Filter by tag

  • A teacher stood at the front of a class with a book, pointing at a student. Students are sat at desks with their hands raised.
    • Language teaching
    • Teaching trends and techniques
    • English certification and assessment

    Assessing and tracking your students' language learning

    By Pearson Languages

    Reading time: 4 minutes

    As a language teacher, your goal is not just to impart knowledge but to guide your students on a transformative journey toward fluency. Assessing and tracking learning progress is a dynamic process that empowers both educators and learners, rather than being just a routine task.

    In today's language learning blog post, we will explore the significance of assessment in language teaching and provide valuable insights on how to track and assess your students' linguistic development.

    The benefits

    Informed instruction

    Regular assessments enable teachers to tailor instruction to meet individual student needs. Identifying strengths and weaknesses helps educators adapt teaching methods, promoting a more personalized and effective learning experience.

    Motivational tool

    Assessment results can be very useful in motivating students. Even small progress should be acknowledged as it can boost their confidence and encourage a positive attitude towards learning. It is important to share success stories, celebrate achievements and foster a culture of continuous improvement within your language classroom.

    Feedback for growth

    Assessment feedback can help students improve their skills by giving them a clear idea of their strengths and weaknesses. Teachers can use this feedback to encourage students to take responsibility for their learning journey and foster a growth mindset that is resilient even in the face of linguistic difficulties.

    Tracking and assessment methods

    Diverse assessment methods

    Embrace a variety of assessment methods to capture the multifaceted nature of language learning. Beyond traditional exams, integrate speaking assessments, project-based evaluations and collaborative activities. This diversity ensures a comprehensive understanding of your students' language proficiency.

    Example: Consider assigning projects that involve researching, creating presentations and demonstrating creative expression (like plays or videos) in the target language. Assessing various aspects such as language skills, creativity and critical thinking. Design projects around your class's interests and motivations.

    Formative assessments

    Integrate formative assessments into your teaching strategy. These ongoing evaluations, such as quizzes, class discussions and short writing assignments, provide real-time feedback. For instance, if you notice that your students are struggling with a particular concept, you can use formative assessments to evaluate the effectiveness of your teaching approach and make necessary adjustments.

    Example: Conduct regular quizzes, polls or short assessments during class to evaluate students' understanding. Use quick checks to gauge student understanding to adjust teaching methods accordingly. This will help you tailor your teaching methods in real time to ensure effective lesson delivery.

    Portfolio assessment

    Encourage students to maintain language portfolios. These portfolios can include samples of their written work, recorded conversations and reflections on their language learning journey. Portfolio assessments offer a holistic view of progress and provide students with a tangible record of their achievements.

    Example: Conduct periodic portfolio reviews to discuss progress and set goals. Encourage frequent reflection to show learners how far they've come. 


    Empower students to self-assess. Encourage reflection on their language skills, setting goals and evaluating their own progress. Self-assessment also fosters a sense of responsibility and independence in the learning process. When students take ownership of their progress, they become more invested in their education and are more likely to achieve their goals.

    Example: Provide your language students self-assessment checklists or rubrics for them to evaluate their proficiency and set personal goals.

    Technology integration

    Use language learning platforms' analytics and progress reports for data-driven decision-making. It's great to help save time and provide reliable and up-to-date reports. 

    Example: Using online platforms for assignments, quizzes and collaborative projects with built-in tracking features. Our learning platforms, Pearson English Connect (PEC) and MyEnglishLab (MEL), can help you keep track of your students' progress.

    Cultural projects

    Cultural projects are a great way to engage students in the broader context of the language they are learning. These projects could involve researching cultural practices, traditions or historical events related to the language.

    Students learn how to navigate cultural nuances, understand diverse perspectives and effectively communicate in different cultural contexts by participating in cultural projects. Such projects help students form a personal connection with the language and bridge the gap between theory and real-world application, making language learning more meaningful.

    Example: Assign projects that explore certain cultural aspects of the target language, encouraging a deeper understanding of context. These can be evaluated on how well it's presented, its clarity, and how factually accurate it is.

    Peer reviews

    Peer review is a valuable practice that promotes a sense of community within the language learning classroom. It involves students working together and offering constructive feedback to each other, which leads to the development of their language skills. It creates a collaborative learning environment where students actively participate in the improvement of their peers, learning from one another's strengths and weaknesses.

