Placement Testing: The Why

Why is placement testing important?

Using placement tests can help you better understand incoming students’ skill sets and language backgrounds and ensure that they are placed into appropriate courses. The outcomes of placement testing can impact student learning, curriculum and instruction, and the overall success and longevity of a language program.

Click on the boxes below to learn more about ways in which placement testing affects these different components of language teaching and learning.

Student Learning

If students are placed into courses that are not challenging enough, they will not be as engaged in the course material and will likely not have sufficient opportunities to further develop their abilities in the language. If students are placed into courses that are too challenging, they may become frustrated and demotivated, and they will likely not have sufficient opportunities to work on the specific skills that they need to target to acquire proficiency in the language. Students who are placed into appropriate language courses, however, will have a more positive and successful language learning experience, making it more likely that they will continue with language study in the future.

Curriculum and Instruction

Information gathered from placement tests can provide evidence that impacts decisions made around curriculum and instruction within and across language courses. You may find that current approaches to curriculum and instruction are appropriate for students newly enrolling in your language program, as their knowledge of and abilities in the language align with existing course goals and objectives. On the other hand, you may find that there is misalignment between current practices and students’ backgrounds and needs, which may lead you to restructure your program. Placement testing is an important tool for programmatic decision making and ensuring the quality of your curriculum and instruction.

Program Success and Longevity

Placement testing can help language programs understand how to best serve students based on their backgrounds, needs, and motivations for language learning. If courses are aligned with students’ interests and needs, students will be more likely to develop a commitment to language learning and continue to enroll in language courses beyond those needed to meet minimum requirements for their degree. Greater demand for and enrollment in language courses at all levels can be used to secure additional funding and resources for your language program, expand your language program, and even encourage the development of new language programs at your institution.