessments are convenient, affordable, and accessible, but how do we know they are secure?

Naturally, the most secure environment to administer an English assessment test is a staffed test center. However, even in this setting, the top English tests on market have seen imposters taking the test on behalf of others. iTEP’s answer to this is a feature called FotoSure, a software which makes cheating by impersonation virtually impossible. FotoSure snaps and stores digital photographs of the test-taker throughout the exam period. Institutions can match the photos with the student arriving on campus.

In addition, iTEP utilizes a live, rotating item-bank that serves test questions randomly.

Each individual test is assembled from hundreds of random questions, decreasing the chances of ever seeing the same question twice. iTEP graders also conduct plagiarism scans, check testing history, and analyzing speaking samples for security breaches.

Not all settings require a maximally secure test. For placement purposes, for instance, intensive English programs often find it acceptable for test-takers to take iTEP on their home computer. When both the convenience of an at-home test and security are needed, iTEP has partnered with Examity to offer remote proctoring during which both the test-taker and his or her screen is monitored via webcam throughout the course of the exam.

Just the right amount of time:

Reports show that anxiety among test takers, especially students, is on the rise. Taking a long, taxing English test can be exhausting for any non-native speaker. This type of stress can skew results and have negative impacts on test takers. In an effort to help combat fatigue, iTEP conducted years of research, and found that a 90-minute test was the perfect length. At 90-minutes, an English test can be comprehensive but not unnecessarily long, while collecting enough data to provide reliable, detailed scores.

Evaluates a range of levels

Perhaps the most crucial aspect of an effective English assessment test is that it can accurately evaluate the skills of a wide-range of people. iTEP’s exams are laid out so that even someone with a very minimal grasp of English can answer at least a few questions. The writing section is open-ended, giving fluent or near-fluent students the chance to flex their muscle and really show how much they know. The graders will recognize the use complex structures, difficult verb tenses and other language nuances.

Who Needs an English Language Proficiency Test?

eenagers Young Team Together Cheerful Concept


English proficiency tests are typically associated with international students, but there are a wide variety of reasons that organizations of all types would need an accurate English language proficiency test. Companies, governments, as well as educational institutions at all levels have a need to precisely determine the English language skill of large or small groups of people in order to compare individuals to one another, monitor language acquisition progress, or develop curriculum.

This article explores the ever-expanding uses of English proficiency tests in order to give an overview of how these tools are used across industries and sectors in our increasingly data-driven world. Most importantly, we’ll also explore why English assessment tools are used and the opportunities they create for those who use them.

Better Than Guessing or Praying

Before we look at how English proficiency assessments are used today, it may help to understand why they came into existence in the first place. My career in international education actually predates the introduction of TOEFL, the first English proficiency test, in 1964. Before then, there was not an English proficiency requirement for admission of international students to US colleges and universities. Administrators simply hoped the students they admitted had strong enough English skills to thrive at the institution.

Similarly, employers had no choice but to do their best to size up the English skills of their applicants and employees based on interviews and conversations. It was all based on gut feeling.

Finally, governments that might have been curious about the English level of their population were left to wonder about it. There was no feasible way to test English language skills on a wide scale.

Thankfully, English testing has come a long way. There are now so many applications for English assessment tools, that there are products designed for specific uses and situations. Let’s explore some of the most common.

Higher Education

One of the most important parts of higher education is the cultural exchange that comes from studying with people who come from different places and backgrounds. International students are a vital part of any vibrant campus. However, when their English proficiency skills are too poor to participate effectively in class discussion or to complete the assignments, it’s harmful to both the international students and their classmates.

As a result, essentially all U.S. colleges and universities now have an English language proficiency requirement for admission of non-native English speakers. Typically, the test is taken at a test center in the applicant’s home country and the score is submitted with their application.

Over time, institutions of higher learning have realized that there is so much more they can do with an English language proficiency test. For instance, by testing students upon arrival and graduation, they can measure how their English language skills improved over the course of their study. If they’re using a test like iTEP that scores specific language skills and sub-skills, the institution can come to understand which language skills their international students are acquiring most quickly, and which may require greater focus in the curriculum.

Intensive English Programs

All over the world, there are thousands of programs designed specifically to help non-native English speakers improve their English language skills. (This site lists over 600 in the US alone).

Since these intensive English programs, or IEPs, exist to improve English language skills, providing proof of English proficiency for admissions isn’t necessary. However, it’s crucial that the students in these programs are placed into the proper level where they are most likely to succeed. An accurate and easy-to-administer test is key this process. iTEP has been working with IEPs for over a decade to refine how proficiency tests are used in placement, and we now enable IEPs to comprehensively assess the English language skills of their students within a few hours of their arrival on campus.

In addition, the potential to calibrate how an IEP functions, using an English language assessment test like iTEP that provides rich data, is tremendous. IEPs can make sure that different instructors teaching the same level are producing the same results and evaluating their students in the same way, for instance.

