Selecting Placement Tests

How do I select an appropriate placement test?

To determine your approach to placement testing, it is important to start by thinking about your students and your program.

Completing a placement test needs assessment can help support you in this process, and you should focus on your student and program characteristics, the information you hope to gain through placement testing, the types of decisions you’ll make based on the results, and the available resources you have for administering and scoring placement tests.

Depending on your role and the extent to which your program involves different staff and faculty members in decisions about placement testing, you may not be directly involved in selecting a placement test for your course or program. In this case, you may find that the placement tests being used in your program do not meet your specific needs, and you may want to advocate for what should be used or consider supplementing the tests being used with other tests or methods, such as informal interviews, self-assessments, and/or questionnaires.

When thinking about appropriate placement tests for your course/program, consider the following questions:

  • What do I want to know and what types of placement tests will give me the information I need?
    • Do I want to know about students’ general language proficiency, measure discrete skills, or learn about language abilities relative to the content of my program?
    • Do I want to determine the extent to which incoming students have already met course objectives?
    • Do I want to use test results to make decisions about curriculum and instruction?

  • Should I develop a placement test in-house?
    • What funds, resources, and expertise are available to develop this?
    • What type of training is needed for instructors to administer and score the test, and who will train them?
    • How will we ensure that a locally-developed test is valid, reliable, and used for its intended purpose?

  • If I cannot develop a placement test in-house, how will I select an appropriate off-the-shelf test?
    • Does the test align with our program needs?
    • How much does it cost?
    • How can I align the test results with my course levels?