ETS unveils biometric voice identification

14 May, 2014

Language testing provider ETS has announced a full roll-out of biometric voice identification security enhancements for the Toefl English language test.


Designed to identify suspected impersonations, the software was first piloted in the Toefl test in May 2012 and is now available in all 130 countries in which the test is offered. In a company statement, ETS said it currently has patent pending for the use of biometric voice identification for this purpose, and that Toefl is the only English-language proficiency test using this advanced security measure worldwide.

“The pilot phase of the biometric voice identification software proved it to be a major asset in identifying suspected impersonations and enabling ETS to cancel those scores before they were reported,” said David Hunt, Senior Vice President, Global Education and Workforce Division at ETS. “Security is a top priority at ETS, and we are proud to have this best-in-class security measure in place for our Toefl test. Valid scores depend on secure administrations, and this powerful new tool will help to ensure just that.”

The biometrics voice identification software programme was developed by a company that provides similar solutions for organisations in the banking, law enforcement and healthcare industries. ETS has also elevated the prominence of its whistle-blower hotline to its home page to encourage anyone suspicious about fraudulent activity to make their concerns known to the company.

“The use of biometric voice identification technology is yet one more example of why we at The University of Texas at Austin (UTA) consider the Toefl the best measure of English proficiency available today,” said Robert Watkins, Assistant Director Graduate and International Admissions Center at UTA.

The latest security measures follow ETS’s decision not to renew a contact with the UK government to supply Secure English Language Test (SELT) services, after a BBC documentary exposed evidence of fraud at two UK-based Toeic test centres. In a statement, ETS apologised for the fraud, which it blamed on “dishonest activities of third-party contractors”.

The statement continued, “We appreciate the Home Office’s recognition that while the Toefl and Toeic tests shared a SELT license, the fraud uncovered by the BBC programme was limited to Toeic testing. Security measures around the Toefl test were never under question. The Toefl test remains the most widely respected English-language test in the world, recognised by more than 9,000 institutions in more than 130 countries.”

ETS said it plans to extend biometric voice identification to cover the Toeic test later this year.

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