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Evaluating Tests of Second Language Development

A Framework and an Empirical Study

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Khaled Barkaoui

The book introduces a framework for examining the validity of tests that aim to assess second-language (L2) proficiency development over time and/or in relation to L2 instruction. It also reports the findings of a longitudinal study that aimed to examine the sensitivity to change of a test of L2 proficiency development. Specifically, the study examined changes over time in Progress scores and the linguistic characteristics of essays written in response to Progress by learners who took the test before, during and after a period of L2 instruction in different countries. The book furthers our understanding of the nature of L2 proficiency as it develops over time and in relation to L2 instruction and provides a framework that can be used in future endeavours to design and validate tests of L2 proficiency development. The book is intended for graduate students, test developers, and researchers doing research in applied linguistics and L2 assessment.

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Chapter 3: The Pearson Progress Test

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Chapter 3The Pearson Progress Test

The Progress test is an online, formative assessment of English language proficiency designed by Pearson to measure and support the progress of English language learners (Pearson, 2014). Progress is primarily designed to be used by teachers and learners as part of a learning program supporting learning through assessment. The test is not expected to be taken at a secure test center. As such, the intended score use is not for certification of the student’s English proficiency level. Rather, the test is designed to measure the progress made by a student over a course duration in order to provide students and their teachers with information about the student’s progress which can guide future English language instruction and study. Progress assesses six language skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking, vocabulary and grammar) and is normally combined with a learning program; with the test usually taken at the start, middle and end of a course of English language study. Scores from Progress given at the start and middle of a course can be used to understand the strengths and weaknesses of a student or class in order to better target their individual learning needs. Tests at the middle and end of a course can be used to demonstrate how much progression is being made.

Progress consist of two stages, an adaptive stage and a linear stage (see Fig. 3.1). Stage 1, the adaptive part of the test, is directed at the...

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