English Language Testing Worldwide: Know Your Test
English…the international language; what would we do without it? People can complain until the cows come home that they must learn English, and about how insane the spelling rules (or lack of them) are; but, the simple fact is that English IS the international language. If you want to be a competitive job-seeker in this increasingly globalized world, you’ve got to have English skills.
I have been lucky to have been born in a native-English-speaking country, which affords me the opportunity to teach English globally. I have been teaching English overseas for 16 years now, in various countries. The teaching of the English language is a world-wide market. While there is no way to actually count the number English-Foreign-Language learners and English-Second-Language learners in the world, here are some impressive estimates.
Kenneth Beare, on About.com, in his article entitled “How many people learn English globally,” wrote the following:
“It is estimated that over 1 billion people are currently learning English worldwide. According to the British Council, as of the year 2000 there were 750 million English-as-a-Foreign-Language speakers. In addition, there were 375 million English-as-a-Second-Language speakers. The difference between the two groups amounts to English-as-a-Foreign-Language speakers using English occasionally for business or pleasure, while English-as-a-Second-Language speakers use English on a daily basis.”
I must interject here and say that English-as-a-Foreign-Language learners are those that acquire English in settings where English is NOT the primary language of instruction, such as in a public school in Mongolia. English-as-a-Second-Language learners are those that acquire English in settings where English IS the primary language of instruction, such as in a public school in the USA or in an international K-12 school.
The numbers of English-language learners worldwide are impressive; and the numbers grow daily, because when someone graduates from schools, many continue to learn English in order to obtain a good job, or obtain a promotion within their company.
Because of this huge market, there is a niche for standardized testing. Level tests, formative tests, summative tests, are all needed, with international standards. Perhaps you’ve heard of some of these exams: IELTS, CIPP, Checkpoint, IGCSE, TOEIC, TOEFL, and CAPE.
Let’s start with IELTS. IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System. It is jointly owned by British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations (Cambridge ESOL). It has more than 800 test centres and locations in over 130 countries. It is primarily used as a college entrance exam by universities in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries for students originating from non-English-speaking countries.
CIPP stands for Cambridge International Primary Programme. At the end of the Grades-1-to-5 programme, students sit for Maths, Science and English exams. Cambridge Checkpoint is a middle years programme, from grades 6 to 8, after which students sit for Maths, Science and English exams. IGCSE stands for International General Certificate of Secondary Education, for grades 9-11. All the exams presented in this paragraph are owned and operated by Cambridge International Examinations (or CIE).
TOEFL and TOEIC are owned and operated by English Testing Services (ETS). I used to be under the impression that Princeton University owned ETS, but that’s not true. ETS is located very near to Princeton, but ownership is dubious. According to the article on Wikipedia’s website ETS was started by three non-profit organizations; however, ETS appears to be an independent organization of its own. TOEFL stands for Test Of English as a Foreign Language. It is primarily used by universities in the USA and Canada as an entrance exam for students outside the U.S. and Canada, which do not come from English-first-language countries. TOEIC stands for Test Of English for International Communication. It is primarily used in the business sector to assess employee or potential employee English ability.
CAPE stands for Computer Adaptive Placement Exam. It is a computer-based level-test, used by over 400 universities in the USA to place students into the proper level of language courses. Those languages include ESL, Spanish, French, German, Russian, and Chinese. The language one of concern here is the ESL-CAPE exam. CAPE was designed by Brigham Young University (BYU) professors to test returned Latter Day Saint (LDS) missionaries’ language skills, and give them college credits for their language skills. Now it is run by Perpetual Technology Group (PTG), which has turned it into a web-based exam, called “webCAPE”. PTG is the exclusive licensee of Brigham Young University’s webCAPE. PTG has been offering webCAPE since 2004 and now has over 200 institutionalized clients globally.
So, when it comes to International English language testing, that’s about it. Each test serves a different purpose, and it seems that various institutions in the world have found their niche in the English language testing market.
To learn more about any of the tests above, please contact me.