Academic English Screening Test (AEST) / Post-entry Assessment of Academic English (PAAL)
The online Academic English Screening Test (AEST) is designed to provide a means of identifying those students who are likely to experience difficulties in coping with the English language demands of their academic study. The test can be used as an alternative to the more time consuming DELA. The test was designed on the assumption of universal testing rather than targeting of particular categories of student. A number of Australian universities use the AEST under site licences agreements. Contact us for more information on how to gain a site licence for AEST.
Details of the Academic English Screening Test (AEST)
The AEST was developed at the LTRC at the University of Melbourne in early 2009 for use as a university post-entry language assessment. The assessment was designed to provide a quick and efficient means of identifying those students in a large and linguistically diverse student population who are likely to experience difficulties coping with the English language demands of academic study. It is based on the principle of universal testing, to allow for all at risk students to be identified, rather than targeting particular categories of students (as is the case for DELA at the University of Melbourne) and builds on over ten years of development and research done at the University of Melbourne and the University of Auckland.
The test is made up of two sections: a text completion task, and a speed reading task, all completed within a twenty-five minute time frame. (For a detailed account of the test construct, initial development and trialling, refer to Elder & Knoch, 2009). In some contexts, an additional writing task has been added to provide students with more diagnostic information. The writing task was drawn from the previously validated DELA and the other two tasks were newly developed in 2009. The 20- minute text completion task consists of three short texts and uses a C-test format (Klein-Braley, 1985) in which every second word has been partially deleted. Students are required to reconstruct the text by filling in the gaps. The speed reading task, an adaptation of the cloze-elide format used for the screening component of DELNA at the University of Auckland (Elder & Von Randow, 2008), requires students to read a text of approximately 1000 words in 10 minutes and identify superfluous words that have been randomly inserted. The test scores from the two screening components place students in one of three support categories as follows (please note that the terms proficient, borderline and at risk are shown to students):
- Proficient: students scoring in the highest range are deemed to have sufficient academic English proficiency for the demands of tertiary study.
- Borderline: students scoring in the middle range are likely to be in need of further language support or development.
- At Risk: students scoring in the lowest range are deemed likely to be at risk of academic failure if they do not undertake further language support and development.
For reasons of practicality and due to financial constraints, the test was not designed to provide detailed feedback to test takers beyond the classification they are placed into and information about the support available to them on campus. Following the initial development and trialling of the AEST (described in Elder & Knoch, 2009), further parallel versions were developed and statistically equated. Currently, there are now seven versions available, with eighth one in development. A new version is developed each year to ensure test materials are not in circulation too long.
The LTRC also provides a candidate handbook with sample versions of the test tasks to clients.
Language Placement Tests
The LTRC oversees the administration and continued maintenance of the Faculty of Arts placement test battery for nine languages (French, Arabic, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Indonesian, Chinese and Japanese) which have been operational since the beginning of 2014. The LTRC team continues to work closely with language staff to continually improve and fine-tune the test and associated procedures.
We are also making these tests available to other institutions under site license agreements. The LTRC has been working with other universities, locally and internationaly on adapting and customising these language placement tests for their purposes, for languages including Portuguese, French, Arabic, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Indonesian, Chinese and Japanese. Clients interested in customisation of tests please contact us for further information.
DELA: Diagnostic English Language Assessment
DELA was developed by the LTRC in the early 1990s, and has been administered by the LTRC since then. DELA is used by universities in Australia and New Zealand to assess the English proficiency (reading, writing, listening) of non-English-speaking background (NESB) students commencing university study. The diagnostic information provided by the test is used by teaching units which provide ESL support to students. Institutions can purchase a site licence to use a particular form/forms of DELA for a given period. Alternatively, the LTRC will administer and score and report results of the test on your behalf.
UTESL: University Test of English as a Second Language
UTESL, developed by the LTRC, has been used by a number of institutions in Victoria to assess the English proficiency of non-English speaking background (NESB) students applying for admission to advanced English for Academic Purpose courses. It also provides a means whereby tertiary institutions can make decisions about the amount and type of English language support an applicant is likely to need. Parallel (equated) forms of UTESL are available for purchase, with the fee varying according to the number of test takers involved. Assessor training is also available for each form.