Work exchange visitors significantly gain conversational ability regardless of starting skills or position placement

Pilot study concludes work exchange visitors  significantly gain conversational ability regardless of starting skills or position placement

Pilot study concludes work exchange visitors significantly gain conversational ability regardless of starting skills or position placement

Every year, about 100,000 college and university students from around the world come to the United States on a cultural exchange program that allows them to work in seasonal and temporary jobs. Considered to be one of the State Department’s most successful examples of public diplomacy efforts, the Summer (referring to “summer” in the home country of exchange visitors) Work and Travel Program, brings future leaders from dozens of countries to the US, and sets specific goals for participants, their host employers, and the organizations that recruit and sponsor them on the J-1 Cultural Exchange visa.

It’s clear that the interaction with US citizens, the experience of US culture and the travel in the United States goals get met. But what about the chance to “practice the English language”? The program regulations require that exchange visitors when working, work alongside Americans, and in jobs that give them opportunities to speak and improve their English.

New Hampshire-based GeoVisions, one of more than 40 State Department designated sponsors of the Work and Travel Program, teamed up with iTEP, International Test of English Proficiency, to do a two-stage testing pilot project (could be expanded to a larger universe of exchange visitors) to determine the impact of participating in the Work and Travel Program on English conversation skills. iTEP is a globally-recognized exam that measures conversation skills in a stand-alone test, or as an element of tests that measure grammar, reading, writing, listening and speaking. The iTEP Conversation exam is a thirty-minute internet-based, on-demand test with modules that measure vocabulary, verbal fluency, decision-making, reading aloud, and other skill sets essential to conversational ability.

One hundred university-aged students from five South American countries took part in the first round of tests before participating in the winter intake of the Work and Travel Program. These students were bound for ski and warm weather resorts throughout the United States. They would be hosted on an exchange program, and work in a variety of seasonal and temporary jobs alongside American workers and interacting to various degrees with English- speaking visitors. After the work portion of their program, the students had an opportunity to travel throughout the United States before returning to classes at their home country institutions.

After the students returned home, they were invited to take the iTEP exam a second time to determine whether they had made progress in their English conversational skills. 20% of the students opted to participate in the second round of exams, and these 20 students were representative of the original group of students who took the exam, and the original group was chosen at random from students participating in the broader work and travel program.

Read the study to view the conclusions of this research. The study confirms that Summer Work and Travel as a program is an effective way for visiting students to improve their English conversation skills. The preliminary research upholds the claims of sponsors and their overseas partners who promise gains in language expertise through participation on the program. It further demonstrates that the position a student takes at a host employer is not a significant factor in how much language improvement can be attained.

Importantly, the improvement in iTEP English language test scores validates the Department of State goal that exchange programs have sufficient opportunities for exchange visitors to practice speaking English. On the Summer Work and Travel program, our research shows that such practice leads to an increase in English Conversational skills. The iTEP Conversation exam is a unique measure of these successes.

The 3 Best English Proficiency Exams For H1 Candidates

What Are The Best English Proficiency Exams For The H1 Visa?

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows individuals from all over the world work in the United States for a sponsoring employer. This visa type was designed specifically for workers in specialty occupations that require a higher level of education or technical experience such as science, medicine, engineering and mathematics.

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iTEP Conversation
iTEP Business Core
iTEP Business Plus

Successful companies rely on employees who display effective communication skills. This is specially important for non-native English speakers. This is where Academic Language Solutions comes in. iTEP exams are used by hundreds of companies to evaluate their employees because they are: 

  • Content Specific: We offer English Conversation, Business Core and Business Plus English tests for companies to match a wide range of industries. You can pick the best test for your industry, so the vocabulary and scenarios match your workplace. In this way, you get results that matter.

  • Accurate: Detailed scoring makes it easy to understand employee capabilities. So you can let your best communicators be the face of your company. Take a look at a sample score report to see for yourself.

  • Customizable: make it match your brand with our “white-label” services which are available upon request.

  • Convenient: The tests last anywhere from 30-90 minutes depending on test-type. Scores are ready within 24 hours and since it’s online, employees can take it anywhere: at home, at work, or at a test center.

iTEP Business comes in two forms. iTEP Business-Plus, which tests grammar, reading, listening, writing, and speaking and iTEP Business Core which evaluates grammar, listening and reading. Corporations should use iTEP Business for screening, evaluating return on investment, progress and promotion decisions, benchmarking and streamlining.

iTEP Conversation is a 30-minute speaking assessment designed to give test-takers an opportunity to speak freely about things that they already know. Questions are friendly and cover topics one might expect to encounter in casual conversation. All questions are free-response (as opposed to multiple-choice or fill-in-the-blanks) to allow test-takers to speak as much as they are able to.