Kapiolani Community College increases access for international students with STEP EIKEN English proficiency test

Early findings of KCC's STEP research study indicate a good correlation with TOEFL

Kapiʻolani Community College
Tom Tsurutani, (808) 734-9794
Honda International Center
Posted: Mar 31, 2006

HONOLULU — In an effort to broaden access for international students, Kapiʻolani Community College (KCC) is utilizing the STEP EIKEN test, an English proficiency test from Japan, on a pilot basis for international student admissions. At the same time, KCC is conducting a unique study of the test‘s screening effectiveness as compared to other English proficiency tests currently recognized by American colleges and universities.

This KCC study is the first extensive comparative analysis of the test outside of Japan, and KCC is leading the way for further study and expansion of the test‘s use at other institutions in Hawaiʻi and across the country. Early findings suggest the EIKEN test has a good correlation with the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), which is used by a majority of American colleges and universities in screening international admissions.

EIKEN is developed in Japan by the Society for Testing English Proficiency (STEP), an incorporated nonprofit foundation established with the support of the Japanese Ministry of Education. It is widely used and recognized throughout Japan to serve as an official measure for English proficiency for graduating high school seniors.

"International students add diversity to our campus, bringing different perspectives and exposing our local students to different cultures," said KCC Acting Chancellor Leon Richards. "Kapiʻolani Community College, along with all of the university‘s community college campuses, is committed to its mission of providing access to education, which includes broadening access for international students, and we recognized that the frequency and cost of English proficiency testing are some of the major barriers to education in the United States for international students."

Compared to the TOEFL and other English proficiency tests utilized in admissions screening, the EIKEN test is much more accessible and affordable for international students, primarily in Asia and especially in Japan. There are only 10 TOEFL testing sites in Japan, and even less in Korea, China, and other Asian countries. There are more than 14,000 test sites for the EIKEN throughout Japan.

EIKEN is offered at seven levels—Grade 1 (advanced), Pre-1, 2, Pre-2, 3, 4, and 5 (beginner)—and it is administered in two stages. The first stage consists of four main testing areas—vocabulary, reading comprehension, listening comprehension, and writing. The second stage, required of those examinees passing the first stage (except for Grades 4 and 5), is a speaking test in the form of a personal interview.

KCC began the study and admission of Japanese students based on the EIKEN test in 2004. Three pilot tests have been conducted so far, with the first two tests using small groups of KCC students and the last test utilizing a large sample group including students from KCC as well as Honolulu and Maui Community Colleges, the Hawaiʻi English Language Program (HELP) and New Intensive Courses in English (NICE) program at UH Mānoa, and other Hawaiʻi universities including Hawaiʻi Pacific University, TransPacific Hawaiʻi College, and International Communication College.

Though results are still being compiled and analyzed, early findings suggest that there is a good correlation between student results from the EIKEN and the TOEFL, and there is potential for expanding the use of the EIKEN test for all international admissions.