Choosing a Credential Evaluation Company

Zeroing in on a credential evaluation company can be a stressful and demanding experience since each company has its own criteria and methodologies. With so many companies out there, many international students are both confused and overwhelmed with one main question in mind, “how can I make sure that I am choosing a credential evaluation company that meets my needs?” Questions arise such as, will the evaluation by one credential evaluator be recognized by all the various universities the student will apply to? Which association makes the credential evaluator more credible? Will all the documents one has be accepted by the evaluator?

Many universities and students I spoke to recommend starting with the members of NACES (National Association of Credential Evaluation Services) or AICE (Association of International Credentials Evaluators), two private associations that have stringent membership requirements, codes of ethics, and very high standards. These associations are widely recognized and accepted by most institutions and universities making the process a lot easier by relatively narrowing options down to a select few. The feedback students get from these organizations can be trusted.

Institutions and students using these affiliated credentials evaluation companies can be sure that the agency they select is a trust worthy, reliable and recognized company with good training and experience in the field.

So you may be reading this, asking yourself, how did this happen – how did the field become dominated by many credential evaluation companies with varying standards?

On December 28, 1973, the US Government declared it was shutting down its foreign educational credential evaluation services and the private sector was asked to step in. The government however, did not authorize, designate or nominate any specific group as a replacement, as a result several private U.S. international education individuals and organizations generously applied themselves in establishing guidelines for applied research and the credential evaluation of international educational credentials, while at the same time outlining the professional ethics and principles for the profession.

It is important to realize though, that some private companies choose not to become a member of one of the above agencies for their own reasons, not because of any lack of quality or expertise on the part of the agency. It is important to contact your schools to see what credential evaluation companies they recommend since they will be the ultimate decision makers!


English Language Institute: Celebrating 70 Years

On  June 21st, 1941, the University of Michigan formally established its English Language Institute. The first, and therefore oldest, program designed to offer English as a foreign language in the United States, in the 70 years since the English Language Institute has become the model for other programs across the country and around the world.

Since its inception, the ELI’s has had two goals. The first is to serve students directly though English as a Second Language education. To accomplish this goal, the ELI offered its inaugural Summer Program to 13 participants in its first year. The next year, attendance nearly doubled to 22 and growth continued. By 1946 some 750 students had passed through the ELI. Nor did the English Language Institute resign ESL education to the summer alone. At the same time, the ELI has pursued its other major goal: the refinement and improvement of English language teaching and teacher training.  By the time of its 50th anniversary celebration in 1991, the ELI was offering over 30 courses, including English language courses for non-native doctors professionals and English as a Second Language teacher training courses.

Almost from the beginning, however, the English Language Institute has also paid careful attention to the need for accurate assessments for English proficiency. To this end, at the behest of the United States government, the Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English (also known as the ECPE exam) was released in 1953 for use abroad. Over the following decades Michigan tests were adopted by a growing number of schools and other organizations both in the United States and abroad. To meet rising demand, in recent decades the ELI has also developed the intermediate level Examination for the Certificate of Competency in English (ECCE exam), the intermediate-advanced level Michigan English Test (MET exam), and the advanced level Michigan English Language Assessment Battery (MELAB exam). Thus, it is clear that after 70 years the ELI is just getting started.


ECCE Exam Updates

The Examination for the Certificate of Competency in English (or ECCE exam) was first developed in 1992 and first administered on a trial basis to 375 students in Athens, Greece, in May 1993. Since it was first formally offered in Greece in 1994 and expanded into other regions of the world the following year, its administrators at the University of Michigan have nevertheless continued to use their expertise to update and revise the exam. As a result of their work, the exam has some seen some significant structural changes in recent years.

In 2006, for example, The University of Michigan unveiled a new rubric used in grading the Speaking and Writing sections of the ECCE exam. Where the assessment rubrics for these sections were subdivided into four benchmark levels the administrators now used five. That means that instead of dividing results into one of four levels of proficiency, examiners now have five. These new scales, in being further distinguished and clarified from one another, were designated to more precisely and accurately reflect the features of communication that candidates are expected to use.

Although the rubrics used to measure the tasks changed, the speaking and writing tasks remained unchanged and the aggregate (or combined average) scoring method employed by the ECCE remained the same. Thus, while students who do not pass one section of can still pass if their scores on the remaining sections are of a sufficiently high level, students who fail two or more sections cannot pass the exam. In so doing, the ECCE exam hopes to maintain its reputation for excellent in English proficiency assessments.


What does it mean to Overdraft?

I’m glad you asked! If you have opened a bank account, it is important to know how much you have in your account. An overdraft occurs when you have spent, or promised to spend, more money from your bank account than you deposited into it. This can be done by paying with a check, using a debit card, or allowing a company to draft or debit (pull money automatically) your account. This most often occurs when someone forgets to check how much money they have in their account before they spend money.

When you overdraw an account, your bank will normally charge you a fee for every transaction that brought your account’s balance below zero. This fee is usually thirty five dollars (in the US). Additionally, many banks charge an additional fee if your account stays overdrawn for more than five days. This is done differently in the United States than many foreign countries. Instead of being charged interest for the money you spend that you didn’t have, a standard fee is assessed. This fee does not vary based on the amount of the charge, such that overdrawing your account for two dollars is just as expensive as overdrawing your account for two hundred.

Normally you can avoid paying an overdraft fee by depositing money into your account to cover the money you spent within the same working day. So, if you overdraw your account by thirty dollars on Monday morning, you can usually avoid a fee on your account by depositing enough money to bring your account back to positive (thirty dollars) by Monday afternoon. Many banks have a “cut off” time, usually 4pm or 2pm. If you bring your account positive after this cut off time, you will still be charged a fee. Make sure to ask your bank when their “cut off” time is, just in case you have to know!

If you do overdraw your account, and are assessed a fee, you can try calling your bank to see if they will refund you the fee. If you’ve never overdrawn an account before and explain this to the representative, they may refund the fee for you. If you overdraw an account too often, your bank may decide that they no longer want to do business with you, and close your account.

Be sure to take your finances seriously and keep a transaction register, and this doesn’t have to happen to you.


Organization Profile: Cambridge Assessment

The words Cambridge Assessment are almost synonymous with Business English Certificates and for good reason: the not-profit organization has been part the effort to offer high-quality English language certification for nearly a century. Originally founded in 1858 as a non-teaching department of the world-famous university that bears its name, Cambridge Assessment grew out of the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES) but it today better known by its brand name, Cambridge Assessment.

Then established to administer general educational standards examinations for individuals or groups who were not members of the University but interested in its rigorous certification process, Cambridge Assessment offered its first English as a Second Language exam – Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE) – in 1913. In century since, Cambridge Assessment’s ESOL division (Cambridge ESOL) has grown by leaps and bounds. Its second assessment, Cambridge English: First (FCE) was released in 1939 and its third, Cambridge English: Preliminary (PET), in 1980.

As European integration intensified, the need for a common framework with which to measure English ability likewise grew and by the late 1980s Cambridge ESOL was involved in the establishment of what would become the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. These revised level descriptions called for a revision of the PET by the close of the decade and gave impetus to the establishment of a variety of “stepping stone” English proficiency exams by the early 1990s. These exams – the BEC, KET, PET, FCE, CAE and CPE –  offer general English, academic English, and business English certificates that are now taken by more than a million English learners in more than 135 countries every year. Cambridge ESOL also offers training for Teachers of English as a Second Language through its renowned CELTA certification program.

Today, Cambridge Assessment exams are available at schools and testing centers around the world and in some instances can even be taken remotely, continuing and expanding on the mission it established nearly a century ago.