Pearson Education Grant projects 2019

The Language Testing Research Centre has been awarded two Pearson Education Grants in 2019.

Project title: Examining the relevance of the Pearson PTE Academic test tasks for nursing professional registration – a stakeholder perceptions study


Overseas-trained nurses (also referred to as internationally qualified nurses or IQNs) play a major part in international workforce migration patterns and are frequently recruited to fill major workforce shortages in workplaces in English-speaking countries. To gain registration and subsequent employment, IQNs are required to fulfil a series of registration requirements and proving their English language proficiency is commonly one of the first hurdles in this process. In a number of English-speaking countries, one option for IQNs to fulfil the English language requirement is by taking a recognized English language test and achieving this at a level specified by the relevant registration board. In Australia, for example, nurses can take the Occupational English Test, the IELTS, the TOEFL test or the Pearson PTE Academic.

Many of the recognized language tests were not expressly developed for this purpose, however. The Pearson PTE (just like the IELTS and the TOEFL test) were originally designed to assess the language proficiency of students wishing to enter English-medium universities. As Fulcher (2013) and others have pointed out, it is important to conduct validation studies to collect backing to support each new test use context (Chapelle, 2008, 2012; Kane, 2006, 2013). Validating test use to make predictions about language proficiency in workplace contexts can rely on a number of different types of backing. The aim of this study is to involve IQNs in this process and with their help, to establish the relevance of Pearson PTE test tasks to the nursing work domain. The study aims to interview IQNs who have previously taken the Pearson PTE and have subsequently gained registration and are now working in Australian workplaces. The nurses will be asked about their perceptions of the usefulness and relevance of the various PTE Academic task types to their nursing contexts. The study has important implications for our understanding of the relevance of English language test tasks to professional communication as well as the use of domain expert informants in this process.

Project title: How do test takers prepare for computerised speaking tests? A comparative study of the PTE Academic and the CET-SET


Despite the abundance of research on test preparation, few studies have focused on how test takers prepare for speaking tests, let alone a fully automated one. In addition, no research, to the best of our knowledge, has compared test takers’ preparation practices and strategies on two high-stakes computerised speaking tests which differ in purpose, format, scoring methods, and indeed, the speaking constructs that are measured. This proposed study is aimed to examine and compare test takers’ preparation practices and strategies on two high-stakes computerised speaking tests: the speaking test of the Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic and the College English Test – Spoken English Test (CET-SET). The study will focus on the Chinese context where unprecedented numbers of students are learning English at different levels and taking various English language tests, both local (e.g., the CET) and international (e.g., the PTE Academic).

A sequential exploratory mixed-methods design, including a qualitative and quantitative strand, will be adopted in this study. Focus groups and interviews will be conducted among both the PTE Academic and CET-SET test takers to explore their test preparation activities and strategies. Based on the findings that emerged from the qualitative study, a survey questionnaire will be developed to collect data from a larger sample of the PTE Academic and CET-SET test takers. The findings will provide Pearson, the provider of the PTE Academic, with important evidence concerning the construct and consequential validity of its speaking test. Furthermore, this study will also have important implications for the teaching and learning of English speaking in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) contexts.