Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pearson test of English Academic to go live

The first new major (or so they hope) test of academic English will be rolled out next month when Pearson introduces the Pearson Test of English Academic (the acronym sounds like you're spitting out something unpleasant). Following on the success of their Versant tests of spoken English, which are entirely computer graded (with the option of in-house human grading), the PTE A will employ computer grading exclusively for all test sections, including the speaking and writing sections. I believe this is the first major test of English to do so.

That fact seems to have raised some eyebrows at the Guardian. On the L-Test list, John De Jong, from Pearson writes, "whether intelligibility is scored by humans or by machine makes no difference, except for that the machine will do it more consistently and more reliably." And to be honest, from my personal experience with the Versant tests, I'm cautiously optimistic.

That's not the only eyebrow raising initiative that Pearson has included. They will also be taking digital photographs and fingerprints to authenticate test takers and using video and audio monitoring in the test centres.

Currently only a small number of Canadian institutions, including Algoma and Nipissing Universities, the University of Manitoba, University of BC, and my alma mater, the University of Western Ontario are accepting the scores for undergraduate admissions.

You would think that with those expensive human graders out of the way, the PTE Academic would be cheap, but I guess computers have to eat too. It costs between $150 USD and $210 USD depending on where you choose to take the test.


Robb said...

I've been disappointed that info on this test has been limited. I remember that when TOEFL 2000 (aka iBT) was about to be released, educators and administrators could preview the test sections along with sample questions for free. I have spent time digging around on Pearson's website and can find no such information. I even emailed DeJong directly about it and received no response.

Brett said...

I thought the tutorial was fairly thorough. Have you had a look at it Robb?

Robb said...

Brett, thanks for the link. It helped a lot. Not sure how I missed it.