    Students often put more effort into assignments when they know peers will review their work. This increased accountability can lead to higher-quality work and a greater commitment to language learning.

    Example: Implement peer review sessions where students provide feedback on each other's written or spoken assignments. Encourage constructive criticism to enhance collaboration and learning. To accommodate shy students, this process can be anonymous.


    Assessing and tracking language learning progress is integral to effective language teaching, requiring continuous interaction between educators and students.

    By utilizing diverse assessment methods and fostering a culture of constant improvement, language teachers play a vital role in guiding their students toward linguistic fluency. Helping language students celebrate their successes and overcome challenges helps them to be not only proficient speakers but also lifelong language enthusiasts.

    Are you an English teacher preparing for assessments? Check out our post Motivating your students through assessment.

    As well as our learning platforms, PEC and MEL, we offer various English assessments and courses to help track your learner's progress and to certify their English level, so make sure to explore our range to find the best solution for your students.  

  • Business men chatting in front of a computer screen and papers
    • English language testing
    • English certification and assessment

    Versant English language test: Assessment tools for business

    By Pearson Languages

    You may have heard about Versant, an English test you can take remotely. You may have also heard that companies often use it for interviewing job candidates. 

    But what does the Versant test assess? And is it the right English proficiency test for you - or your company?

    In today's language learning blog post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Versant. You’ll find out who it’s for, which language skills it tests, and why companies use it to assess candidates.

    What is Versant?

    Versant allows companies to quickly and efficiently evaluate the English language proficiency of their current or future employees. It helps HR managers assess candidates' language skills; as a result, companies can use Versant for recruitment, training, or promotion purposes.

    Versant tests use artificial intelligence, machine learning, and auto-marketing technologies to streamline testing. This way, they can score assessments automatically, quickly, reliably, and securely.

    Who is the Versant test for?

    Imagine that HR Manager Maria has to hire a dozen new customer service representatives for her company. She only has a month to do it and is already overwhelmed with her other HR duties. And now, she has to screen tens - and potentially hundreds - of candidates. Above all, she needs to find people with a good enough English level to excel in a demanding customer service position. 

    Test takers can complete Versant English tests online or offline, anytime, from anywhere. So if Maria chooses to use Versant tests to assess her candidates, she can run and deliver hundreds of standardized tests and get instant results.

    Moreover, the administration of the test is very intuitive, so it won’t take up too much of her time. And the easy-to-understand detailed score reports that Versant provides will make her hiring decisions all the easier. 

    Similarly, a job seeker will be delighted to take an online English test from the comfort of their own home. Since Versant test delivery is flexible, they can choose a time that suits them. All they need is a reliable internet connection and a headset with a built-in microphone.

    The Versant test will provide solid proof of the candidate's English level by evaluating language skills accurately and reliably. So they can demonstrate to the company just how well-equipped they are to do the job they're applying for.

    How is Versant structured and which skills does it test?

    Different companies have different assessment needs. Some need their employees’ language skills to be well-rounded. Others focus on speaking skills. Others put a stronger emphasis on writing. Therefore, the Versant suite has four types of English proficiency tests to cater to all these needs:

    1. The Versant Professional English Test 

    The Versant Professional English Test is the most thorough of the 4 test types. It takes 60 minutes to complete and assesses all four skills: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. It has 10 different task types covering a broad range of language abilities. The Versant Professional English Test is a comprehensive test. So, it’s the best choice for companies that need their employees to have mastered all aspects of the English language.

    2. The Versant English Test

    The Versant English Test is a shorter, 17-minute English proficiency test focusing on evaluating speaking skills. It assesses the candidate’s ability to communicate effectively in English with tasks that target fluency, pronunciation, vocabulary, and sentence mastery. Thanks to this, it’s best for companies whose employees use spoken English primarily. For example, call centers, hotels, or delivery drivers.

    3. The Versant Writing Test

    The Versant Writing Test takes up to 35 minutes to complete. It allows companies to gauge the writing abilities of candidates. It tests skills such as grammar, vocabulary, organization, voice & tone, and reading comprehension. 

    This English test for interviews is ideal for companies whose employees primarily use English in writing. For example, they use English for taking notes, responding to emails and chats, or writing product descriptions.

