The reliability and validity of a placement test lies in the quality of the questions. Without a good question bank, you will be left with an empty framework. So what is the key to a good question bank? The answer comes in two parts: review and renew.
First, review. Every question should be reviewed before it goes into the test as well as when it is in the test. This makes sure the content remains relevant and accurate over time.
With every Dynamic Placement Test that is taken, administrators get to know how test takers performed, and we get to know how our questions performed. To help us decide which items need further scrutiny, we can analyse the questions that: all test takers answered correctly, some test takers struggled with, all test takers failed to answer. By reviewing the question bank regularly, we are able to identify the items that don’t serve the test takers or the test anymore.
That is when part two comes in: renew. When an item comes to the end of its life in the test, a new one must replace it. This renewal process also requires a level of analysis. Discriminating between CEFR levels only gets more challenging the higher you go. Take C1 and C2 levels. The difference is subtle but distinct and the questions must reflect that. The most recent update of the Dynamic Placement Test included more C2 questions to enhance the question bank and further distinguish between the ‘can do’ statements.
A question bank should be an active environment, continuously checked, tested and changing. This way, you can be sure test takers are getting the most accurate picture of their abilities.