Consider the Candidate : Using Test-taker Feedback to Enhance Quality and Validity in Language Testing

David Ewing Ryan


This article discusses the importance for language test developers of taking candidate feedback into consideration in order to improve the overall quality and validity of their language tests. It reports on a study that was carried out at the Universidad Veracruzana, Mexico, between July and December 2010. The main objective of the study was to try and ascertain the positive and negative consequences for 245 candidates as a result of preparing for and taking a language test. The test was given in May 2010 during the spring application of EXAVER, a tiered-suite of English language certification tests developed and administered by the Universidad Veracruzana. A mixed methods approach was used for the study, incorporating both quantitative and qualitative data. The quantitative data came from the responses of a web-based questionnaire survey. The qualitative data came from the author’s Research Journal, spanning a period of eight months, and from a series of semi-structured interviews. The findings of the study suggest that language test candidates not only have strong opinions (both positive and negative) about the tests they take, but they also have a strong desire to share those opinions with test developers. This type of feedback can then be used to substantially improve future tests, thereby helping to enhance the validity of the test system. The research provides a new perspective on a relatively unexplored area of language testing and has implications for language testing practitioners who welcome a more transparent and democratic form of assessment.

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ISSN 1647-4058