Placement test results: what do they mean?

by | 15 July 2020

The Advanced Swimmer Series consists of three levels, Bronze, Silver and Gold; each award has a badge and certificate. Once you have completed your Bronze course and collected your certificate, you will move on into the Silver class. In a similar fashion, once you’ve completed your driving test, the job is done and you are free to drive on the roads. These are the kinds of test we are most familiar with, so it’s easy to get confused, and to forget that the output of a placement test does not certify that a student has completed a given job of work; it has a quite different purpose.

The purpose of the Dynamic Placement Test score (CEFR and Relative Numeric) is to tell you where you should place your students in order for them to flourish. It tells you the level of the learning materials that will benefit them the most. It can also help in grouping students of the same, or approximately the same level to avoid the challenges of a mixed ability class.

So where a swimming student who has achieved the Bronze will move into the Silver class, an English student who scores B2 in a placement test does not move into the C1 class. Somewhat counter-intuitively, they go into the B2 class.

Often a single intake, especially in a university drawing students from the same education system, will find the bulk of students are at a similar level, often A2 / B1. This is where the Relative Numeric (RN) element of the score comes in. As a reminder:

A1 – RN: 1-20
A2 – RN: 21-40
B1 – RN: 41-60
B2 – RN: 61-80
C1 – RN: 81-100
C2 – RN: 101-120

If the placement test tells you that you have 500 students at A2 and 480 at B1, this is not very helpful when it comes to organising them into classes. The Relative Numeric shows you approximately where in the A2 level each student is located. This enables you to divide the level into, say, thirds, and to group the students with much more precision.

Why is this important? In this post, Sean McDonald of telc shows how placing students accurately is the single biggest factor determining their success in achieving their language learning goals.

Further reading
Dynamic Placement Test: interpreting scores

Andrew Stokes, Publisher, ClarityEnglish

Andrew Stokes, Publisher, ClarityEnglish