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Assessing English-Language Proficiency in All Four Language Domains: Is It Really Necessary?

Author(s):
Powers, Donald E.
Publication Year:
2013
Source:
Powers, Donald E. (ed.) The Research Foundation for the TOEIC Tests: A Compendium of Studies: Volume II. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service, Sep 2013, p1.1-1.7
Document Type:
Chapter
Page Count:
8
Subject/Key Words:
English as a Foreign Language (EFL) English as a Second Language (ESL) English Language Assessment (ELA) English Language Skills Four-Skills Assessment of English Language Proficiency Listening Skills Reading Skills Speaking Skills Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) Test-Taker Performance Writing Skills

Abstract

SUMMARY: This article examines and argues in favor of assessing English-language proficiency using a comprehensive four-skill assessment (i.e., listening, speaking, reading and writing) rather than just a select subset of those skills. Different use cases for TOEIC tests lead to the conclusion that in most cases, English-language proficiency is best evaluated using a comprehensive four-skill assessment. Such an approach is aligned with best practices and positively impacts English-language teaching and learning, particularly since research has shown that important tests often have a strong impact on the skills that teachers and learners prioritize. As a result, a limited evaluation of language proficiency can devalue or slow the development of important language skills. In addition to this positive impact, this paper suggests that by assessing all four skills together, decision makers can obtain more meaningful and valid indicators of overall English-language proficiency. This is based on the view that communicative competence involves a complex array of knowledge and abilities, and that effective communication typically requires at least some facility in each of the four skills. When decision makers are truly interested in evaluating someone's ability to communicate, a four-skill approach provides information that is more comprehensive, enhancing the quality of their decision making.

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