toefl biomertic voice recognition security


ETS  had announced about implementing Biometric Voice Identification for TOEFL to prevent proxy agents taking TOEFL test last year.

Looks like that feature is now rolled out. If you are planning to Use Agents to Take TOEFL Beware!

If you are a student planning to use Agents to take TOEFL Test, your score could be cancelled and nullified with this new TOEFL Biometric Voice Software.

TOEFL Biometric Security : Voice Identification

As security continues to be a major focus for academia, the TOEFL Program announces the use of biometric voice identification for all test takers as its newest security tool to ensure fair and reliable testing worldwide. The sophisticated software program is yet another proven fraud prevention measure adopted by the TOEFL Program.

TOEFL Press Release claims that the technology used to identify voice is used by various leading banking companies, law enforcement and health care industries, to prevent fraudulent activity.

 The TOEFL Program began piloting the software for security investigation purposes in May 2012 and rolled it out in the beginning of February 2014 on a global scale as part of the screening process for all TOEFL test takers worldwide.

How Does this Work?

Speaking test is part of TOEFL Test.

When someone else is taking the test for actual test taker, their voice pattern is used to identify the impersonations.

This advanced voice identification software creates a unique voice print for each test taker, extracting vocal, acoustic and custom auditory features from the voice samples.

Then that unique pattern is used to compare the unique patterns of previous test takers.

As ETS Says “The software uses statistical modeling, advanced voice pattern recognition methods and inputs from multiple systems to review and compare speech samples from TOEFL test takers.”

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,” commented David Hunt, Senior Vice President, Global Education and Workforce Division at ETS.

My Comments

This is awesome. With this new feature, it should prevent a genuine student score being cancelled. Like the following experiences

This new security measure should prevent scores being cancelled for entire batch of students taking the test.

But, can this TOEFL security measure be cracked?

Work Around for TOEFL Biometric Security

When ever there is a new security feature, people will and try to find a work around.

Again : What I’m about to say is my imagination and guess-work.

Let’s think about this new biometric voice identification, which only prevents fraud in Speaking Section  (assumption here).

When Photo Identification is required for entering testing centers, I’m assuming that TOEFL agents would have to work hand in hand with testing centers, else they couldn’t possibly get access to enter the test center as a proxy TOEFL agent for actual test taker.

Now, who typically takes TOEFL test via an Agent?

  • Someone  who is desperate to get high score in TOEFL
  • Someone who can’t get high score in TOEFL Test.

Which probably means, if this person were to take TOEFL, my guess is that they are going to get a low score. Let’s assume a score of 50 to 60 in TOEFL iBT.

If someone is desperate to game the system to get admission to a college to study abroad, might need 78 in TOEFL iBT to get admission ( for several schools).

Some schools require lees than 78 in TOEFL for admission. Now, student can have an agent take other other sections in the test and have actual person take the speaking test.

This student can score say 15 points out of 30 in Speaking Section and Agent can score like 15 to 17 in other sections of the TOEFL test.

Then this student would the get required minimum TOEFL scores to get admission.

If the student scores like 15 in Speaking test and TOEFL agent scores like 26 or more in other section, then ETS can identify the difference in scores within the sections to order a review.

But, when scores are different sections are in close proximity?

This approach could nullify the TOEFL biometric security system.

I hope, ETS has a way to prevent such work around and any other ways these proxy agents would come-up.

When students are willing to pay like $200 to $500 for a proxy agent to take the test, someone could eventually come up with a way to beat the system.

What do you think?

Can this new TOEFL security be cracked?

Do you know anyone who recently took TOEFL test using agents without getting caught?

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