Why we test our students before they arrive

by | 4 June 2019

Etherton Education, based in Somerset in the UK, provides academic summer courses to students looking to study in a British boarding school or university. Started by Peter and Anne Etherton in 2002, the company aims to bridge the gap in education for students arriving to study in the UK for the first time. Their goal is to acclimatise the students to a new culture while preparing them to tackle a different academic syllabus and style, at the same time. They have 7 courses over 4 locations in the UK for students aged 6 to 17 years, where students study intensive English and up to ten other academic subjects. The courses also include lots of sports, social activities, clubs and cultural visits, all designed so the students work hard but also have a lot of fun.

Over the past two years, Etherton Education has been using Clarity’s Dynamic Placement Test to get an idea of the students’ level of English prior to their arrival. Becki George from Etherton Education explains why the Dynamic Placement Test works for them.

Why we like the test

‘Previously, we would conduct a paper-based placement test on the day the student arrived but this was incredibly stressful for all concerned. Some students would have travelled for 24 hours to reach us, and then almost immediately have to take a test – not the most enjoyable welcome! Now, with the Dynamic Placement Test, not only are the students able to take the test at home, or somewhere they are comfortable, but we can also have the class structures ready well in advance of when they get to us. This takes a lot of pressure off teachers, administrators and the students at the start of the course.’

The set up process

‘Our students apply for the course throughout the year, so we group the applications and test them in batches. We set a minimum of 10 applicants to a group, and as soon as we have enough applications to form a group, we start the process:

  1. First, we send a personalised email directly to the applicants introducing the Dynamic Placement Test, informing them what it will be used for and letting them know that the test will come out the following day from ClarityEnglish
  2. We then go to the test’s Admin Panel, create a group, import the students and schedule a test – usually giving students seven days to complete the test
  3. The next day, we send out the welcome emails with all the test details
  4. We keep an eye on the results coming in and midway through we send reminders to any students that have not completed the test yet
  5. Once the tests have been completed and all the results have come in, we download the results in excel format and after collating the results from all the different groups in a spreadsheet, we begin to organise the class structures.’

Advice for other users

‘We have found that the key to ensuring that the test was successful were the additional emails. We found that sending out an introduction email to the students, from our own email address, to advise them that an online test will be sent to them soon, and to let them know who it was coming from, was key! This email also acts as a check to verify the email address the educational agent provided us with, so we get fewer failed emails on the ClarityEnglish system when it is set up. We also copy it to their educational agent if applicable, as we found keeping the agent informed and involved in the pre-arrival procedures made it easier to ensure deadlines are met. The midway-stage email really helped to get more tests completed per group. This is also copied to the student’s educational agent to help prompt the student.’

‘Finally, trust the system – if any issues occurred, the Dynamic Placement Test team would investigate promptly and thoroughly, offering suggestions for the best way to proceed.’

To find out more about Etherton Education, visit their website or send them an email at info@ethertoneducation.com

Elinor Stokes, Online English Specialist, Atlas English

Elinor Stokes, Online English Specialist, Atlas English