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Since its inception in 1964, the Test of English as a Foreign Language has effectively dominated the English proficiency exam market. However, it may come to face steep competition.

In an effort to compete with the TOEFL and other existing English language tests like the International English Language Testing System, British academic publisher Pearson plans to release its newly-developed English exam — known as the Pearson Test of English Academic — this month.

Thus far over 700 institutions worldwide have expressed an interest in the exam, according to BusinessWeek. Of these, 500 have agreed to recognize PTE Academic scores.

The computer-based test, designed to last a total of three hours, will require students to record a “Personal Introduction” before starting the exam. According to the Pearson web site, while this segment of the test will not be evaluated, it will enable institutions to “compare an applicant’s voice to the voice recorded while taking the test.”

Like the TOEFL, PTE Academic test questions will assess speaking and writing abilities in addition to reading and listening skills. In addition, the TOEFL added a speech component last month similar to that of the PTE Academic.

In spite of Pearson’s ongoing marketing efforts, it remains to be seen whether this new exam will attain the same level of popularity as the TOEFL, which remains the most widely-accepted evaluation of English worldwide. While a number of institutions have already committed to recognizing the exam, most have opted to wait.

Graduate Division of the School of Arts and Sciences Associate Director for Admissions Patricia Rea said she had not heard of the Pearson exam and therefore could not comment on whether Penn plans to accept PTE Academic scores from graduate school applicants.

Other universities are currently in the process of deciding whether to extend recognition to the exam. Karen Kristof, senior associate director of admission at Smith College, has indicated that the school has not yet determined whether it will accept PTE Academic scores.

Smith had exclusively accepted TOEFL results for years and only recently added the IELTS as an alternative option for international applicants.

“We want to be flexible — but careful — in our English proficiency requirements,” Kristof said, adding that Smith’s decision to accept the IELTS was made after extensive research, correspondence with peer institutions and deliberation by a faculty committee that advises the admissions office on policy.

She also said while Smith will continue monitoring future developments with the exam, it remains so new that “it would be premature … to comment on its efficacy.”

Marilyn Hesser, senior associate director of admission at the University of Richmond, also indicated that the institution does not yet accept PTE Academic results.

This article was updated to reflect that the TOEFL now also includes a recorded speech component.

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