    4. The Versant 4 Skills Essential

    The Versant 4 Skills Essential is a test for companies looking to hire employees who are proficient in all four English language skills. Companies usually use it for filling entry-level positions. The test has a shorter time frame of 30 minutes and can be delivered flexibly online. Therefore, it’s ideal for fulfilling urgent recruitment needs. 

    What are the key benefits and features of Versant tests for administrators?

    Versant tests are straightforward to administer. They seamlessly blend into an HR manager’s routine. Here are some of the key benefits of Versant English proficiency tests for administrators:

    1. Automated scoring 

    Versant has been perfecting its AI-based assessment technology for over 25 years. Because of the incredible amount of research that has gone into creating a reliable scoring system, Versant is able to automatically mark tests without the need for a human scorer. This provides a wide range of benefits for companies. 

    Firstly, they can save time and money when testing job candidates. Secondly, unlike human scorers, Versant is free of bias and scores every candidate in a completely objective and consistent way. And thirdly, it prevents cheating by automatically alerting administrators of any suspicious test-taker behavior. 

    2. Score reports

    Another huge benefit is that Versant presents instant results in easy-to-read score reports. These contain detailed information about the candidate’s language abilities. And they highlight skills that companies deem important so administrators can evaluate them at a glance. 

    Versant score reports assign a CEFR or equivalent Global Scale of English score to the candidate. Consequently, the candidate’s results become comparable to international standards. And the score reports contain suggestions for improvement, so candidates like Fred can practice the tasks that they’re not yet proficient at.

    3. ScoreKeeper test administration tool 

    Last but not least, Versant tests come with the handy ScoreKeeper administration tool. It lets administrators deploy tests and review score reports in an easy-to-use platform. ScoreKeeper was designed with HR professionals in mind. As a result, managing tests, uploading rosters, and exporting results with the tool is a breeze.

    Why do HR managers choose Versant tests?

    From the above points, it’s easy to see why an HR Manager would choose Versant. 

    Versant automated language tests are an essential tool for scaling up your recruitment and candidate testing efforts. Most importantly, they allow HR Managers to save time and resources. And they let them focus on what they do best instead of trying to screen hundreds of candidates for English skills. 

    Versant doesn’t just significantly speed up the hiring process and cut down on costs. Above all, it lets HR departments manage secure, reliable, and bias-free standardized tests in bulk.

    If you think that your organization could benefit from a quick, easy and reliable automated English proficiency test, find out more about Versant.

  • A man and woman miling to eachother outside, with a tram in the background
    • English for work and migration
    • English certification and assessment

    Student Direct Stream: A quick, easy, pathway to study in Canada

    By Assia Hamdane

    Thinking of studying abroad? Trying to find the best way to study in Canada? There are so many options/pathways that it can feel overwhelming and complicated.

    Thankfully, there is a simple and efficient way, called the Student Direct Stream (SDS). It is well-known that studying in Canada is a popular option among overseas students.

    The latest figures from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for 2022 show that Canada has achieved an all-time high in terms of the number of international students. By the end of October 2022, they had processed over 750,300 study permit applications.


  • Students working outdoors, two of them are looking over a open book
    • English certification and assessment

    What to look for in an English placement test

    By Pearson Languages

    If you’re an English teacher, Director of Studies or school owner you’ll know the importance of putting students in the right group. Whether it’s a business English class, exam prep or general English – a placement test is essential. Without one, you’ll teach classes with such varied levels and needs, it’ll be hard to plan an effective lesson.

    Placing students at the wrong level will not only lead to unmotivated learners, but it may also cost your institution money.

    But how exactly do you design a reliable, accurate and easy-to-use test? In this post, we’ll examine the key questions you need to consider before making your own placement test. We’ll also explore what features you need to achieve your goals.

    Problems with traditional placement tests

    Most private language schools (PLSs) and higher education institutions offer new students the opportunity to take a placement test before starting a course. However, these are often just a multiple-choice test, a short interview, or a combination of the two.

    While this does act as a filter helping us group students into similar levels, there are a number of downfalls. Students can guess the answers to multiple-choice questions – and while they might give us a rough idea of their grammar knowledge, these tests don’t consider the four skills: speaking, writing, listening and reading.

