Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the TOEFL iBT has been unavailable in China since the beginning of 2020. As the virus spreads throughout the world, ETS has released the Special Home Edition of the TOEFL iBT to help students take the test from the comfort of their own home and avoid the test center.

The problem is that the Special Home Edition of the TOEFL iBT is still not available in China. Chinese students have been struggling for months to find a way to take the TOEFL in China.

How can I take the TOEFL if I live in China?

ETS now has a solution.

The TOEFL ITP Plus is now open for registration throughout mainland China and testing will begin on May 30th, 2020, according to ETS.

Head Instructor at TST Prep, Josh MacPherson, recently sat down with Srikant Gopal, the Executive Director of the TOEFL Program at ETS to discuss these changes to the TOEFL in China.

And if you need help preparing for the exam, check out our TOEFL Emergency Course.

TOEFL ITP Plus in China – Everything You Need to Know

Watch the full 30-minute interview to learn:

  • When will TOEFL ITP Plus be available in China
  • What the test taker’s experience is like
  • How to find out your TOEFL ITP results
  • What equipment you need to take this version of the test
  • How this version differs from the regular TOEFL iBT
  • How to register and chose your test date… and more!

Here are the notes to our interview about the TOEFL ITP Plus in China:

Introduction of Josh MacPherson and Srikant Gopal, Executive Director of the TOEFL Program

Josh: Welcome everybody, my name is Josh MacPherson. I’m the head instructor of TST Prep, an online TOEFL school where our mission is simple – to help you get the TOEFL score you need as quickly and easily as possible.

Today I have the honor of meeting with Srikant Gopal. He is the executive director of the TOEFL program at ETS and he is here to answer some questions today about the TOEFL ITP that’s now available in China.

Srikant, thank you for coming, I appreciate it.

Srikant: Thank you Josh, it’s a pleasure to talk to you again and happy to provide information that would be helpful to your audience.

Josh: Thank you. I have a lot of questions that I’m sure everybody does. Thank you so much for making time. I really appreciate it and maybe just really quickly, some people might want to know about you, what your position is at ETS and just a little bit of your background.

Srikant: Absolutely. I lead the TOEFL program at ETS based here at Princeton New Jersey. I’ve been with ETS for a little over two years and this has been an exciting time for all of us here at TOEFL and ETS and many of your, much of your audience, may have noticed many of the improvements and changes that we’ve made to the TOEFL test as well as the testing experience, where we’ve tried to make things more comfortable and easier for test takers as well as information from the tests more useful to institutions. I’m talking about things like My Best Scores, a shorter test, scores available now in just six days as opposed to 10 days before, instant scores on reading and listening, unofficial instant scores that they can get right after they finished the iBT test and so on. So we’ve made a lot of improvements and we continue to work on other improvements and enhancements in the months and years to come as well.

Josh: It’s great, I mean you guys have been busy. Since August 1st I think the test has shortened to three hours, the iBT, and like you said automatic reading and listening scores, and there’s My Best Scores now.

When will TOEFL ITP Plus be available in China?

Josh: So a lot of changes, and now there is, now with the situation around the world with the COVID pandemic, there’s been responses by ETS to try to help students still be able to take the test. One of them has been the TOEFL iBT Home Edition, but that hasn’t been available for particularly students in China, and so now my understanding is there is the TOEFL ITP Plus now available in China, starting on May 30th I think, will be available in China. Is that correct?

Srikant: That’s correct. The TOEFL ITP Plus for China Solution will be, you know, we opened it for registration on May 15 so it’s been open for a few days now and it’s received a very positive response from students in China, but you’re right the first actual ITP administration will be on May 30th, and then, of course, there are several dates after that in the months ahead that have been published as well. Let me also take this opportunity to connect what we’re doing here with what we’ve done before on iBT.

As you mentioned, Josh, we had launched the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition version of the test, I believe we had announced it on March 23rd, so not that long ago, and since April 2nd, you know, we have made it available to test takers all over the world with the major notable exception of mainland China and that’s because, you know, we haven’t received approval to launch it in mainland China, but what we wanted to do was to make sure that we were able to serve Chinese students, stakeholders, and institutions around the world that admit Chinese students. That’s why we came up with the TOEFL ITP Plus for China Solution exclusively for students in China.

Josh: I see. So, it’s mostly for students in China because the Home Edition wasn’t available there.

Can the ITP be taken at home?

Josh: So I want to know a little bit about how it works exactly. Can the ITP, can it be taken at home or do they, or do students have to go to a test center to take it?

