3 Online English Language Proficiency Tests That Are Adapting To The At-Home World

Non-native English speakers who apply to study abroad in international student programs in the United States must provide evidence of their English proficiency. These standardized English-language assessments ensure that students have the necessary skills to understand and produce academic writing as well as communicate effectively with their teachers. English proficiency tests are a valuable screening tool for many admissions teams to determine and track international student success. In early March, many English-language testing administrators suspended their operations and closed testing locations around the world due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

During that time, we advised our school partners to consider allowing a wider range of at-home and online English language testing options to minimize the disruption to their international student application and admission processes (4 tips for successful admissions teams during COVID-19). It is critical for international student programs to remain flexible with their admissions requirements as the English-language testing industry and market adapted to the impact of the global crisis. The major providers in English-language testing, including iTEP and Duolingo, responded by providing affordable, proctored, valid, and reliable take-home options for students worldwide.

In the last three months, we have seen some significant developments in the English-language test market, with some testing centers beginning to re-open and more offering additional availability in July 2020. While test security remains a significant issue with competition among applicants to international student programs increasing, English-Language proficiency test-makers and administrators are taking the necessary steps to combat these concerns and investing in better protections for testing integrity.


iTEP SLATE and Academic Plus, is available on-demand for at-home testing in markets around the world, including China. The test is offered on an on-demand basis, with scores are delivered to schools within 24 hours of testing. Its virtual proctoring service allows both the test-taker and their screen to be monitored via webcam throughout the exam (Read more about their security measures iTEP’s website).

“Not only is iTEP providing at-home test results for college and universities, but we are also working with our many IEP/ESL partner schools to make sure they have a safe and secure online testing solution for their current ESL students this summer and fall,” said iTEP International President Jim Brosam (ICEF Monitor).

Duolingo English Test

Duolingo, another popular online test, is a one-hour exam that includes a live interview component with an online proctor. Recently, Duolingo has increased their market share and become more widely accepted at both the secondary and higher education level as institutions have moved to introduce more flexible admissions requirements for students because of the pandemic. Duolingo’s test differs from other major tests in its cost-effectiveness ($49) and accessibility as an hour-long test compared to TOEFL, which typically takes three hours to complete. It’s testing security utilizes dynamic assignment of test questions, human test proctors, video and writing samples, external application restrictions, and independent review.


While TOEFL testing centers have remained closed in China, the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the company that owns TOEFL, announced the introduction of TOEFL ITP Plus for China, a contingency solution for Chinese test takers impacted by COVID-19. The new product includes combines the existing paper-delivered test with a short video speaker interview. “We appreciate the patience of Chinese test-takers as we have worked tirelessly on a two-pronged approach — working to add additional TOEFL iBT testing dates when testing resumes, while also creating this unique TOEFL ITP Plus for China solution for test-takers to showcase their English-language proficiency in the meantime, as this remains a crucial application component for institutions’ admissions processes around the world,” said Srikant Gopal, Executive Director of the TOEFL® Program (ETS).

The closure of academic testing centers due to the coronavirus pandemic has caused a significant shift in the English-Language proficiency test market, with most test-makers now offering online and at-home exams. The rapid growth of take-home English tests as been mirrored by its acceptance at both the college and secondary education levels. International student programs should consider reviewing their English testing requirements to indefinitely accept these online and at-home English tests to accommodate students affected by coronavirus pandemic. The increased accessibility and cost-effectiveness of these take-home English tests open new markets for international student recruitment where testing locations were not previously located, such as Central Asia and Africa.

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