Language Assessment

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TestingAlthough language instruction should be first and foremost about student learning and what they are able to do with the language, teachers aim to discriminate those students that put in the effort from those who simply tried to fulfill a requirement or barely mastered the material. Language instructors can assess student learning in a variety of ways but the most common form continues to be via tests and quizzes, a process made remarkably convenient and easy in systems like Moodle. Language testing can be a reliable way to measure students' achievement. It is also a thriving research field with a substantial body of scholarship behind it. See, for example:

In Europe, there has been a movement towards common standards in language instruction and many countries have adopted the common European framework (pdf) for the teaching of foreign languages. It provides useful guidelines with regard to the various forms of assessment, namely:

  • Achievement assessment / Proficiency assessment
  • Norm-referencing (NR) / Criterion-referencing (CR)
  • Mastery learning / CR Continuum CR
  • Continuous assessment / Fixed assessment points
  • Formative assessment / Summative assessment
  • Direct assessment / Indirect assessment
  • Performance assessment / Knowledge assessment
  • Subjective assessment / Objective assessment
  • Checklist rating / Performance rating
  • Impression / Guided judgement
  • Holistic assessment / Analytic assessment
  • Series assessment / Category assessment
  • Assessment by others / Self-assessment 

In the US, the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) has partnered with Language Testing International to provide on-demand language proficiency testing. ACTFL, however, is not the only testing service available. For a rather comprehensive list of assessment tests, you can visit the Center for Applied Linguistics database at Other useful resources are available at