Srikant: The TOEFL ITP test will be a paper-and-pencil test. Students will have to go to a test center and take the test just like they would take any other high security high-stakes paper-based test in China. We have test centers that will be opened up in 17 cities across China. There’s very broad reach, and we’re providing a lot of capacity and convenient dates on weekends to make it easy for test takers. And these centers are opened, approved by the authorities for opening, and so obviously all laws are being complied with when we offer this to students in China. This is different from the iBT Home Edition which, of course, was an at-home test with remote human proctors to ensure security.

Why is there a need for the ITP instead of just the previous version of the iBT?

Josh: I see, you know, I’m a little confused, like why not just do the, if it’s in the test center, why not just have the iBT again? Why would the students still need to go to a test center but then they’re taking a different test? Why is there a need for the ITP instead of just the previous version of the iBT?

Srikant: That’s a good question. So the TOEFL iBT comes under a different set of laws and regulations in China, and under that regulatory framework TOEFL iBT test centers cannot be opened at this time, because it’s not deemed safe to do so at this point. Obviously, it will open at some point in the future. We are not clear exactly when that will happen. And when it happens, obviously, we are working to add additional dates and additional options for students to meet the backlog from the last several months. The TOEFL ITP comes under a different regulatory framework, and under that framework test centers may be operated, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.

Josh: I see. Is it at the same test centers as the iBT would be administered or these different test centers?

Srikant: These are different test centers, and that’s why we’re able to do this, not able to the iBT.

Josh: I see. So, of course, you know, that it’s impossible to predict, you know, how long this is gonna last for, but it’s gonna start on May 30th, and there’s really no idea about how long this will be available for students or, you know, when the IPT will be available again?

Srikant: We want to make TOEFL ITP Plus for China available for as long as TOEFL iBT testing is not available in China, and iBT testing does come back then we will set the solution. Right now we have opened dates from May 30th, as you mentioned, all the way through June and July, till the end of July. We have the option to add more dates in August, should we need to, and, as I said, we will keep adding dates even beyond that period if iBT is not back by then.

We really don’t know when iBT will be back, and any prediction we try to make is going to be completely wrong, so we won’t even try, but we are working to provide lots of additional dates and options for iBT when that does come back. In the meantime, we didn’t want students and universities not to have a high-quality, high-security option that they can use to continue with their plans, and that’s why we are offering this one right now.

What is the test taker’s experience like?

Josh: I see and, I mean, I don’t know how much you know about these test centers exactly, but will the test center experience kind of feel like the iBT? Of course, a student won’t be using a computer, at least for some of the sections of the test, because it’s a, like you said, paper- and-pencil test. Is there any, is it very similar to the iBT test center experience or is it just like going to a classroom, you know, do you know anything about how the experience will be exactly?

Srikant: It’ll be the same high quality, high security experience as the TOEFL iBT but, of course, because TOEFL ITP is a paper-and-pencil test in the way we’re administering it here, there will be some important differences. So, just like for the iBT, you know, people will go to a test center, and there is a check-in process with the test center administrator and supervisor.

You know, IDs will be checked, photos will be checked, the Chinese national ID will be scanned and verified with the database. People will be asked to to place all their equipment, including mobile phones, in a secure location, so all that is identical so what you might expect in an iBT center. But, of course, they don’t go to workstations and sit in from the workstations, they’ll be sitting at desks and then answering questions on paper and pencil. There’s some differences in experience, but it is still under rigorous security, so that part will be exactly the same.

Josh: So, it’ll still feel like going to the airport, basically.

Srikant: One of the things we take very seriously in ETS and TOEFL is high security for all our products, because we want institutions that receive our scores whether it’s from TOEFL iBT or TOEFL ITP or any other product. We want them to trust that these scores are valid, reliable, and accurate. And the only way we can do that is to provide the best in-class security for any of these products and, of course, it’s not just security, but it’s also quality.

The TOEFL ITP test is cut from the same cloth as TOEFL iBT, they both share the same heritage and there are some differences, of course, but TOEFL ITP is also a test of academic English that many universities already use today. They don’t use it typically for high-stakes admissions purposes, they tend to use it for things like placement and courses, measuring progression from one level of course to another, ESL programs, exiting from programs, you know, scholarship exchange programs and things like that.

