iTEP Case Study: J-Check

Assessing the English Proficiency of J-Scholars at Northwestern University

Introduction
Each year Northwestern University hosts hundreds of international faculty from all around the world who come to campus to teach and conduct research. Learn how Northwestern evaluates and documents the English fluency of each international scholar using the J-Check platform, which features the iTEP exam.

Case Summary

In 2015, new US government regulations for J-Scholars  (Exchange  Visitors)  put  Northwestern  University  in  the  position  of  needing  to  implement  an  English  language  proficiency  assessment  process  for  their  incoming  J-Scholars.  Beyond  the  need  for  institutional compliance, some J-Scholars were arriving on campus with low English language skills. This lack of English  language  proficiency  caused  tremendous  issues for the International Office and caused problems for the J-Scholars themselves as they navigated  insurance,  university  forms,  in-class  teaching,  and other daily activities requiring not just speaking, but reading, listening, and writing skills.

After a thorough review and one year pilot testing  program, Northwestern selected J-Check J-Scholar Testing as  the  primary  English  proficiency  assessment  option  for  incoming J-Scholars. J-Check is a testing platform that utilizes the iTEP Academic Plus exam. Northwestern cited: a comprehensive language assessment, ease of use, security, cost  competitiveness, and results within 24   hours as critical decision factors  for  selection  of  J-Check  featuring iTEP.

The Problem

Assessing the English Proficiency of J-Scholars at Northwestern University

In 2015, new US government regulations for J-Scholars  (Exchange Visitors) put Northwestern University in the position of needing to implement an English language proficiency assessment process for their incoming J-Scholars. With this new regulation, the US State Department began auditing universities hosting J-scholars to ensure compliance.
              | Federal Regulation 22 CFR 62.10(a)(2)
The exchange visitor possesses sufficient proficiency in the English language, as determined by an objective measurement of English language proficiency, successfully to participate in his or her program and to function on a day-to-day basis. At most universities like Northwestern, the process of evaluating English proficiency for J-visa scholars has been historically left up

to the recruiting academic department, where in many cases, the hosting faculty member personally vouched for his/her invited guest’s English proficiency. This “honor system” approach was  not seen as up to the standards of the new policy requiring an “objective measurement” and documentation of the English language assessment used.
Thus, Northwestern University needed to find and implement an English language proficiency testing and documentation process that put the institution in compliance of Federal policies and  helped decrease issues of low-level English fluency. This process also needed to be convenient and culturally sensitive to the many users from around the world.

The Approach

Each year Northwestern University hosts approximately 700 J-Scholars who come to campus to conduct research, teach, and engage in cultural and educational activities. J-visa scholar categories that universities often host include: Research Scholar, Short-Term Scholar, Professor, Physician, Specialist.
These exchange visitors include graduate and post-graduate level individuals who come to campus to work on research projects  with Northwestern professors. Frequently invited are also prestigious faculty members from Northwestern’s partner universities around the world. These faculty members hold doctorates and are often leading global experts in their academic field.
In 2015 Northwestern began reviewing their current English language proficiency assessment tools as well as other products on the market. The goal was a quantitative measurement tool that could provide a general language skills assessment without the intensity of a typical admissions exam. In addition, convenience, cost, and cultural sensitivity of the international guests were considerations.
Around this time, while attending a NAFSA conference, Northwestern administrators learned about Jameson Global and its new product called J-Check. In 2017/2018 a successful pilot program for J-Check was undertaken at Northwestern with J-Scholars from a number of different academic departments. In 2019, Northwestern University began using J-Check as their primary English proficiency assessment tool for incoming J-Scholars.

The iTEP Solution

J-Check J-Scholar Testing, featuring iTEP Academic Plus, proved to be the right solution for Northwestern University. The J-Check testing platform was designed specifically to allow J-visa scholars to undergo English proficiency testing in the privacy and convenience of their own offices or homes. There is no need to require international faculty members the inconvenience (and often cultural awkwardness) of scheduling and taking an exam at a test center. The battery of security measures in place by J-Check and iTEP ensure the integrity of the score results.
By using the iTEP Academic Plus exam, the University receives a comprehensive English language assessment report on grammar, listening, reading, writing, and speaking. This is not a speaking only test. Thus, Northwestern was able to set uniform, clear, and campus-wide English language proficiency requirements for all J-Scholars.
The process for prospective J-Scholars is simple and convenient. They go to www.jchecktest.com and click on Northwestern’s logo to read the instructions. Within 24 hours of payment processing, they receive both the official J-Check test ID and a complimentary test ID to try out. J-Scholars may take the test at any time and day of their choosing – no scheduling necessary. The official test is 80 minutes in length. The official score report will be delivered to the test-taker and the J-Check partner school within 24 hours guaranteed.
Since 2018, Northwestern University has welcomed to campus hundreds of J-Scholars using J-Check to assess and document English language proficiency. For more information contact Patti Jones, J-Check President at pattij@jamesonglobal.com.

J-Check allowed us to have the greatest experience at a prestigious university, like Northwestern. I strongly recommend taking the test as it will give you the opportunity of an incredible adventure.

Lic. Julieta Peluso, J-Scholar from Argentina
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Prior to the pandemic, the Sheridan College ESL program created, distributed and proctored its own English language proficiency exam used to place incoming international students into the appropriate ESL course level for non-native English speakers. However, as the pandemic spread, and face-to-face interaction quickly dissipated.

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The International Test of English Proficiency (iTEP) was introduced in 2008 to modernize English language assessment with on-demand scheduling, 24 hour grading, and accurate test data. iTEP provides a convenient and cost-effective testing option delivered in a highly secure environment.

iTEP offers a variety of assessment tools for university and secondary school admissions and ESL placement, hiring and employee assessment (including tests for specific industries), and iTEP Conversation, which assesses conversation skills in 30 minutes. All iTEP exams are graded by certified and trained native English speakers.

More than 800 colleges, universities, middle/high schools, and boarding schools in the USA and Canada accept iTEP results for admissions. Applicants can take iTEP at more than 500 test centers in 61 countries. iTEP International is headquartered in Los Angeles, California.

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