On Wednesday night, we were discussing how to deal with graduates of our college who had great credentials and ability, but who couldn't land a job because of their spoken English. We agreed that one issue is having some kind of objective benchmark of speaking ability, and so I brought up (again) the Versant tests.
The next day the associate dean sent me an e-mail about the Pearson Test of English (PTE), which has been in development for a number of years and will be available this October. Pearson is trying to get colleges and universities to say they will accept the PTE for admissions purposes, and somebody there had contacted our registrar about it. She'd forwarded it to the associate dean and he forwarded it to me with the question, "Is the oral test you spoke about yesterday a part of this test?"
This wikipedia article claims that that indeed appears to be the case, though there's nothing to back the claim up.
The makers of the Versant tests have claimed for a long time that they can produce valid reliable scores automatically in a fraction of the time it takes a behmouth like the TOEFL. The problems is that, even if it's true, nobody believes it. The PTE is about 3 hours as compared to Versant's 10-15 minutes, so it will be interesting to see how the statistical properties of each line up.
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