    Oral interviews, on the other hand, can give us an indication of the students’ spoken level. However, they also raise questions of objectivity and consistency that even specially trained teachers will struggle to avoid.

    Another big issue with traditional tests is the amount of time they take. Multiple-choice exams are often graded by hand and interviewing every new student uses valuable resources that could be used elsewhere.

    Key questions to consider

    Before you re-design your current test completely, we’ve put together a series of questions to help you think about your objectives, define your needs and explore the challenges you may face.

    Taking a few minutes to think about these things can make the process of finding the right English placement test go more smoothly and quickly. Once you know what you’re looking for, you’ll be ready to make a checklist of the most important features.

    What will your test be used for?

    • Placing incoming ESL students into the appropriate English language program.
    • Measuring students’ progress throughout the school year.
    • Final assessment of students' abilities at the end of the school year (“exit test”).
    • All of the above.

    Is this different from what you use your current test for? How soon are your needs likely to change?

    What skills does your current test measure?

    Does it measure speaking, listening, reading, writing, or all of the above? Are all of these skills measured in separate tests — or in one test?

    • How many students do you need to test at each intake?
    • How many students do you need to test each year? How many do you expect you’ll need to test in three years?

    How quickly do you currently receive test results? How quickly would you like to receive them?

    If you can test your students weeks before the start of the school term, you may have time to wait for results. However, if you are continuously testing students, or have students arriving just before the term begins, you may need to get results much more quickly.

    What features in your current test do you like and dislike?

    Are there things in your current test that you also want in your new test? Is anything missing, or anything that you don’t want your new test to have?

    What resources are available to you?

    Some English language tests require students to have the computer skills needed to take the test online. You may also need a testing lab that has the following:

    • computers
    • a stable internet connection
    • a headset with a built-in microphone
    • a preliminary checklist for placement tests.

    Once you’ve got answers to the questions, you can use the checklist below to make sure your placement test has the features you need. It may also be useful for comparing products if you decide to use an external placement test.

    A preliminary checklist for placement tests

    What features do you need to achieve your goals?

    Now that you've analyzed how you want to use your new English Placement test, create a checklist of the features that you need to achieve your goals. 

  • A woman looking at a laptop in a library smiling
    • English certification and assessment

    Everything you need to know about the Versant tests

    By Pearson Languages

    From sending emails and participating in conference calls to studying a masters degree or communicating on social media, in today’s globalized world, English is used by more and more second-language English speakers in their daily lives.

    For this reason, many schools, institutions and businesses now require their students or employees to have a minimum level of English. That’s why we need quick and efficient ways to test people’s proficiency and make sure they have the skills needed to communicate effectively.

    This is where Versant tests come in. Our suite of four exams can be used to test various skills and competencies depending on the organization's needs. What’s more, they can be taken anywhere, at any time and the results are received instantly – making recruitment or enrollment a much smoother process.

    This guide will help answer some questions you may have about the tests, and provide some links to useful resources.

    What are the Versant tests?

    The Versant tests are designed to measure an individual’s abilities in all or some of the four skills; speaking, writing, listening, or reading. They vary in length from between 17 to 50 minutes, and the results are available immediately afterwards.

    There are four Versant products available, and they differ depending on which skills are considered most relevant to the candidates, or their places of work and study. It is possible to focus specifically on speaking or writing, for example, instead of a candidate’s entire skill set.

    One thing which is consistent across all the tests is that they are fully automated, and can be delivered online or offline around the world at any time. The scores are then available immediately after finishing the test – so there will be no more agonizing waits for results!

    In addition, other languages are also available in the testing suite; including Arabic, Dutch, French, Spanish and Aviation English.

    Who are they for?

    Organizations, institutions and corporations can use Versant tests to establish language proficiency benchmarks.

    For businesses, they are a simple, reliable, and efficient tool for Human Resources (HR) departments to make sure their staff have the level required in the given language.

    In an educational context, the tests are an excellent way for schools to place students within a certain program, to measure their progress and check their level at the end of a course to see if they are ready to move on.

    What skills do they test?

    The structure and content of the tests vary depending on which one you choose. Whichever one you select, all you need to take them is a computer, a reliable internet connection, and a headset with a built-in microphone. What’s more some of our speaking only tests (English, Spanish and French) can also be taken on your smartphone via the mobile app.

