Why Proficiency Tests Matter

When taking language lessons, proficiency tests really do matter, as they are the starting point of a great language program.

What do you think when you hear “assessment” or “test”?

Everyone gets a little nervous when they hear the word, “assessment.” For many, it makes them think of a school with hard tests, scary teachers, and ticking clocks. But, there’s no need to fear! The assessments you’ll get during your language lessons shouldn’t be intimidating, but they should be effective. You should think of them as your first step to achieving your language goals.

Your language proficiency assessment won’t be a standardized test with a number score. There aren’t any multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank questions. Instead, you’ll do a lot of talking and listening. Depending on your goals, you might do some reading and writing as well. The assessment appears informal, but it’s actually structured to be an accurate measurement of your language proficiency level.

Language Proficiency Tests

How your language proficiency measured

Your language proficiency is measured using either ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) or CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) guidelines. You will complete tasks with your teacher, like writing a grocery list or scheduling a doctor’s appointment to show how your language skills are in the real world. The tasks that you have to do get more difficult as you make progress.

Tasks correspond to a specific proficiency level, so it’s easy to determine yours based on what you can and can’t do. For example, novices can write lists, but they can’t understand the more complex language of promotional flyers. So, if you can write a grocery list but can’t understand a sales promotion flyer, you’d be a novice. There are no numbers to figure out or codes to decipher. Every benchmark is written clearly and connects directly to using the language outside of the classroom.

As you progress, your teacher will continually adjust your level. Everything you do serves as an assessment. You won’t “waste time” on test taking because your practical lessons are the test. Assessment and learning happen at the same time, so you get more out of every minute of instruction.

Why proficiency tests are so important in a language program

Obtaining an accurate and useful indicator of your level is the starting point for your language learning journey. Knowing where you stand will help you and your teacher figure out the best ways to support your goals. Remember, your teacher will assess your language level not to judge you but to customize what they teach. Therefore, there is no right or wrong answers – just useful information. They will be able to take what you say or write and structure a learning pathway uniquely tailored to help you succeed!


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