General Types of Language Tests

  1. Achievement Tests are directly related to language courses, their purpose being to establish how successful individual students, groups of students, or the courses themselves have been in achieving objectives. An achievement test is related directly to classroom lessons, units, or even a total curriculum. Achievement tests should be limited to particular material addressed in a curriculum within a particular time frame and should be offered after a course has focused on the objectives in question.
  2. Diagnostic Tests are used to identify learners’ strengths and weaknesses. They are intended primarily to ascertain what learning still needs to take place. A diagnostic test can help a student become aware of errors and encourage the adoption of appropriate compensatory strategies. A test of  pronunciation, for example, might diagnose the phonological features of English that are difficult for learners and should therefore become part of a curriculum. Usually such tests offer a checklist of features for the administrator to use in pinpointing difficulties.
  3. Placement Tests are intended to provide information that will help to place students at the stage of the teaching programme most appropriate to their abilities. Typically they are used to assign students to classes at different levels. The ultimate objective of a placement test is to correctly place a student into a course or level. Certain proficiency tests can act in the role of  placement tests. A placement test usually includes a sampling of the material to be covered in the various courses in a curriculum. In a placement test, a student should find the test material neither too easy nor too difficult but appropriately challenging.
  4. Proficiency Tests are designed to measure people’s ability in a language, regardless of any training they may have had in that language. The content of a proficiency test, therefore, is not based on the content or objectives of language courses that people taking the test may have followed. Rather, it is based on a specification of what candidates have to be able to do in the language in order to be considered proficient.

References and Other Readings:

  • Alderson, J. Charles, et al. 1995. Language test construction and evaluation.  Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press.
  • Brown, H. Douglas. Language assessment: principles and classroom practices.  New York:  Pearson education, Inc.
  • Hughes, Arthur.   Testing for language teachers.  Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press.
  • Lynch, Brian K. 2003. Language assessment and programme evaluation. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • McNamara, Tim.   Measuring  second language performance.  Essex:  Addison Longman Ltd.
  • 2000.  Language testing.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press.
  • Weir, Cyril J. 2005. Language testing and evaluation. New York: PALGRAVE Macmillan.
  • 1993. Understanding and developing language tests.  Hertfordshire: Prentice Hall International (UK) Ltd.
  • 1988. Communicative language testing.  Hertfordshire:  Prentice Hall International (UK) Ltd.