ITP typically tends to be used within an, by an institution for its own purposes, for its own students. So, typically the ITP test will be conducted by an institution on its own premises as opposed to being available for the public at large. That’s the main reason that the ITB is generally not used for high-stakes admissions, but in this particular situation we have created a very special situation where the ITB test is being administered to to the public the Chinese students at large, and it is being administered and the high-security conditions that are mandated by ETS and, you know, under ETS protocols and its procedures, and with proctors and so on, very different to how the ITP may be administered by different institutions in their own premises. That is why in this case we are allowing ITP to be used for high-stakes admissions, because it’s administered very differently in this case.

I should mention that, you know, as an institutional test, the ITB is already well known by our university partners all around the world. It is routinely used by over 2,500 universities around the world including in Japan, as you mentioned before, and in over 50 countries. It’s a well-established test for Institution purposes that we want to temporarily repurpose for high-stakes admissions for China just for a few months.

Josh: I think you answered a question that I had before, you know, so some people know about the iBT, the internet based test and then the PBT which is the paper-based test, but this is a different one. The ITP and it’s usually used for placement, proficiency placement, and higher education institutions. I know some students might be curious if their university or, you know, whatever school they want to use the score for, will actually take this test score? How can students find out if this is going to fit their needs?

Srikant: I should point out something that I haven’t mentioned yet which is that the TOEFL ITP Plus for China Solution is a combination of two different products. So you have the TOEFL ITP test itself that we’ve talked about here so far, but there’s also a short video speaking interview, and it’s part of the solution. That’s provided by Vericant, a leading third-party interview company, that’s based in China, they are going to provide the interviews which is pretty much part of the solution as well.

The reason why Vericant is providing the solution for us as part of this package is because the TOEFL ITP is a three- skills test, it’s not four skills like the TOEFL iBT. It does not have a speaking section as part of its design, so that’s why we wanted to fill that gap by providing the option for students to take an actual video speaking interview, when you’re talking about a live interactive video interview with native English speakers that are trained specifically by Americans and also administered in a high-security, high-quality fashion as well.

The solution that students can choose to send to universities, and the universities will use to evaluate students candidacy, will be the ITB test and the scores from the test, as well as the unscored video speaking interview.

The unscored video speaking interview

Josh: You said, “the unscored video speaking interview”, what does that mean exactly?

Srikant: The interview would be about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the circumstances. It’s a structured interview so there’s certain blocks of questions, but it’s totally unscripted as follow-up questions will depend on student responses and so on.

The interview is recorded and then, of course, it’s eventually sent to the university, and the university can actually use it in whatever way they want. They may, for example, choose to review the videos for all the candidates or they may choose to only look at the videos for candidates that may be on the borderline, for example. They may choose to look at the whole video or they may choose to look at certain segments from the video that they’re interested in seeing.

What we want to do through the solution is to provide the universities the option to evaluate and judge the interview as the best fit, you know, for their own circumstances. Some universities may may be interested in an option to score the video, if you will, and will also be issuing shortly some guidance for universities if they choose to self-score the video themselves, so we’ll be providing rubrics, certain sample responses, and some expert guidance from Americans, obviously, so we will provide them that option as well.

Josh: I see. So, it’s a tool for the admissions to use some extra information about the student.

Will the universities accept the TOEFL ITP Plus scores?

Josh: How can the student find out if their school will actually take this ITP test, like if they should contact them directly, is there, is there a list that they can go to or how do they know if they can, if this fits their needs?

Srikant: We launched the solution, we introduced it to universities just on May 12th, so it’s just over a week ago, and what we’ve done just like we did with the iBT Home Special Edition, is that we’ve communicated this to all the universities that accept TOEFL. We’re talking about over eleven thousand universities in over 150 countries worldwide. We’ve gotten the message out to them, and we’ve had a very very positive response so far from universities, including several acceptances already.

We’re just getting started with doing webinars and more information sessions for universities. As a matter of fact, just before this discussion with you, I just finished a webinar focused on UK universities, and that went really well. And we have more of these sessions planned over the next week, to two to three, and universities will have a chance to get their questions answered and we expect many universities will sign up and accept this over the next few weeks to come, but, obviously, we will then communicate an ongoing list of acceptances to test takers and other stakeholders in China. And we’re getting ready to post our first update in a few days, in terms of universities that already accepted it.

In addition to the actual list of confirmed acceptances, I think it’s important for students to realize that, you know, most universities already know the ITP very well. Even though they use it for other purposes beyond admissions today. We feel that universities, given that they are very familiar with the ITP and they know what high quality product it is because they’ve been using it all these years, will be open to accepting the solution for the needs from students from China.

