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Evaluating Tests of Second Language Development

A Framework and an Empirical Study


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 6: Changes in Grammatical Aspects


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Chapter 6Changes in Grammatical Aspects

This chapter presents findings concerning changes in the four grammatical aspects examined in the study: fluency, linguistic accuracy, syntactic complexity, and lexical complexity. These aspects are the most frequently examined aspects of L2 learners’ writing in the literature.


Tab. 6.1 reports descriptive statistics for the fluency and accuracy indices by test level and test occasion. It shows that the learners wrote longer essays on later test occasions than they did on earlier occasions. For example, the average essay length across all learners at the beginning of the course was 64.43 words (SD = 34.56), which increased to M = 72.40 (SD = 38.75) at the middle of the course and to M = 76.08 (SD = 40.03) at the end of the course. Similarly, as test level increases, essay length increased from M = 42.40 words (SD = 23.95) for Progress 15–30 to M = 77.36 words (SD = 42.09) for Progress 55–70. Tab. 6.2 shows the autocorrelations for the fluency index across test occasions. It shows that the correlation is between .49 (for times 1 and 3) and .59 (for times 1 and 2), indicating that, generally, learners who wrote longer essays on any test occasion tend to write longer essays on the other occasions and vice versa.

MLM Model 1 for fluency (Tab. 6.3) indicated that (a) about half the variance (52 %) in fluency was between learners and the other half (48 %) across test occasions...

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