English Language Proficiency Test for Secondary School

The fastest growing segment of international students are not college students, but rather high school and even middle school students. The English language proficiency skills of these applicants are most accurately measured by an English test designed specifically for them. The word choices and scenarios presented in an English test meant for adults could be confusing or unfamiliar to young learners and skew the results.

Historically, this need has been neglected by the marketplace. ETS’s SLEP exam was a paper-based test that was widely used by private high schools and boarding schools favored by international high school students coming to the US. When it was retired in 2013, iTEP SLATE (Secondary Level Assessment Test of English) stepped in to become the industry standard.


Private Companies

The job interview process is so subjective. With the help of an English language proficiency assessment, comparing the English language skills of applicants is no longer guesswork. This is particularly helpful when a company grows and is rapidly hiring. Particularly if there is more than one person interviewing candidates, it helps to have concrete numbers to compare.

However, not all jobs use all language skills. Waiters, for instance, don’t need particularly good writing skills as long as they are able to speak and understand English quite well. They also don’t need to be able to discuss business or academic topics—their job is mostly focused on food and pleasant conversation. In recent years, iTEP has created English assessment tools for specific industries such as au pairs, real estate, and hospitality. In fact, we even create customized English tests for specific companies when they can identify unique language skills or scenarios they want to assess.


English Language Proficiency TestFor governments, data is power. Knowing how well their population communicates in English can be a major help to employment initiatives, attracting international companies, or becominga popular tourist destination.

Part of our goal at iTEP has been to make English assessment efficient enough to be implemented on a large scale. As a result, our tests have been used in massive initiatives in Colombia, India, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and more. In addition to national governments, state, county and municipal governments also rely on English

proficiency testing, both to get a sense of the skills of their citizens, and to ensure that government workers have the necessary English language skills for their job.

What’s next for English language assessment?

When organizations started to come to us with ideas for how to use our tests that we had never thought of, we began to understand that we had succeeded at creating English assessment tools that were flexible, affordable, and convenient enough that they had taken on a life of their own. With the continued proliferation of English as the global language, I believe we’ve only just scratched the surface of how English language proficiency tests can help organizations of all types do what they do better.

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What Does an English Language Assessment Assess?

It’s simple, right? An English proficiency test measures an individual’s English level. In fact, there are quite a few variables, not to mention that different tests reveal different things.

At iTEP, we feel a comprehensive English language assessment should measure the test-taker’s command of the language both formally and informally, through verbal and written communication that would occur both inside and outside of the classroom. Of course, not every situation calls for a comprehensive assessment, and certainly not every exam on the market offers one.

Online English Proficiency TestQuick and easy

There are many online tools that can give a rough idea of a person’s English level. Some take only a few minutes. While these tests can be fun for an informal comparison between friends, they don’t have much of a practical application in companies or institutions of higher learning.

However, the desire to quickly get a basic snapshot of a person’s English ability is fairly widespread. Our answer to this need is iTEP Conversation, an exam that assesses only the test-taker’s speaking and listening abilities in 30 minutes and is designed to be low-key and friendly in tone. It can be taken at home or administered at workplace or campus.

As with all iTEP exams, the score is highly reliable and tracks linguistic sub-skills within each section. iTEP Conversation is designed to give an extremely accurate measurement of what it’s like to have a casual conversation with the test-taker in English.

English Language Assessments let you see The complete picture

It’s no coincidence that the flagship iTEP exams, iTEP Academic, iTEP SLATE, and iTEP Business all assess speaking, writing, listening, reading and grammar. These represent the full range of English skills and are evaluated by every major test on the market.

All five sections are crucial to getting a full understanding of a test-taker’s English level. In some countries, writing and reading in English are emphasized in the school system, but speaking isn’t taught at all. Conversely, individuals who have grown up around English speakers but never formally studied the language may have excellent listening and speaking skills, but a poor grasp of formal grammar.

Breakdown of CEFR proficiency levels

The best summary of what each level of English speaker might look like in an interaction in English is the CEFR standard. iTEP scores align with these levels to help test-takers and administrators understand what the iTEP levels mean.

