Henry Woo took the Dynamic Placement Test as part of his job interview with ClarityEnglish. He reflects on the experience.
On 8 July 2020, I attended a job interview for the post of Editor at the ClarityEnglish offices. On arrival, I was led to a room for an English test. As I walked in, I brought out a pen but was politely told “no”: it wouldn’t be necessary. What follows was my first experience of doing the online Dynamic Placement Test (DPT). This blog post is written from notes I was asked to make as an additional interview task.
I’m in my late twenties, and I left the pen-and-paper world behind when I finished university. My handwriting is atrocious, and I now write at probably half the speed that I did ten years ago. I think that’s not unusual among my peers. Those who are at university now do not use pen and paper at all, so doing a test on paper would be even worse for them.
To be able to do an online test on a tablet was therefore a relief — not just for me, but also, I’m sure, for anyone who might have had to read my work. I believe that the stress of having to write a test by hand risks making the result less accurate. After all, you are testing an additional skill (do we call it penmanship?) which almost certainly has no relevance to any twenty-first century job.
Perceived test accuracy — and fairness
One of the major problems with the traditional written placement test, especially in the context of job interviews, is that it relies too much on tasks which are hastily scrambled together by line managers or HR. These people are generally not language professionals.
The result is often a test that becomes a coin flip. Does the assigned task play to your strengths? Or not? This makes the test unfair and unreliable, and much too subjective. It’s easy to see how two interviewers would come to completely different conclusions about the same candidate, just by looking at how they performed in two different tasks. That’s not good for the recruitment process, or for the company. It also undermines the candidate’s confidence.
The advantage of the DPT, on the other hand, was that it tested my general English level by providing many small tasks assessing different areas of English: grammar, listening, reading, putting together a dialogue and so on. The tasks were varied, ranging from filling in the blanks, to arranging words into sentences, to dragging the correct picture to the right place. As I progressed over the 30 minutes, the questions increased in difficulty. It was challenging and stimulating. It felt professional.
At the end of the test, I decided that my English had been assessed fairly and transparently. Completing multiple, varied tasks at different levels of English made me feel that my language ability had been comprehensively assessed, and that I would be measured objectively against other applicants for the job. As I walked out of the room, instead of fearing a hastily-written sentence might ruin my day, I felt confident, knowing that I had been treated fairly.