UUses of Language Assessments



Language tests are used in many contexts and for many purposes. Language test results are used to make judgments about the status, progress, or accomplishments of individual test takers or programs. Other uses of language test scores are screening and placing test takers into appropriate educational programs; selecting employees for hiring or promotion; providing diagnostic information about test takers' strengths and weaknesses, and guiding language instructional interventions. They are also used to judge or monitor the quality of language programs and to act as tools for data gathering in research. Many educational uses of assessments in the classroom are used to help teachers and learners, but tests are also used to make decisions which, in many cases, can have serious implications for the life chances of test takers.

Test use, or purpose, is the first consideration in test design. As Davies (1990) put it, language test developers must first ask the why question (i.e., test purpose) before they can resolve the what, or content, question. Test purpose, or how the scores are interpreted and used to make decisions, is critical for test development for several reasons. First, the test purpose must drive the definition of the knowledge and skills to be tested so that the test content meets the needs of a general or specific interpretation of language ability. For instance, if a test is to be used for selection or admission, ...

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