Module 4: Validity (screen 2 of 4)
Testing Purposes

The purposes for testing vary from situation to situation.  When looking for a test that matches your purposes, ask yourself, “Why am I testing?  Do I want to know about students’ mastery of a specific curriculum, course or unit, or do I want to know about their general language skills?”


A basic decision that many face is whether to test achievement or proficiency.  Achievement tests generally measure specific content covered in a course or program, while proficiency tests measure general language ability and are not tied to the content of a particular course or program.   

Often teachers, administrators, and parents want to know information about specific skills students should be developing, such as reading ability or cultural knowledge.  It is important to choose a test that focuses on the skill you want to know about.  For example, if you want to find out about students’ communicative language ability, a test of only reading and writing may not be enough. 

Matching your purposes for testing with a test’s intended purposes is an important aspect of validity.  You can find information about a test’s intended purpose by checking information from the test developer or publisher.  Once you find out this information, you can decide if a test is valid for your purposes.