    The Versant English Placement Test (VEPT) is the most thorough, taking 50 minutes in total. It focuses on speaking, listening, reading, and writing. The nine task types include reading aloud, repeats, sentence building, conversations, typing, sentence completion, dictation, passage reconstruction, along with providing a summary and opinion. This broad range of assessment is ideal for evaluating every aspect of a candidate’s language ability, from their pronunciation to their knowledge of grammar and complex language use.

    But if this is too comprehensive for your needs, there are shorter, more focused alternatives:

    The Versant English Test (VET) is a 17-minute assessment designed to evaluate speaking skills. This test can ensure that current or future employees meet the standard required to communicate effectively in a second language by assessing a student's sentence mastery, fluency, pronunciation, and vocabulary.

    The Versant Writing Test (VWT) is a test of the candidate’s proficiency in writing skills. Taking approximately 35 minutes, the candidates are tested on their grammar, vocabulary, organization, register, and ability to read appropriate texts. Summarizing, taking notes, and responding to emails in a second language are key to many businesses nowadays, such as call centers. This test will allow companies to create a benchmark for their current and future employees related to specific writing skills.

    The Versant 4 Skills Essential recognizes the growing need for people to be adept in all four language skills, even in entry-level jobs. Throughout this 30-minute web-based test, candidates undertake a variety of tasks including sentence formation, listening comprehension and written dictation.

    Due to its short time limit, flexible web-based approach, and focused skill assessment, this suits fast-paced recruitment environments, helping to identify the best applicants as efficiently and accurately as possible.

    What are the key features?

    Once a candidate completes their test, a unique score report can be accessed immediately. This details a candidate’s performance in each stage, suggestions for improvement, and an overall CEFR or GSE score (or equivalent). This is thanks to our advanced speech and text processing technology. There is no need for a human examiner, which means scoring can be done instantaneously.

    Moreover, thanks to the objective nature of this technology, results will be given without the potential bias of an examiner. This makes scores extremely reliable and consistent across a wide range of candidates.

    VET also has concordances to TOEFL iBT and TOEIC. VEPT is also aligned to IELTS.

    Finally, the ScoreKeeper administration tool is available with all Versant exams and allows businesses or educational institutions to manage the testing of all their candidates in one place. By using this, assigning tests, uploading rosters and exporting results can all be done remotely, regardless of a candidate's location.

  • A student writing on papers on a school desk
    • English certification and assessment

    Which exam is right for my students?

    By Pearson Languages

    A guide to the Pearson assessment suite

    Are you stuck on which English exam or test to offer your students? You’re not alone – there are lots of different assessments to choose from and it’s often hard to see how they are different and why you should select one over another.

    We’re bringing it all together in this handy guide to help you decide which English language assessment is right for your students.

    Exams for young learners

    Language exams can be quite daunting for your younger students, especially if they’re taking them for the first time. That’s why we think it’s important to ensure what they have to do is interesting, fun, and motivating.

    English Benchmark and Pearson English International Certificate Young Learners exams are designed with this in mind, so let’s take a closer look at them both.

    English Benchmark

    Who it's for: This assessment is aimed at young learners aged between 6 and 13, and who have Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) levels between pre-A1 and B1. English Benchmark is a great tool for teachers who want a simple way to assess the English abilities of their classes at any stage of the year.

    With individual reports produced quickly after completion, parents and teachers can quickly see where their children are on the Global Scale of English (GSE) or CEFR. This can help assess their readiness for the next step, such as the Pearson English International Certificate Young Learners exam.

    What it tests: English Benchmark aims to assess a student’s competence in the four skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing (with the exception of Level 1, which does not test writing). It covers five different ability levels, with three tests per level.

    Pearson English International Certificate Young Learners

    Who it's for: This test is for young learners who are again aged between 6 and 13, and whose CEFR levels range from pre-A1 to A2. It is available in over 40 territories worldwide, and at different times of the year.

    Upon completion, the learners will be able to take pride in receiving an official certificate from EdExcel, the UK’s largest governing body for academic qualifications.

    What it tests: International Certificate Young Learners focuses again on integrating all four of the main skills and these are divided over four ability levels – Firstwords (Level 1), Springboard (Level 2), Quickmarch (Level 3), Breakthrough (Level 4). It focuses on completing realistic communicative tasks throughout, giving them a great first experience of official assessment. 