  • A1 level (Beginner)
    • At this level of proficiency, one can understand and use fundamental phrases and familiar daily expressions in order to meet concrete daily needs. For example, people a this level can introduce themselves and answer basic personal questions such as about where they live and what things they have. They can interact easily as long as the other party talks clearly and slowly and is ready to help.
  • A2 level (Elementary English)
    • Individuals at this level can understand sentences and common expressions. They can communicate while performing routine and straightforward tasks requiring a direct exchange of information and can also describe their background and immediate environment in simple terms.
  • B1 level (Intermediate English)
    • English learners at this level can comprehend critical points of clear standard communication on popular matters often encountered in school, leisure, work, etc. They can discuss sports or current events, for example. Individuals at this level can also produce some simple connected text on matters of personal interest and can also begin to describe experiences, hopes, ambitions and briefly use reasons to support their plans and opinions.
  • B2 level (Upper Intermediate)
    • This level of proficiency indicates the ability to understand the critical points of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics. It also reflects the ability to interact with a level of fluency and spontaneity that affords regular interaction with native English speakers without either party straining. Moreover, English learners at this level can produce cogent and specified text on a variety of subjects.
  • C1 level (Advanced English User)
    • English learners at this level can comprehend an array of demanding, longer texts as well as recognize implicit meaning while expressing themselves spontaneously and fluently. They can also use language effectively and flexibly for professional, academic, and social purposes. This is a level at which learners can produce clear, comprehensive, well-structured text on complex subjects, displaying a controlled utilization of cohesive devices, transitional connectors, and patterns.
  • C2 level (Proficient English User)
    • At this level, English learners can quite easily comprehend everything read or heard. They can also summarize and synthesize information from multiple written and spoken sources, reconstructing accounts and arguments into a coherent presentation. They display total comfort with written and spoken language and express themselves precisely, spontaneously, and cogently even while delivering nuanced information or navigating complicated situations.

Capturing nuance

English Language Assessment

As you can see, an individual’s English level is a complex and subtle thing. An effective English language assessment is able to differentiate between English speakers of slightly different ability. In addition, an English assessment tool should provide the test-taker with detailed feedback. Knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses can be quite useful in the language acquisition process.

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Uses of an Online English Proficiency Test

online English proficiency testEnglish proficiency tests are crucial for students who need to prove their language ability in order to be accepted to a school abroad. But can an English assessment tool be of benefit to the school itself? What about a company?

The answer is, yes! An online English proficiency test can be a powerful tool for organizations of all types to improve how they make decisions and the programs they offer. They key is to choose a test that offers rich data and to administer tests in a scientific manner.

Academic settings

Curriculum calibration

Intensive English programs or IEPs often have multiple sections of the same level. For instance, there may be 120 students at intermediate level in any given semester. These students will be broken into six sections of 20, each taught by different instructors. How can the program ensure that students are receiving the same education regardless of the section they are assigned to?

By administering an English proficiency test before and after semester, program administrators can see how students improved during the course of their studies. Administrators can also observe patterns relating to specific instructors. Does one instructor excel at imparting speaking skills while another tends to produce students with excellent grammar?

Making the instructors aware of the outcomes of their courses can help them craft curriculum that focuses on the language skills that need it most. However, it’s important for this to be framed as a constructive exercise for the teachers, not criticism or a threat to their autonomy. (iTEP’s Dan Lesho has written about this extensively)

Placement perfection

Even with finely tuned curriculum, students will not thrive in an English program if they are placed in the wrong level. By administering an English proficiency exam prior to arrival, students can be assigned to the appropriate level from day 1. Even if it’s not possible to test students ahead of time, an online English proficiency test such as iTEP is easy to administer upon arrival. Scores for the grammar, reading and listening sections of our tests are available instantly, and the speaking and writing sections can be graded in less than a day with advance notice.

Proof of progress

The market for qualified international students is very competitive these days. One potential selling point for colleges and universities or private high schools is the ability to demonstrate how much an international student’s English ability improves on average while studying at the institution. Through English assessment testing upon arrival and graduation, the institution can measure how much students learned—even if their major was in fields such as math or science.


English assessment in business

English Language AssessmentMonitoring return on investment

Many companies that employ a large number of English as a Second Language (ESL) speakers offer English language courses or instruction to their employees. In order to determine if this program is effective, the company can assess the participants before and after to measure how much they learned over time.

The science of promoting and recruiting

It can be difficult for executives to decide which employees deserve promotions or raises. One quantifiable factor that can be used to differentiate between employees with similar experience and performance is English proficiency. In addition, employees can be rewarded for improvements in their language skills.

In making hiring decisions, an English assessment tool provides a concrete metric for a skill that is vital to so many jobs, even in non-English speaking countries. Strategic use of English testing can streamline the hiring process and save time for hiring managers.

The convenience factor of Online English Proficiency Tests

When people picture an English test, many of them probably imagine pencil and paper. These days, an online English proficiency test like iTEP can be administered on any modern computer. This enables companies to test applicants and employees on-site or even remotely –allowing them to leave their red pens in a drawer. The results are provided quickly in an easy-to-understand format.

The speaking and writing sections of iTEP are particularly convenient when compared to the alternative of interviewing people in person. Since these sections of the test are hand-graded by ESL trained native English speakers who are frequently recalibrated for consistency, it’s actually much more effective as well. The grammar, listening and reading sections are graded instantly, so when an assessment of those skills alone will do, there’s no wait at all for the results.

Want to know more about the International Test Of English Proficiency?