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Language Testing

1. LANGUAGE TESTING Language Testing is the practice and study of evaluating the
proficiency of an individual using a particular language effectively. Winning entry from
the 2009/10 Priscilla Allen, University of
2. The LANGUAGE TESTINGThe activity of developing and using language tests. As a
psychometric activity, language testing traditionally was more concerned with the
production, development and analysis of tests.Recent critical and ethical approaches to
language testing have placed more emphasis on the uses of language tests. The purpose of
a language test isto determine a persons knowledge and/or ability in the language and to
discriminate that persons ability from that of others. Alan Davies, University of
Types of Language Tests
Language tests work best when they are designed and developed to measure specific language
skills such as Speaking and Listening, Writing Proficiency, Reading Comprehension, the ability
to Translate text, or the ability to Interpret spoken language. ALTA language tests measure
language proficiency for a wide variety of jobs using one or more of our language test types. Our
testing team will help your organization match a bilingual position to the appropriate test type
and determine a legally defensible proficiency level, whether you hire bilingual customer service
representatives, nurse practitioners, law enforcement officers, sales representatives, flight
attendants, personal bankers, physicians, government linguists, legal document reviewers, or any
other position where language matters.

The Speaking and Listening Assessment: This test measures how well candidates can
speak and understand the language when spoken.

The Written Assessment: This test measures the candidates ability to write in the target

The Reading Assessment: This test verifies whether or not the candidate can read the
language at the required skill level.

The Interpretation Assessment: This test verifies whether or not the candidate can provide
a consecutive interpretation between two speakers in English and the target language.

The Translation Assessment: This test verifies whether or not the candidate can translate
material written in English into the target language, or material written in the target
language into English.

What are the main reasons for testing?

Achievement/Attainment tests: usually more formal, designed to show mastery of a particular
syllabus (e.g. end-of-year tests, school-leaving exams, public tests) though similar (re-syllabus)
to progress tests. Rarely constructed by classroom teacher for a particular class. Designed

primarily to measure individual progress rather than as a means of motivating or reinforcing

Progress Tests: Most classroom tests take this form. Assess progress students make in mastering
material taught in the classroom. Often given to motivate students. They also enable students to
assess the degree of success of teaching and learning and to identify areas of weakness &
difficulty. Progress tests can also be diagnostic to some degree.
Diagnostic Tests can include Progress, Achievement and Proficiency tests, enabling teachers to
identify specific weaknesses/difficulties so that an appropriate remedial programme can be
planned. Diagnostic Tests are primarily designed to assess students' knowledge & skills in
particular areas before a course of study is begun. Reference back to class-work. Motivation.
Remedial work.
Placement Tests sort new students into teaching groups so that they are approx. the same level
as others when they start. Present standing. General ability rather than specific points of learning.
Variety of tests necessary. Reference forward to future learning. Results of Placement Tests are
needed quickly. Administrative load.
Proficiency Tests measure students' achievements in relation to a specific task which they are
later required to perform (e.g. follow a university course in the English medium; do a particular
job). Reference forward to particular application of language acquired: future performance rather
than past achievement. They rarely take into account the syllabus that students have followed.
Definition of operational needs. Practical situations. Authentic strategies for coping. Common
standard e.g. driving test regardless of previous learning. Application of common standard
whether the syllabus is known or unknown.
Aptitude Tests: measure students probable performance. Reference forward but can be
distinguished from proficiency tests. Aptitude tests assess proficiency in language for language
use (e.g. will S experience difficulty in identifying sounds or the grammatical structure of a new
language?) while Proficiency tests measure adequacy of control in L2 for studying other things
through the medium of that language.

12 Characteristics of a good test

A good test should be:
1- Valid:It means that it measures what it is supposed to measure. It tests what it ought to test. A
good test which measures control of grammar should have no difficult lexical items.
2- Reliable: If it is taken again by ( same students, same conditions ), the score will be almost
the same regarding that the time between the test and the retest is of reasonable length. If it is
given twice to same students under the same circumstances, it will produce almost the same
results. In this case it is said that the test provides consistency in measuring the items being
3- Practical:It is easy to be conducted, easy to score without wasting too much time or effort.

4- Comprehensive:It covers all the items that have been taught or studied. It includes items from
different areas of the material assigned for the test so as to check accurately the amount of
students knowledge
5- Relevant:It measures reasonably well the achievement of the desired objectives.
6- Balanced:It tests linguistic as well as communicative competence and it reflects the real
command of the language. It tests also appropriateness and accuracy.
7- Appropriate in difficulty:It is neither too hard nor too easy. Questions should be progressive
in difficulty to reduce stress and tension
8- Clear:Questions and instructions should be clear. Pupils should know what to do exactly.
9- Authentic:The language of the test should reflect everyday discourse
10- Appropriate for time:A good test should be appropriate in length for the allotted time.
11- Objective:If it is marked by different teachers, the score will be the same. Marking process
should not be affected by the teachers personality. Questions and answers are so clear and
definite that the marker would give the students the score he/she deserves.
12- Economical:It makes the best use of the teachers limited time for preparing and grading and
it makes the best use of the pupils assigned time for answering all items. So, we can say that oral
exams in classes of +30 students are not economical as it requires too much time and effort to be
I'll define a good test (and by extension a good test suite) as one that has the following virtues:

Fast. If a test is slow, developers won't run it locally. This will lead to broken CI builds,
and more time spent fixing the code that broke the test afterwards, more context
switching, lack of flow, and all the concomitant problems.

Selective. If a bug is introduced into the code under test, only one or a few test cases
should fail. If all cases start failing, then it will require a too much time to figure out
exactly what is wrong. Your tests should point you in the direction of what's wrong.

Repeatable. Tests should always give the same result if the code being tested hasn't
changed. Any reliance in a test on timing, randomness, or external state (databases, the
date or time, etc) will lead to wasted time spent investigating spurious failures.

Reliable. Your test should pass when the code is working, and fail when the code has a
bug. Perhaps this is self-evident, but it bears repeating -- a test should not give false
positives or false negatives.

Helpful. In particular, test error messages should be helpful. Seeing

"user_has_logged_in() was False after user login" tells you exactly what's wrong,
whereas "AssertionError: False is not True" requires you to figure it out for yourself.

As we'll see, the myths, and the mistakes they cause developers to make while writing tests,
come from good intentions, but can lead to violations of one or more of the above principles.

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