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Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF
3rd Jun 2020

Testing update for June 2020: Pearson, TOEFL, IELTS, iTEP, Cambridge, LanguageCert, Duolingo

Short on time? Here are the highlights:
  • The Pearson PTE has been approved by UKVI within the Secure English Language Tests programme, and will initially be offered in 20 locations worldwide
  • TOEFL has introduced a new temporary programme testing in China while its regular test centres remain closed
  • Additional at-home testing options are now playing a more prominent role as well, including options from LanguageCert, Cambridge, and Duolingo

While most language testing operations have been suspended during the pandemic, there have been a number of important developments over the past two months, including the introduction of a wider range of at-home and online testing options. Some test centres are now beginning to re-open and more are expected to offer some level of test availability by July.

Pearson now approved by UKVI

Pearson announced late in May that it had received formal approval from UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) as a Secure English Language Tests (SELT) provider. The approval allows Pearson to provide PTE testing for those planning to live, work, or study in the UK. The testing will initially be available in 20 designated locations, including China. Pearson advises, “Bookings can be taken at all 20 locations, with 11 of the locations open to deliver testing, and the remaining 9 to open once individual COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. It is expected that all remaining SELT testing locations, including the UK, will become operational in phases during this summer.”

The test is available in three variants:

PTE Academic: For applications to UK higher education institutions that accept PTE Academic (degree level or above only)

PTE Academic UKVI: For all UK visas that require a four skills (reading, writing, speaking, listening) Secure English Language Test

PTE Home: For all UK visas that require a two skills (speaking and listening) Secure English Language Test

“I am pleased that we can now offer PTE at some locations for UKVI purposes,” said Freya Thomas Monk, Pearson’s Senior Vice President of English Assessment. “This means people can start to book, and in some cases take PTE as they continue to get ready to come to study, work or live in the UK. We advise test takers to check all relevant travel restrictions and health & safety requirements before they do so.”

TOEFL bridges gap for testing in China

The Educational Testing Service (ETS) also announced recently that it has set contingency plans to support continued TOEFL testing in China, even as test centres remain closed. ETS had previously launched an at-home testing service that is widely available in markets around the world. Mainland China was a notable exception in that at-home testing offer, and ETS has now established a weekly cycle of paper-based TOEFL iTP testing backed by an unscored video interview provided by Vericant.

ETS adds, “As TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition would not be available in Mainland China, we worked tirelessly to come up with an alternative that could temporarily bridge the gap – keeping students’ dreams on track until TOEFL iBT testing activities can resume, while also providing institutions with a valid and reliable tool to assess students’ English language proficiency.”

“We understand that testing suspensions throughout Mainland China over the last few months have been one of many sources of frustration for students and institutions during these unprecedented times,” said Srikant Gopal, Executive Director of the TOEFL® Program. “We appreciate the patience of Chinese test takers as we have worked tirelessly on a two-pronged approach — working to add additional TOEFL iBT testing dates when testing resumes, while also creating this unique TOEFL ITP Plus for China solution for test takers to showcase their English-language proficiency in the meantime, as this remains a crucial application component for institutions’ admissions processes around the world.”

TOEFL test centres in China are currently expected to remain closed until 30 June.

At-home IELTS testing

As we reported previously, IELTS has also launched an at-home testing service called IELTS Indicator. Please see the IELTS website for the latest information on at-home test availability, as well as the current status of IELTS test centres worldwide.

Cambridge brings Linguiskill home

Cambridge Assessment English’s AI-powered Linguiskill test will now also be available as at-home testing option. The relatively new test, first launched in 2017, has always been available online but now can better be administered at home via an additional option for third-party proctoring services.

iTEP's virtual proctoring

Thanks to its virtual proctoring service, the iTEP Academic Plus is available for at-home testing in markets around the world, including China.

The test if offered on an on-demand basis, and scores are delivered to partner schools within 24 hours of testing.

“Not only is iTEP providing at-home test results for college and universities, but we are also working with our many IEP/ESL partner schools to make sure they have a safe and secure online testing solution for their current ESL students this summer and fall,” said iTEP International President Jim Brosam.

LanguageCert test centres begin to re-open

Some UKVI SELT test centres began to re-open as of 1 June, and LanguageCert announced recently that a number of its centres have resumed operations. “Currently, 31 of our global SELT centres are operational, complying with local policy and guidelines regarding COVID-19,” said a recent company statement. Details are updated regularly on the LanguageCert website.

LanguageCert testing is also available online, with live invigilation by online proctors. 

Duolingo more widely accepted

Duolingo’s one-hour, AI-powered online test – which includes a live interview component with an online proctor – is another readily available at-home testing option. In recent months, the test has become more widely accepted by universities in major study destinations as institutions have moved to introduce more flexible admissions requirements for students where normal testing operations have been disrupted by the pandemic.

For additional background, please see:

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