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Post-admission Language Assessment of University Students

Volume 6 of the series English Language Education pp 197-216

Date:

Telling the Story of a Test: The Test of Academic Literacy for Postgraduate Students (TALPS)

  • Avasha RambiritchAffiliated withUnit for Academic Literacy, University of Pretoria Email author 
  • , Albert WeidemanAffiliated withOffice of the Dean: Humanities, University of the Free State

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Abstract

This chapter will follow Shohamy’s exhortation “to tell the story of the test” (2001). It begins by highlighting the need for the Test of Academic Literacy for Postgraduate Students (TALPS), for use primarily as a placement and diagnostic mechanism for postgraduate study, before documenting the progress made from its initial conceptualisation, design and development to its trial, results and its final implementation. Using the empirical evidence gathered, assertions will be made about the reliability and validity of the test. Documenting the design process ensures that relevant information is available and accessible both to test takers and to the public. This telling of the story of TALPS is the first step in ensuring transparency and accountability. The second is related to issues of fairness, especially the use of tests to restrict and deny access, which may occasion a negative attitude to tests. Issues of fairness dictate that test designers consider the impact of the test; employ effective ways to promote the responsible use of the test; be willing to mitigate the effects of mismeasurement; consider potential refinement of the format of the test; and ensure alignment between the test and the teaching/intervention that follows. It is in telling the story of TALPS, and in highlighting how issues of fairness have been considered seriously in its design and use that we hope to answer a key question that all test designers need to ask: Have we, as test designers, succeeded in designing a socially acceptable, fair and responsible test?

Keywords

Academic literacy Academic writing Language tests Postgraduate study Intervention Test design Fairness Transparency Accountability