Saturday, March 19, 2011

"Types and uses of language tests"

This is a summary of the main points in Chapter 1 of the Brown book, "Types and uses of language tests". The summary is a guide for you to continue reading in the topic, and also serves as an aid to your memory. This is necessary because for many students, testing is a very difficult subject and hard to understand, not to mention to remember. Many students told me that after finishing a course in testing, all they remember are two words: validity and reliability (which are abstract concepts and difficult to understand indeed!)

Hope the summary helps you in your study, and good luck!

1. Two important groups of test users in schools are program administrators and classroom teachers. They use tests to make 4 kinds of decisions: placement, diagnostic, achievement, and proficiency.

2. There are two families of tests to serve the different purposes: norm-referenced tests or NRT for program administrators and criterion-referenced tests CRT for teachers.

3. NRTs are used to compare students in terms of their general abilities, while CRTs are used to decide whether students have acquired particular the knowledge or skills required of them. (cf. Table 1.1 on page 3)

4. Each test purpose requires a different kind of information. Therefore, NRTs and CRTs employ different methods for test item construction, scoring and score interpretation. (cf. Table 1.2 on page 7).

Further resources on this topic

1. Norm- and criterion-referenced testing by Bond, Linda A. - Link:

A short, nice introduction to NRT and CRT. If anyone has the time to translate this for me, I will be grateful!

2. Assessment purposes (my title: NRT and CRT compared). Link:

Very good, succinct comparison of NRT and CRT. You will need to go back to this when you do your assignments.

3. How to understand the difference between norm- and criterion-referenced testing - Link:

A further discussion of the differences between the two families of tests.
Well, so much for now. See you all tomorrow!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Language Assessment Syllabus (prepared by Vu Thi Phuong Anh)

Dear students,

Below is the syllabus for the Language Assessment Syllabus starting tomorrow. A copy of this syllabus has been sent to you via email. All comments and questions are welcomed.

(Tentative as of March 12, 2011)

Lecturer: Vu Thi Phuong Anh


Testing in Language Programs: A Comprehensive Guide to English Language Assessment (New Edition)
Author: James Dean Brown
International Edition 2005
Publisher: McGraw-Hill

Course description
This course aims to provide classroom teachers and program administrators with the necessary knowledge, skills, and tools that will allow them to make good decisions about how best to evaluate their students’ learning, the effectiveness of their own teaching, and the degree of success of their programs. In order to do this, they will need an understanding of the basic theoretical concepts and issues in language assessment, and a degree of competency in creating their own – or making the right choice among those readily available – assessment tools, and in reporting and interpreting assessment results.

Specifically, students will need to be able to (1) distinguish between the two main families of tests – norm-referenced (NR) and criterion-referenced (CR) tests, (2) understand the main issues in making a language assessment choice – the performance-competence issue and the discrete-point and integrative issue; (3) to write good language test items that are appropriate to the purpose and context of assessment, and (4) to make valid interpretation of the results in order to provide useful feedback to the relevant parties about the teaching and learning process.

Students are encouraged to reflect on their own language teaching and learning experience and to contribute to class discussions about the issues presented in the course. This will help them in their final test in which they will be asked to write an essay on a given topic chosen among those already discussed in class.

Assessments – Procedures and weightings

Students will be graded based on two criteria: 6 assignments (5% each), then a final test and essay (30% each). The other 10% is for class attendance.


Six assignments will be marked during the course. These are selected from the review questions and application exercises in the prescribed course-book, and can be done in class or as homework. Students will do the assignments in groups (either at home or in class), and present their answers with support arguments in class. Marks will be assigned immediately after the teacher provides feedback on students’ work, which will be accumulated toward their final scores.

Final test

At the end of the course, students are required to do an objective test and write a 500-word reflection essay on a given topic related to the issues discussed in class, where they must show how a language assessment foundation may help them solve their language teaching problems and make progress as TESOL professionals.


Session 1 Introduction to the Course & Chapter 1: Types and Uses of Language Tests

Session 2 Chapter 2: Adopting, Adapting, and Developing Language Tests

Session 3 Chapter 3: Developing Good Quality Language Test Items

Session 4 Chapter 3: Developing Good Quality Language Test Items (cont.)

Session 5: Chapter 4: Item Analysis in Language Testing

Session 6 Chapter 5: Describing Language Test Results

Session 7 Chapter 6: Interpreting Language Test Scores

Session 8 Chapter 7: Correlation in Language Testing

Session 9 Chapter 10: Language Testing in Reality

Session 10 Rounding off & Final Test