As the number of foreign students applying to U.S. colleges continues to grow, the University’s English Language Institute is expanding its testing sites for the Michigan English Language Assessment Battery.

The MELAB, which originated at the University of Michigan, is a test of English writing, speaking and reading proficiency.

When the number of international applicants is expected to hit at an all time high in a year, the University is concurrently bolstering the availability of the MELAB by adding new testing sites around the world.

The University has offered the MELAB exam for years, but it never sought the scope of giants like the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Until now, the most well-known test of English language ability has been TOEFL. But, as the market for such a test has grown, competitors like the IELTS have emerged.

In an e-mail interview, Erica Sanders, the director of recruitment and operations in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions said, “The MELAB is accepted as a test of English as a second language examination; not in place of TOEFL, but as an alternative.”

According to the English Language Institute, that alternative is one that droves of international students are electing.

The MELAB is accepted at many U.S. universities and while the test has only been administered in the United States and Canada in the past, institutions in the United Kingdom, Sweden and Norway now recognize it.

In the industry of well-established names, the MELAB distinguishes itself by remaining a strictly paper-and-pencil test. Other exams are administered on a computer, which MELAB promoters argue can be intimidating and problematic with technology glitches.

The English Language Institute attributes the popularity of the exam to the MELAB’s ability to accommodate numerous test takers because with a paper-based exam, limited computer availability isn’t an issue.

The roughly three-hour exam costs $80, with an additional $40 for the oral exam. The TOEFL costs $140 and has paper and Internet test-taking options.

The English Language Institute, founded in 1941, has gained recognition for its language research and teaching programs. Today it’s well-known for its testing resources, including the MELAB.

Additionally, the center plans to promote the program and encourage those schools that have not yet made MELAB acceptable in their admissions to do so. While the MELAB has experienced notable growth, it is currently nowhere near as widely-accepted as the TOEFL.

About 250 institutions accept the MELAB. The TOEFL is currently accepted by more than 6,000 institutions in more than 130 countries.

MELAB Coordinator Barbara Rose said the market for English language proficiency exams is likely to continue growing.

“It’s flourishing. As more and more people come to the U.S. and Canada to further their education, they have to show their English proficiency,” Rose said. “We’re very busy.”

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