There is some fascinating new data about the TOEFL iBT Home Edition available from the International Education Association of Australia.  I’m leaving on a holiday in just a moment, but I want to quickly draw attention to a few tantalizing data points.  Please note:

  1. The Home Edition is even more popular than I thought.  At least among Australia-bound students, by June of 2021 it accounted for 40% of testing.  I bet it is even higher now.
  2. Note how the mean score of Australia-bound students was 93.4 in 2019.  That is a bit higher than I would have guessed, but only a little.  You can also see the mean scores for each section.
  3. Next, note how the mean score of Australia-bound students taking the test center version of the TOEFL iBT from January to June 2021 was 94.6.  That’s a healthy jump, but it is typical of the fact that the mean increases almost every year in most countries.  This our very first look at 2021 data, by the way.
  4. But note that the mean score of Australia-bound students taking the Home Edition of the TOEFL iBT from January to June 2021 was 96.9!  More than two points higher than people taking it at a test center.  That’s wild.
  5. For people taking the Home Edition reading scores were 0.8 higher, listening scores were 1.0 higher and writing scores were 1.2 higher.
  6. Interestingly, speaking scores on the Home Edition were 0.6 lower.  That’s curious, but I think it means my advice about getting a good microphone and testing it is solid.  I can say, from experience, that trying to assess a spoken answer recording with a crappy microphone can be a frustrating experience.  My “scores” tend to be lower when assessing students who decline to use a proper recording device.  This is worthy of further study by ETS, I think.

Does this mean the TOEFL Home Edition is “easier”?  No, of course not.  It is the same test.  Does this mean that the TOEFL Home Edition is a more pleasant testing experience for test takers?  Probably.  I suspect that students who can test in a comfortable and quiet environment get higher scores.  Being able to test at a time of day when they have more energy likely helps as well.

It is worth noting that Chinese students were taking the test exclusively at test centers during this part of 2021, which might also account for the difference.   The mean score of Chinese students in 2020 was 87 points, the same as the worldwide mean.

Remember that we have worldwide data for 2020 which showed a massive increase (four points) to the worldwide mean score which, at the time, puzzled me.  I think this new report explains that jump and it makes me think there will be a small jump in the 2021 data… and another big one in the 2022 data that will reflect an environment where Chinese students have access to the Home Edition.

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