Placement testing: What does it mean?

by | 26 September 2022

What is the difference between accuracy and reliability? Why is the relative numeric so important? Most English teachers don’t have an in-depth knowledge of testing methodology – or terminology. I hope this post will show how the terms themselves can open up some of the key concepts in testing and assessment, in the context of the CEFR. Here is a list of ten testing words and phrases, each linked to a post for further reading.

Words Definition Read more from:
Accuracy An accurate test will be able to place a test taker at the correct CEFR level – a true reflection of their abilities. telc Test developer, Laura Edwards
Adaptive An adaptive test gets easier or harder depending on the test taker’s answers. ClarityEnglish Technical Director, Dr Adrian Raper
Anchor items These are questions taken from existing tests that have been proven to correspond to a specific CEFR level. The accuracy and reliability of new items is measured against them. telc Test Developer, Mia Aghajari 
Item analysis This is a quantitative analysis of the test questions. A large data set of test takers’ results makes it possible to analyse the extent to which an item is accurate, reliable and valid in determining a CEFR level. Item analysis process
Language elements Alongside Reading and Listening, many placement tests include a section assessing Language Elements. This section focuses on vocabulary, sentence-level grammar and on the relationship between ideas in sentences. Dynamic Placement Test, Test construct
Placement test A placement test shouldn’t be confused with a proficiency test or a level test. Placement tests check the current language level of students entering a language program to place them in the most appropriate group. telc Test developer, Sean McDonald
Relative numeric This concept is unique to the Dynamic Placement Test. Because CEFR levels are so broad, the test output includes a Relative numeric (between 1-120), which acts as an indicator of where within a CEFR level a test taker sits. Dynamic Placement Test, Scoring
Reliability The consistency at which a test produces the same, accurate result for a candidate. Dynamic Placement Test, Reliability
Standard setting At a standard setting event, items in a test are scrutinised, assessed and improved by a panel of specialists. This is a qualitative analysis of the questions. Clarity’s DPTSS
Validity Validity in assessment refers to whether the test actually measures the knowledge or skills it claims to. Dynamic Placement Test, Validity

I hope this glossary makes you feel equipped to understand testing terminology. You can use this checklist to
assess a test, and take a look at these posts for specific features that your institution may be looking for including: adaptivity, cultural fairness, remote or offline capabilities.

Katie Stokes, Blog Editor, ClarityEnglish

Katie Stokes, Blog Editor, ClarityEnglish