Module 4: Validity (screen 3 of 4)
Test Use

In addition to considering the type of information you’d like to know about your students, consider how you will use this information.  Will you use test results to place incoming students?  Assign grades?  Improve your program?  Tests can be used as the basis for a range of decisions.  Test use is commonly discussed in terms of high-stakes and low-stakes testing, which refers to the impact of the test results on stakeholders.

Test use also relates to validity.  Think back to the discussion about proficiency and achievement tests.  For example, assigning a grade may be an appropriate use of a Spanish class achievement test, but using the same exam to make decisions about exit from the program may not be an appropriate use of this test.  When selecting a test, it’s important to make sure that the information provided by the test is sufficient for the decisions you’re going to make based on the test scores. 


The table on this page shows common uses for the tests mentioned on the previous page of this tutorial.  Visit the Key Assessment Terms in the Resources section for a definition of many of these terms.



Information provided by test

Sample use

Unit test

Linked closely with the material from a specific unit of study. Provides information on mastery of a narrowly-defined body of information.

A unit test could be used to assign grades to students.  An instructor may also use test results for lesson and unit planning. 

End-of-program exam

Assesses knowledge and ability in the material taught in various classes by different teachers.  Targets a relatively broad body of information covered in the program’s curriculum, and student performance may be affected by their different experiences (e.g., teachers, study abroad).

This exam could be used to establish exit criteria for students.  Results may also be used for program evaluation.

Medical interpreting licensure exam

Tests ability with language for a specific professional purpose within a well-defined domain.  Examinee may draw on knowledge from a class or work experience as well as general language ability.

A high-stakes exam used for professional licensure.

Language proficiency interview


Assesses general language ability.  May target academic or general professional skills.  Not tied to content of a particular course; examinees may use knowledge from both study and experience.

Information about language proficiency could be used to place incoming students in courses or to evaluate a program’s effectiveness.


What would this information look like for specific foreign language tests commonly used throughout the United States?  Click here for a similar chart of information and sample uses for tests developed by various educational organizations.


Information adapted from Stoynoff and Chapelle (2005).