Australian agencies, professional bodies, universities and other organisations rely on TOEFL iBT® scores to give them consistent, objective results about test takers’ English-language abilities. But how do they do that, with test takers from all over the world?

The structure of the test

First, a brief review of the test structure. The TOEFL iBT test has 4 sections—Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. The test is taken on computer at secure test centres, where test takers use headphones for the listening passages and a microphone for the spoken responses.

The Reading and Listening sections are composed of multiple-choice questions that are marked automatically by computer.

The Speaking and Writing sections have open-ended questions (also called “constructed-response” questions, in testing parlance) that require test takers to speak their responses into a microphone and type their essays on the computer.

So how does ETS ensure that marking is fair? Here are 6 ways.

1. Most important, no marking takes place at test centres. All marking is done through a centralised scoring network that implements and ensures consistent scoring standards to help ensure the security and integrity of scores.

2. For the constructed-response questions, ETS uses both human markers and automated marking methods, for a complete and accurate picture of a test taker’s ability. Although automated marking models have advantages, human markers are also needed to measure the effectiveness of the language response and the appropriateness of its content.

3. ETS markers must undergo extensive training, pass a certification test, and pass daily calibration tests to ensure they are marking consistently. Markers are continuously monitored for accuracy by ETS scoring leaders and checked each time they score a new test question.

4. ETS uses a highly diverse pool of markers rather than those exclusive to an applicant’s country of origin. Markers see and hear worldwide responses.

5. ETS markers score responses anonymously for truly objective scoring.

6. Multiple markers’ judgments contribute to each test taker’s Speaking and Writing scores in order to minimize marking bias with 3-6 different markers used for the Speaking items and 4 ratings for the Writing responses.

For more information about TOEFL iBT scores, visit

Courtesy of Migration Alliance