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Five Ways To Prepare For iTEP

While some English proficiency tests offer training programs, at iTEP, we intentionally do not. We feel strongly that the International Test of English Proficiency (iTEP) should be an aptitude test, which means it accurately measures the English skills you already have, not language skills you learned specifically for the test.

However, that doesn’t mean there is nothing test-takers can do to prepare for iTEP. The key is to minimize your anxiety and avoid any potential confusion.

International Test of English Proficiency

Here are 5 ways to help make sure your experience taking the test is as low-stress as communicating in English in your daily life. These ideas apply to all of our tests. Whether you’ll be taking iTEP Business at your workplace or iTEP SLATE or iTEP Academic for admissions or placement in school, all of our examsshare a similar intuitive structure, a convenient administration procedure, and a standardized scoring rubric.

Determine which skills will be assessed

One critical aspect of preparation is understanding what skills the exam is testing. iTEP exams assess some or all of the follow skills: speaking, writing, grammar, reading, and listening. It’s important to know which skills will be tested on the exam you are planning to take.

For admissions, institutions use iTEP Academic (college and university) or iTEP SLATE (young learners), which assess all five language skills. In some academic settings for placement and progress monitoring, only grammar, writing, and listening are assessed (these are the sections of iTEP that are scored instantly and automatically).

In some business settings, such as restaurants, hotels, and cruise lines using our iTEP Hospitality test, only speaking and listening are assessed because these are the skills most necessary for jobs in this field.

Learn the question formats of International Test Of English Proficiency

The questions you’ll find on the International Test of English Proficiency are in different formats than you will see on any other test. Becoming familiar with these formats ahead of time can make you more comfortable and relaxed during the test.

While previously it cost $10 to take the iTEP Practice Test, you can now take it online for free! The practice test uses questions that have been retired from the exam, so these are real test questions that just aren’t used anymore. You’ll be able to see exactly what the test looks like and how the different sections work. You will receive a score for the practice test which can help you get a sense of what your score may be on the exam.

Our social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Weibo also post retired test questions every week. Following these accounts is a great way to keep preparing for the test during your downtime playing on your phone.

 

Think like a grader

The Official iTEP Preparation Guide is a hard-copy book that is the only official guide to preparing for iTEP. In addition to examples and descriptions of every type of question you’ll see on the test, the Prep Guide provides information on how the different sections are scored. There are no secret tricks here, but it can helpful to have an awareness of all the different factors graders will take into account.

The speaking and writing sections of the test combine many language skills such as grammar,vocabulary, and pronunciation, so it can be helpful to give some thought to what graders will be looking for ahead of time.

Get comfortable with the clock

During the speaking and writing sections of iTEP, your response will be timed. Seeing a timer ticking the seconds away can make some people nervous if they’re not used to it. Find a friend and use the timer on your phone to practice speaking continuously for a certain period of time. On your own, you can practice writing out a complete thought within limited time.

Identify and focus on weaknesses

Either through taking an iTEP Practice Test or looking at recent homework assignments from an English class, try to get a sense of which skills your struggle with most. Then go deeper—within each language skill, iTEP also assesses sub-skills. For instance, the reading section assesses the test-taker’s performance on recalling details, understanding the main idea, recalling the sequence or order of information, synthesizing the information to draw conclusions, and understanding the vocabulary in the passage.

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You likely will find that you are better at some of these sub skills than others. Even if you don’t have much time to build new language skills, being aware of your weaknesses can help you be more mindful during the test. For instance, if recalling details is hard for you, you may want to take extra care to slow down and absorb the details of the passage instead of rushing through once you see what it’s trying to say.

 

The best way to prepare for iTEP? Use your English skills in your daily life!

While this may be somewhat frustrating advice to some test-takers, our number one recommendation for preparing for iTEP is to learn the English language and practice using your skills. We’ve carefully designed the International Test of English Proficiency to be an English assessment that can’t be gamed or tricked. While familiarity with the test can help your score be accurate by eliminating nervousness, there is no way to artificially increase your score.

If you’re reading this the night before you take your test, don’t stay up late studying. You already know what you know. Take a practice test if you have time, but most importantly, get plenty of rest, eat well before the test, and take deep breaths during the exam.

 

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online English proficiency test

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.

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Online English Proficiency Test

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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English Language Proficiency Test

Who Needs an English Language Proficiency Test?

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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.

Governments

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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