Wednesday, August 12, 2009

ETS (Educational Testing Service) Fails

Recently one of my students went to a TOEFL test center to take his exam, but to his dismay, the test center would not admit him. The reason? As he was from Spain, he had more than one surname and had 'mistakenly' entered only one of his two surnames on his application form for the test. Consequently, when he arrived at the exam center, he was denied permission to enter because the last name on his registration form was not IDENTICAL to his passport name. Despite the fact that there was no doubt that he was indeed the person identified in the passport and that the passport number matched his registration form, he was denied access to the exam center. Even worse, the test center refused to credit the student with the $150 that it cost to take the exam - all of this from an organization that is a 501(c)(3) non-profit company.

In addition, in the span of 20 minutes, my student observed the same thing happen to a student from Mexico and another from Argentina. These students also lost their $150 for not having written all of their names on their passport. The girl from Mexico had a California driver's license with the same name as was on her registration form, but not with her. Because it would have taken two hours to retrieve the driver's license, the people at the test center did not allow her to take the test, even though she could have shown the alternate identification afterward. Why not?

It seems that the test center could have accommodated all these students (especially the latter student from Mexico) and permitted them to take the exam and not mark it until verification had been received from ETS 'Central.'

This has been going on for some time so that ETS could have fixed this problem. In fact, the same thing happened two years ago to another student of mine who left out her second name (she had four names!); she was from Paraguay. Is there a pattern here? Does ETS encourage students with multiple names to omit one or two because of apparent lack of space on their online application form?

There is no doubt in my mind that the practices of ETS violate all business and non-profit business models for customer service. I have searched online to see if there is a pattern of exploitation of foreign students by ETS, and not surprisingly, there IS. (However, it's not just foreign students who are being ripped off by ETS. College-bound Americans are subjected to numerous tests monopolized by ETS. That's another story.)

Check out Americans for Educational Testing Reform, which has numerous links to related articles from the New York Times to the BBC. In addition, you might want to read this query from a Nigerian student. There is a curious reaction to one question about names not matching on test day. I am now wondering if Muhammad (who had a very long name) had a problem taking the test in the USA. Some of the responses from other parts of the world suggest that the over-the-top security measures taken by test centers in San Diego reflect some peculiarly American paranoia about students taking multiple TOEFL tests under aliases. Other absurdities from ETS are discussed at this site. I'm sure you can find many more .

Watch out, students. This is what ETS is coming up with next - a way to profile students that have traits for success. Heaven help us if this also becomes another exam score that must be submitted along with the SAT and/or the GRE test results.

This post is dedicated to my TOEFL students Alicia and Chema.


Alex Case said...

See here for some links showing what "non profit" and ETS really means (although they are by no means the only ones doing it):

At least they won't be screwing up the British SAT tests anymore...

Btw, I've had the comment above on my blog and it's almost certainly spam (clues are very non specific message and link included)

evelyn said...

Thanks for the additional links and support. I'm sure it'll be necessary to revisit the topic of 'ETS' many times in the future.