Two interuniversity language tests: ITNA and ITACE

Within a project on education innovation at the University of Ghent, we are editing two existing language tests for future students. The reason for this is the obvious need for a thorough examination of the language level of Dutch for foreign students and of the language level of English for students who want to enrol in one of the English master’s programmes. These types of online tests are not yet available at the Flemish universities. In addition, the tests used so far had been made intuitively and had not been subjected to a thorough validity and reliability study.

Within this project, it is therefore our aim to develop digital tests that are based on an extensive pre-testing phase in which validity and reliability have been examined. Thoroughly validated tests form an integral part of education and make an essential contribution to the innovation of education. Besides this, an innovative test methodology is highly valued in this project.

Both for the test of Dutch and the test of English, a cooperation has been established between the different Flemish university language centres (Linguapolis, the University of Antwerp; ILT, KULeuven, HUB, Brussels). Together we are developing standard acceptance tests that are the same for all universities, which significantly increases the range and the strength of the developed tests.

The test of Dutch (Interuniversity Test of Dutch for Speakers of Other Languages, ITNA) determines whether the tester has at least reached the B2 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. For the English test (Interuniversity Test of Academic English, ITACE), a level test is being developed. The student first receives a basic test which determines whether he or she has a rather low or rather high level. Next, the student is presented with a test at his or her estimated level, in order to more accurately determine his or her exact level according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. This adaptive system enables us to determine the level of the student, ranging from A2 to C1, on the Common European Framework of Reference.

Within this project we strive for a thorough analysis of the tests, both qualitative and quantitative. The test items are qualitatively tested on a number of students through a think aloud protocol (Morae software), which provides a better understanding of the possible corrections for the test (e.g. formulating different distractors for multiple choice questions, avoiding as much as possible the use of knowledge of the world when solving questions, formulating instructions clearly, the difficulty level, etc.). This way, the relevance of the test questions can also be questioned. The formulation of the questions is based on the findings taken from the Think aloud protocol.

Furthermore, the test items are intensively pre-tested in different pilot versions. Students are invited to take (parts of) the test, so that we can thoroughly and statistically verify the test items through a classic item analysis (difficulty and reliability of the item). Based on these results, the tests are further adapted and refined. A thorough post-analysis of the existing items enables us to fine-tune the test and refine the distinctions based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.