    Spread out over two separate written and speaking parts; the learners are encouraged to talk effectively about their own lives, rather than simply reciting grammatical or vocabulary structures. This includes activities such as board games and picture matching.

    Exams for adults

    There are many reasons why your students may need to take a language exam. Some adults need proof of their level for work or university, companies may wish to analyze the abilities of their staff, or individuals may be keen on pursuing a personal goal.

    Whatever the motivation, choosing the correct assessment is crucial. By checking out the summaries below of all our assessment options for adults, you’ll be sure you’ve picked the best one.

    Pearson English International Certificate

    Who it's for: Pearson English International Certificate (PEIC) is designed for adults of any level who use English in a variety of daily activities, such as with work, at university or socially. As a result, we’ve ensured that the content of PEIC is suitable for learners in any part of the world, age-appropriate, and available at various times of the year.

    With its widely recognized Ofqual accreditation, PEIC is excellent for those needing a general English certificate for their work or higher-educational institutions.

    What it tests: Throughout the six-level options, ranging from A1 (beginner) to Level 5 C2 (proficiency), authentic materials regarding specific themes are frequently used to assess all four key skills.

    Learners will complete tasks related to note completion, letter or email writing, and speaking role plays, along with defending a point of view at higher levels. This reinforces the PEIC as an exam which best suits those who complete everyday tasks in English.

    PTE Academic

    Who it's for: If your learners are looking for reliable, unbiased proof of their English level for immigration or studying abroad, then the Pearson Test of English Academic is perfect for them. Widely recognized by governments for their visa application processes, and multiple leading universities such as Harvard University in the USA, PTE Academic can be found in over 50 locations globally.

    In addition, the exam is 100% computer-based, can be accessed over 360 days of the year, and can be booked only 24 hours in advance. This suits students and professionals who require more flexibility and benefit from the results being available after only 5 business days.

    What it tests: PTE Academic uses the latest Artificial Intelligence software. This means students can be confident that they’re given an unbiased grade for the four main skills they are tested on. The initial speaking and writing sections assess your learner’s abilities to produce responses to questions and scenarios using academic English.

    This theme continues through the subsequent listening and reading sections, where candidates complete various tasks such as interpreting information, reordering paragraphs, and summarizing a spoken text.

    Versant tests

    Who it's for: Pearson’s Versant tests are designed for businesses that require a simple, quick and reliable way to assess the English competence of their current or prospective staff. Furthermore, they suit educational institutes that require an efficient way to evaluate the English capabilities of their students before, during, or after their courses.

    What it tests: The suite of four different English exams is tailored to suit different requirements, depending on the client's needs. Ranging from 17 to 50 minutes in length, the skills tested will vary from a specific written (Versant Writing Test) or spoken focus (Versant English Test), to the Versant English Placement Test and Versant 4 Skills Essential which integrate all four skills.

    Speaking tests are also available in additional languages including Arabic, Dutch, French, and Spanish for dual language programs.

    All Versant tests are fully automated, and available online or offline throughout the year. This means that you’ll be able to access the results immediately afterwards.

    Level test

    Who's it for: Level Test is designed for educators and learners aged 14 and above who are seeking to determine their proficiency level in English, particularly for those interested in assessing their general international English skills. It is suitable for both American and British English users.

    What it tests: Level Test assesses the speaking, reading, listening, and writing skills of individuals. It provides detailed insights into learners' abilities, allowing educators to accurately place them in the appropriate class level (ranging from A1 to C2 on the CEFR scale) and make personalized learning recommendations.

    The test is adaptable to individual responses, ensuring it challenges learners appropriately without being too easy or too difficult.

  • A blonde woman sat at a computer with headphones on in a room with more computers and desks in background
    • English certification and assessment
    • Technology and the future

    Computer-based language assessment: The future is here

    By David Booth

    Many people are surprised at the idea of a computer program marking an exam paper. However, computer-based testing already exists in many different formats and many different areas. Many tests or exams that form part of our daily life are taken on computers. If you’ve ever learned to drive, sat a citizenship test, done a training course at work, or completed a placement test for a language course, the odds are that you’ve already taken an automated test.

