Maintaining the connection between test and context: A language test for university admission
John Pill, American University of Beirut
Volume 5, Issue 1, 2016
Abstract: This paper reflects on a review of an existing English language examination for admission to an English-medium university in a non-English-dominant context. Studying how well an established test sits in its present context may highlight environmental changes causing gaps and points of friction. Such an evaluation therefore provides a baseline understanding from which to move forward. From the 1960s to 1980s, experts developed an examination for applicants to the American University of Beirut that was similar to the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) of that time. The AUB English Entrance Examination has remained relatively unchanged since then. Concern about its effectiveness prompted a recent review, providing an opportunity to study consequences of employing a test not fully adapted to its current use. The review found differences in what is/was viewed as appropriate test format and content, and in definitions of language proficiency. It also noted unwarranted assumptions made about comparability of results from different tests. Current language practices at the university, in the region and in the globalized workplace where graduates subsequently seek employment are different from those assumed when the test was first developed. This indicates the need for test revision and, for example, the potential benefit of developing an institutional language policy.
Keywords: English as the medium of instruction (EMI), test evaluation, testing English for academic purposes (EAP), university admission test