Test writing and CEFR levels

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Measuring levels

I’ve just got back to work after attending the extremely successful 35th TESOL-Spain National Convention in Bilbao. From the various talks I went to, I gathered that some teachers and test writers are using coursebook materials to help them devise tests and examinations which are pegged to CEFR levels. In some cases these examinations are high-stakes (this is when a test result is used as the basis for an important decision, often with test-takers are receiving certificates stating that they are at specific CEFR levels).

Whilst information about CEFR levels on coursebooks is extremely useful for orientation purposes, I feel that if we’re using this for test design then perhaps we might need to be a little more circumspect. For example, is the length and complexity of sentences in a coursebook reading text appropriate for the level we are testing at? What about the topic? And, what about the language (structure, vocabulary, discourse markers)?

There’s so much involved in being at a level, so perhaps it would be a good idea for test-writers to do a little cross-checking with CEFR documentation at the design stage. There’s lots of info around to help us in this venture, and a list of useful reference materials will be coming soon … so, watch this space …

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