TOEFL score standards eliminated
By Mark Brown
Foreign students applying to Western this year will no longer see cut-off requirements in the academic calendar for the Test of English as a Foreign Language.
Following changes made to the use of TOEFL scores in 1995, Western psychology professor Marvin Simner further proposed to eliminate the publishing of the requirement scores due to findings that the test was not exclusive in demonstrating a student's ability to learn in another language. As a result, the university's Senate passed a motion this December to discontinue publishing test score standards of admission.
At the time these changes were being made, questions about the validity of the test were raised after hearing appeals from students who got low scores following a decision to raise the cutoff mark from 560 to 580, explained Simner. "Western raised the cut-off score [at this time] because other neighbouring universities did the same thing."
Simner, who conducted a study on the effectiveness of the TOEFL, discovered how a student's score on the test is not a valid predictor of how successful they will be at university. "There was no difference for those students who scored below to those above the cutoff point," he said.
Other Western administrative members agreed that changes to the test were necessary. "This change is an attempt to give more of an equal footing for those students who speak English as a second language," said Western's deputy registrar Robert Tiffin.
There is a lack of confidence in the test, said Western's VP-academic Greg Moran. "The university is not, however, trying to back away from its academic standards to increase enrollment by removing the TOEFL cutoff scores," he added.
The TOEFL will still be considered for admission purposes but it will no longer be the only factor used to decide if a student will be admitted, Tiffin said.
Carleton University has developed the Carleton Academic English Language assessment to be used as an alternative to the TOEFL. The test is designed to measure what students can do with the English they already know, explained Christine Adam, language testing manager for Carleton's school of linguistics and applied language studies.
"It is easy for students to do well on the test but some are unable to meet the complex demands of the classroom," she added.
Tiffin explained Western currently does not use CAEL mainly because it is not as pervasive as the TOEFL, but it would be considered if a student submits it with their application.