We plan to come more often to India

Updated: Dec 9 2008, 04:52am hrs
Gena Netten is the senior marketing manager at ETS (Educational Testing Service), a non-profit organisation, which conducts the world-famous Toefl (Test of English as a Foreign Language), GRE (Graduate Record Examination) and scores of related tests was in India recently for ETS four city Go Anywhere India Tour. An MA in Applied Linguistics and Teaching English as a Second Language from the university of Minnesota, Natten, a Toefl veteran, has been with ETS for fifteen years. In New Delhi, Natten met up with FEs Vikram Chaudhary, where she talked about ETS, Toefl and her India experience. Excerpts:

Tell us about the various standardised tests ETS develops in the US for K-12 and higher education

The list is very long, though some of the main assessment tests for K-12 are the Middle Grades Assessment, the Major Field Tests and so on. Then we have Praxis Series, which is a set of validated assessments that provides accurate and reliable information for the use of state education agencies when they make licensing decisions. California department of education has chosen ETS to develop, administer and score the California High School Exit Exam, which assesses if students who graduate from high school can demonstrate grade level competency in reading, writing and mathematics.

NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) which is often called The Nations Report Card and provides an independent measure of what students in grades 4, 8, and 12 across the US know and can do in reading, mathematics, science, and writing, as well as other core subject areas is another offering of ETS.

Initially Toefl was developed just for the US, now many institutes across the world subscribe to it. Do institutes in non-English speaking countries like Japan, Germany and Spain etc also rely on Toefl

Absolutely and in addition to Toefl, some institutes in these countries also rely on GRE. There are more than 700 institutions in Europe who subscribe to Toefl because of the numerous English language degree programmes they offer. In Asia, Japan has the maximum number of institutes which rely on Toefl.

Apart from the well-known tests like Toefl and GRE, which are the other international tests ETS administers

Toeic (Test of English for International Communication) is a popular one which measures the ability of non-native English-speaking people to speak in English while conducting everyday work activities; TSE (Test of Spoken English) measures the ability of non-native speakers of English to communicate orally in English in an academic or professional environment. ETS also administers the SAT Reasoning Test.

ETS is a non-profit organisation serving individuals, educational institutions and government agencies. Where do you get your funds

We sometimes get grants for R&D projects we undertake and of course from our products & services.

Given your global footprint, how do you ensure that your tests are free of bias and the questions are not offensive or controversial

When we develop tests we try to keep questions as culturally independent as possible. However, being a US-based company, our test content usually pertains to the US and similar cultures.

While developing test questions, we pre-test all our questions with an international population, in order to make sure that no strata of population gets offended by the questions we have. During this pre-testing, we also assess how different populations perform because we want to make sure that performance is consistent all over the world. After we get results, we make adjustments as needed.

A numbers of universities have begun using GRE for admission to graduate management programmes. Do you see it becoming a replacement for GMAT

No, it is not taking the place of GMAT. B-schools across the world are looking to diversify their applicant pools so as to meet expectations of employers seeking creative business leaders. This is why universities have started accepting GRE scores in addition to GMAT.

What are your plans for India

Whereas India is concerned, it has proved to be more efficient and effective to have an in-country distributor. Our partner for the same is NIIT. They distribute for ETS the Toefl practice online, which is a preparation for Toefl, as well as the Toeic, which as mentioned is the test for workplace English.

Lastly, is the Toefl and GRE Go Anywhere Tour an annual event, and what has been the response so far

We came two years ago for the first time, so we arent quite annual. The response, I must say, is excellent. When I was talking to students in Delhi, I realised they are so eager for information. There is a huge interest among them, so it is important for us to come in person and complement it with our online strategy.

There are numerous institutes in India that rely on Toefl scores for admissions, scholarship and graduation decisions and the list is growing. Notable among those are the IIT, ISB, university of Mumbai and the Panjab University.