Students are also encouraged to contact universities that they are interested in and check whether you know they will accept the solution or not, but, obviously, students always should check with the university that they do accept this before they make commitments to take the test and send the score to them.

How to prepare for the interview

Josh: Great, and I want to go back to the speaking section, actually, since this is somewhat new. You mentioned that it’s an interview. Is it just kind of like a general interview, like “hi how are you?” or, you know, what can somebody expect from the speaking? Is there a certain time limit or there’s some questions, you know, how can they prepare for that section of this test?

Srikant: People can actually download some tips from Vericant to prepare for the interview. It’s not the same thing like preparing for a test, where you have sample questions and things like that. I think it’s more, the interviews are designed to allow you to express yourself through some structured questions and some unstructured questions to really, bring out your speaking abilities, your confidence in speaking English language and also to bring out some insights about your personality, and the kind of person you are.

More details are obviously available on the Vericant site. Students can actually download some tips that allow them to prepare for the interview, but also they can view sample interviews on the Vericant website. There’s a lot more information available there and so, for example, the interview will start with the warm-up and introduction section for a few minutes, and then one of the structured questions is, people are presented with a picture, and then they’re asked to to describe it and talk about it. And that allows students to demonstrate how they can respond to a situation that’s not fully, you know, that’s a little less defined, for example, how their thinking process is, and how they can turn that thinking process into communicating in English language.

Then that is then followed with more traditional questions, and some of those questions will depend on the responses to the previous question, but they also follow certain structured topics. but the questions themselves may be different. And then, at the very end, there is an open-ended section where the student can talk about whatever they want. This allows them to bring out aspects that they haven’t been able to get out yet in the last seven sections. It’s an interesting and very effective way to bring out the communication abilities of the students, and it’s different from, you know, the typical speaking section of the TOEFL iBT that’s a lot more structured and scored, and it’s much more formal.

Vericant has been doing this for many years now, I think, they’ve been around for about a decade, so their product is well established and their interview products are already used by hundreds of institutions around the world. It’s not a new thing, and many universities will already be familiar with Vericant products and, I think, through the ITP Plus for China Solution many other universities will now become familiar with it as well.

Is TOEFL ITP easier than iBT?

Josh: Great, and about the TOEFL ITP, I know, that the questions are a little bit different. I know it’s similar, you know, it’s testing academic English, but you know, the questions are a little bit different, and a little bit of the structure is different, and some things that are reading, like it takes two hours to complete instead of three, you know. Is there, you know, in regards to like the level, the test level, is it pretty much the same level as the iBT, is it a little bit easier, a little bit harder, you know, is there subjective?

Srikant: The first thing I should say is that you’re right, it’s about a two-hour test, at least two hours, because it has only three sections and doesn’t have the fourth one. It is cut from the same cloth as the iBT, so it’s the same type of academic English that tests you know typical University situations, and so it’s equally valid, reliable, and accurate in terms of measuring the students abilities to communicate English in an academic context. I will not make any comments about which one is easier, which one is harder, but what I will say is, I will point out the differences between the two and then students should make their own judgments.

It is a shorter test, it’s two hours versus three hours. It’s a little less stressful potentially, compared to a longer test, that’s one thing to keep in mind. The second thing I would say is that all the questions across the three sections in the total ITP are multiple-choice, so there’s no section where you actually have to write something and input it like you would do in an iBT. That’s another important difference. The passages in the reading section of the top of ITP tend to be shorter than the ones you might find on the iBT. So those are some of the differences I think that students would really notice when taking ITP.

Josh: So there’s not as much production like, for example, besides the first on speaking interview, there’s not like writing an essay for the ITP.

Srikant: No, there’s not.

Is TOEFL ITP Plus available in other countries?

Josh: So, it’s only available for students in China.This is not really available for anybody else in other countries, they can take the TOEFL Home Edition or another solution after this situation, is that correct? It’s not available for anybody else at this time.

Srikant: That is right. It is only available for people in China, and it will be available only until TOEFL iBT testing presumes. But for the rest of the world TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition is available and, you know, the response to the iBT Home Edition has been amazing, you know. I think we’ve had registrations from 155 countries the last time I checked, which was maybe a couple of days ago. 155 countries have participated in TOEFL iBT Home Edition, and we’ve already administered tens of thousands of tests successfully and scores have been issued to universities.

