Meeting Test Takers Where They Are

While attending another English-language convention, Jacqueline Jarvis is caught off guard by the most recent visitor to the TOEFL booth she’s manning. She’s used to chatting with English-language educators and vendors about the latest instruction techniques and test-prep technology. The man now standing in front of Jacqueline wants something else.

Diego is from South America and aspires to study in the United States to eventually become a pharmacist. His academic aspirations are at a standstill as his TOEFL test scores aren’t strong enough. He desperately wants Jacqueline to tell him the secret to mastering the test.

As a test-prep product manager at ETS, Jacqueline is all too familiar with this question from test takers.

Sadly for Diego, there’s no secret.

“It’s about creating opportunities to practice and develop the skills on a consistent basis,” said Jacqueline, recounting her conversation with Diego. “When I see motivated and ambitious students up against such a challenge, it makes me wish there was some magical wand and, poof, they’ve mastered another language.”

When I see motivated and ambitious students up against such a challenge, it makes me wish there was some magical wand and, poof, they’ve mastered another language.

~

Luckily for Diego, Jacqueline wasn’t going to let him walk away only with some bootstrap, straight talk.

The two exchanged information and over the next few months communicated about how he could better prepare for the test. Jacqueline even enlisted help from her colleagues in gathering preparation materials and other strategies for Diego.

Diego would go on to pass the TOEFL test.

The experience for Jacqueline, along with other similar experiences from ETS employees working in English language learning and assessment, highlighted the importance and development of the TOEFL Go! app.

“We needed a way to meet test takers where they are, not where it’s most convenient for us,” said Jacqueline. “As the test creator, we have so much to offer test takers in terms of preparation, but our materials and information weren’t packaged in a way that made them readily available to people who live their lives through smart phones.”

We needed a way to meet test takers where they are, not where it’s most convenient for us.

~

With a sea of unverified TOEFL test prep applications out in the world, the ETS team knew they had their work cut out for them.

“Test takers are looking for as much prep material as they can get their hands on,” said Jacqueline. “But we couldn’t vouch for any of the third-party apps out on the market, so we had to create something we knew would be helpful and a great experience for our test takers.”

Since ETS owns and operates the TOEFL test, sample practice questions on the TOEFL Go! app are actual test questions from previous versions of the test. The app also features tips from experts, a test center search tool, access to free and in-app purchasable practice tests, and easy access to their personal accounts to manage test registration and scheduling.

What especially sets the TOEFL Go! app apart is the speaking and writing scoring feature. Test takers can simulate speaking and writing portions of the test through the app and receive feedback on their responses. The feature provides more opportunities for test takers to practice these sections of the test without needing an instructor present or be physically at a test center.

“The TOEFL test is a part of people starting toward achieving their dreams,” said Jacqueline. “We need to offer them every opportunity we can to help them prepare, and I think we’ve added another way for us to fulfill that mission.”

TOEFL Go! is available in the United States, Canada and internationally as TOEFL Go! Global through iTunes or Google Play.