Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Language tests being misused, UK study suggests

June 23, 2011
University of Leicester
An article on language testing argues that some agencies are using unsuitable language tests to achieve policy ends.

A seminal article on language testing, co-authored by Dr Glenn Fulcher, a Reader in Education at the University of Leicester, argues that some agencies are using unsuitable language tests to achieve policy ends.

Dr Fulcher, and Professor Fred Davidson of the University of Illinois Department of Linguistics, argue that generic tests are being used for multiple purposes because some policy makers go for "cheap and simple solutions" to complex problems, such as immigration.

Their article, entitled Test architecture, test retrofit, which has won this year's Best Paper Award from the International Language Testing Association (ILTA), uses architectural references to illustrate how language tests are being misused.

The researchers will be presented with a check and a plaque at the Language Testing Research Colloquium, being held at the University of Michigan from June 23-25, 2011.

Dr Fulcher, from the University of Leicester School of Education, said: "The use of language tests as instruments of public policy has spread exponentially over the last ten years. Most recently, for example, the UK Border Agency has introduced the use of language testing to reduce the number of students entering the United Kingdom; and a policy of restricting immigration rights to the non-EU spouses of UK citizens who do not speak English is now in place.

"In the world of professional certification language testing is also becoming increasingly important. The press has recently been full of stories about the horrors of allowing professionals to practice without the necessary language and communication skills to function safely. These have ranged from calls to introduce language testing for all medical staff who trained in non-English environments to the standardization of language testing for air traffic controllers and pilots.

"These are all cases of "high stakes" test use situations, where the consequences of poor decision making are serious."

Dr Fulcher cited the example of tests of academic English that are used for spouses: "The barriers to immigration may be set too high, and test use therefore may be a form of discrimination. Similarly, it is hard to draw inferences about a pilot's ability to communicate with air traffic control, or a doctor with a patient, both contexts which require specialist vocabulary and terminology, on the basis of a test designed for first year university students."

Dr Fulcher added that testing is a lucrative industry -- but it is expensive to research and to develop new tests that are fit for purpose.

"Some testing companies encourage the use of a single product for as many uses as they can. Our article explicitly draws attention to the tension between prioritizing test purpose and score interpretability on the one hand, and commercial pressures to increase test volumes, on the other.

"We need to show policy makers and testing agencies that the consequences of their decisions are potentially very serious. It is possible for someone to be certified on the basis of a generic test and then fail in their real world tasks -- like an air disaster because the air traffic controller could not communicate clearly enough to keep two aircraft apart in an emergency. Many such language related instances are on record."

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Leicester. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Cite This Page:

University of Leicester. "Language tests being misused, UK study suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110623130745.htm>.
University of Leicester. (2011, June 23). Language tests being misused, UK study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110623130745.htm
University of Leicester. "Language tests being misused, UK study suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110623130745.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This

More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Pregnancy Spacing Could Have Big Impact On Autism Risks

Pregnancy Spacing Could Have Big Impact On Autism Risks

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) A new study says children born less than one year and more than five years after a sibling can have an increased risk for autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stopping School Violence

Stopping School Violence

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) A trauma doctor steps out of the hospital and into the classroom to teach kids how to calmly solve conflicts, avoiding a trip to the ER. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pineal Cysts: Debilitating Pain

Pineal Cysts: Debilitating Pain

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) A tiny cyst in the brain that can cause debilitating symptoms like chronic headaches and insomnia, and the doctor who performs the delicate surgery to remove them. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Burning Away Brain Tumors

Burning Away Brain Tumors

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) Doctors are 'cooking' brain tumors. Hear how this new laser-heat procedure cuts down on recovery time. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.


Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News


Free Subscriptions

Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile

Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?

Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins