As promised, here is my updated list of nine commandments for better test-taker experience (TTX) before and after a standardized English test.
I suppose I will post my list of suggestions specifically for the TOEFL program in the next day or two. I’ve so far neglected to do that because I don’t wish to offend anyone at ETS. I admire that organization and its mission. That said, they seem to be in a period of renewal and transition (to something better). Perhaps this is actually a good time to make suggestions.
These commandments, meanwhile, apply to every test providing organization.
1. Make all critical information accessible within one or two clicks from the test’s home page. Not five or six clicks.
2. Provide a beautiful FAQ page that quickly answers questions that are asked every day. Don’t bury important information in a bunch of PDFs or nested sidebar menus. This will not only improve test-taker experience, but will significantly reduce calls to your customer support lines.
3. If the test is taken at home, the price should be the same in every country (other than local sales taxes). Don’t charge $185 to take the test from my bedroom in country X, and $340 to take it from my bedroom in country Y.
4. Make it possible for students to create an account, register and pay for their test in less than five minutes.
5. Provide a free practice test that is different every time the student takes it. If your test uses automated scoring, implement that in your free practice test.
6. Eliminate most extra fees. If scores are sent electronically, don’t charge $15 per recipient. That looks exploitative. There should be one single transaction – registration for the test. Give everything else away for free.
7. If you are selling access to the scores and personal data of test takers, make that opt-out by default. And if a student needs to opt-out at a later time, enable them to do so via the website. Don’t require a long-distance telephone call to your customer support desk.
8. Don’t play favorites when it comes to your target markets, or countries with the most growth potential. People are savvy, and they can see what you’re doing. It frustrates them. Make sure everyone has the same access to preparation materials, discounts, fee waivers and special promotions.
9. If you are running a non-profit organization, state explicitly how test-takers’ fees are used.