We’re talking about a month and a half since we launched it, it has already become a very established successful product in the last few weeks, so we’re very happy with how it is gone, and we are very happy and grateful for strong student interest in the TOEFL iBT Home Edition and universities all around the world have embraced it, you know. We haven’t heard of even one university anywhere in the world that has said NO to the iBT Special Home Edition, regardless of whether they actually list it on a site or not, because remember, the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition is the TOEFL iBT. Every university already accepts TOEFL iBT, many of them feel that they don’t need to mention this separately, some of them do.

We want students to understand that if the iBT is accepted, then almost certainly they will also accept the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition, but students should always check with the universities what their policies are, sure.

Josh: It’s mostly been positive, so I’m sure it’ll be the same for the ITP as well. Just some, you know, that’s pretty much it for the most part.

The TOEFL ITP Plus for China solution fee

Josh: Is there anything that you want to add about the TOEFL ITP in China, is there anything else that people should know in general? Seems like that it’s open for registration, testing is gonna be administered in a couple weeks, same type of test as the TOEFL iBT, it’s asking the same things, and will probably be accepted by most universities in the near future. Is there anything else students should know?

Srikant: I think yes, I would mention a couple of other things that students will find very interesting. One is that the TOEFL ITP Plus for China solution is the bundle which includes the ITP test and the Vericant interview, it’s being offered at a very very attractive price. In Chinese Renminbi it’s only 995 RMB, and that equates to about 140 dollars. It’s price point is slightly under a thousand Renminbi, which Chinese students will know is a very attractive price point for such a high quality product, two high quality products. If people were to sign up just for a standalone video interview product from many established companies, they’ll find that those interviews on their own, can actually cost a lot more than the 995 RMB that I just mentioned. It’s a really sweet deal, it’s a high-quality product that allows them to continue with their educational journeys at an attractive price.

The second thing I should mention related to that is students, you know, will, of course, purchase the bundle first, so they’ll take the test and they’ll take the interview. If they want to repeat the test which I know, some students will want to do, they can purchase just the test alone for a much lower price, and the price for just the test alone as a follow-up purchase is 495 Renminbi, that’s about seventy dollars, it’s about half the price of the the bundle. We’ve tried to make it really easy for students in that sense.

Another way we really try to make sure for students is that we’re offering free test prep, you know we’re offering the Official Guide to the TOEFL ITP, we’re offering volumes of free practice tests as well as many sample test questions and so on. All that is available 100% free and 100% digital for free download, and we’ve seen in the last, since we announced the solution over the last week, ten days, we’ve seen a huge surge in downloads of these free test prep products as well. We’ve tried to make it easy for students to try to do the solution and to continue with their education journeys.

Josh: Great, please send me some. So students can go to ETS to find some sample questions and sample tests to help them prepare for it and get a feel for what the tests would be like.

How to register and schedule the test

Srikant: I would mention, Josh, that, obviously, students in China know the best way for them to find information about this, about TOEFL ITP Plus for China, but also learn about how to register and schedule the test. It’s on Chinese site, specifically for students in China, it’s in Mandarin. So, if they go to toefl.cn, they’ll find some links there that take them right to the TOEFL ITP Plus for China Solution.

Josh: So, toefl.cn to check out some of the ITP information and to – is that where the students would register as well?

Srikant: Once they go there, they get all the information about the product and then they click on the registration link that takes them to another site. This is a third-party provider that’s providing us the registration and testing services, but it’s all done through the ETS platform.

Josh: All right, well, Srikant, I don’t want to take up any more of your time. Thank you so much, thank you for making time. I really appreciate it, and I think I’ve learned a lot and I think if anybody’s watching they’ve learned a lot as well. Thank you so much for sharing your time, and I really appreciate it.

Srikant: Thank you, Josh, it’s a pleasure to talk with you, and I hope this information has been helpful to students in China who are interested in TOEFL ITP Plus as well.

Josh: Thank you so much. Take care.

This has been Srikant Gopal, the Executive Director of the TOEFL Program at ETS, who we would like to thank again for the latest news regarding the TOEFL ITP Plus in China.

Learn more about the TOEFL ITP in China.

For more information on TOEFL ITP Plus for China, including details on test content and format, registration and scores, click here.

Students located in China can register for the TOEFL ITP here.

Also, if you need help preparing for the exam, don’t forget to check out our TOEFL Emergency Course.

  • How has the news about TOEFL in China changed your TOEFL journey?
  • Will you be taking the TOEFL ITP Plus in China?

Let us know in the comments below.

And we are always an email away at [email protected]

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