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Title:TOEFL as a prediction tool for placement into ESL writing courses at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Author(s):Kokhan, Kateryna
Advisor(s):Davidson, Frederick G.
Department / Program:Linguistics
Discipline:Teaching of English Sec Lang
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
English as a foreign or second language (ESL) placement
English Placement Test (EPT)
self-reported versus official data
Abstract:The English placement test (EPT) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) is designed to provide an accurate placement (or exemption) of international students into ESL writing and pronunciation classes. Over the last three years, UIUC has experienced an increase in number of international students taking the EPT. Some on campus have suggested that TOEFL might be a suitable pre-screening tool for predicting ESL placement, regardless of the test publisher’s advice not to do so. The primary purpose of this research is to find out whether TOEFL can serve as a pre-screening tool for placement into the ESL courses. For this study, I mainly analyzed the written EPT results. The data analysis shows that TOEFL does not accurately predict ESL placement since there are many instances when the students with relatively high TOEFL scores are placed into the lowest levels of the ESL writing courses and when the students with low TOEFL scores have a high chance of exemption. However, the analysis of t-values for placement into the ESL classes provides the evidence that TOEFL writing section scores may be used as an additional reference when deciding which level a student should be placed into. Another important finding is a distinct pattern of dependency between the time of taking TOEFL and the writing EPT: the correlation is stronger when the time gap between the tests is short but it dramatically goes down and becomes slightly negative around Week 50; however, starting from the 50th week it goes up again. The drop of the correlation might be explained by weakening of learners’ essay writing skills over the time. The increase of the correlation after Week 50 may be caused by the reuse of the TOEFL score reports after a year of studying in an English speaking country. However, there might be some additional factors explaining such a pattern of dependency and they should be addressed in future research.
Issue Date:2011-01-21
Rights Information:Copyright 2010 Kateryna Kokhan
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-01-21
Date Deposited:2010-12

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