    Yet despite it being so common, there is still a lack of understanding when it comes to computer-based language assessment and how a computer can evaluate productive skills like speaking and writing.

    Computer-based testing: a closer look

    A common issue is that people have different ideas of what these tests entail. Computers can fulfill several essential roles in the testing process, but these often go unacknowledged. For example, a variety of test questions are needed to administer an exam, along with relevant data, and computers are used to store both the questions and the data. When it comes to creating randomized exams, computer software is used to select the exam questions, based on this data.

    Computers can make complex calculations far more quickly and accurately than humans. This means that processes that previously took a long time are completed in days, rather than weeks.

    Artificial intelligence (AI) technology is now capable of grading exam papers, for example. This means a shorter wait for exam results. In PTE Academic, candidates receive their results in an average of two days rather than waiting weeks for an examiner to mark their paper by hand.

    The benefits for students and teachers

    People take exams to prove their skills and abilities. Depending on their goals, the right result can open the door to many new opportunities, whether that is simply moving on to the next stage of a course, or something as life-changing as allowing you to take up your place on a university course in another country.

    A qualification can act as a passport to a better career or an enhanced education, and for that reason, it’s important that both students and teachers can have faith in their results.

    Computer programs have no inherent bias, which means that candidates can be confident that they will all be treated the same, regardless of their background, appearance or accent. PTE Academic, just one of Pearson’s computer-based exams, offers students the chance to score additional points on the exam with innovative integrated test items.

    This integration means that the results are a far more accurate depiction of the candidate’s abilities and provide a truer reflection of their linguistic prowess.

    More than questions on a screen

    It’s not as easy as simply transferring the questions onto a computer screen. All that does is remove the need for pen and paper; this is a missed opportunity to harness the precision and speed of a computer, as well as its learning potential.

    Tests that have been fully digitized, such as PTE Academic, benefit from that automation; eliminating examiner bias, making the test fairer and calculating the results more quickly. Automated testing builds on the technological tradition of opening doors for the future – not closing them.

    How technology enhances language testing

    The development of automated testing technologies doesn’t merely make the examination process quicker and more accurate – it also gives us the chance to innovate. Speaking assessments are an excellent example of this.

    Previously, this part of a language exam involved an interview, led by an examiner, who asked questions and elicited answers. But now that we have the technological capability, using a computer offers students the chance to be tested on a much wider range of speaking skills, without worrying about the inherent bias of the examiner.

    Indeed, the use of a computer-based system facilitates integrated skills testing. Traditionally, language exams had separate papers focusing on the four skills of reading, listening, speaking and writing. But the more modern concept of language testing aims to assess these linguistic skills used together, just as they are in real-life situations.

    Afterwards, the various scores are categorized to allow learners an insight into their strengths and weaknesses, which helps both students and teachers identify areas which need improvement. This useful feedback is only possible because of the accuracy and detail of automated exam grading.

    The space race on paper

    Back in the 1960s, during the space race, computers were still a relatively new concept. Kathleen Johnson, one of the first African-American women to work for NASA as a scientist, was a mathematician with a reputation for doing incredibly complex manual calculations. Although computers had made the orbital calculations, the astronauts on the first space flight refused to fly until Kathleen had checked those calculations three times.

    This anecdote reminds us that - although computer technology is an inherent part of everyday life - now and then, we still need to check that their systems are working as they should. Human error still comes into play – after all, humans program these systems.

    PTE Academic – a fully digitized exam

    Every stage of PTE Academic, from registration to practice tests to results (both receiving and sharing them with institutions) happens online. It may come as a surprise to learn that the test itself is not taken online. Instead, students attend one of over 295 test centers to take the exam, which comes with the highest levels of data security.

    This means that each student can sit the exam in an environment designed for that purpose. It also allows the receiving institutions, such as universities and colleges, to be assured of the validity of the PTE Academic result.

    The future is here

    We created computers, but they have surpassed us in many areas – exam grading being a case in point. Computers can score more accurately and consistently than humans, and they don’t get tired late in the day, or become distracted by a candidate’s accent.

    The use of AI technology to grade student responses represents a giant leap forward in language testing, leading to fairer and more accurate student results. It also means more consistency in grading which benefits the institutions, such as universities, which rely on these scores to accurately reflect ability.

    And here at Pearson, we are invested in staying at the cutting edge of assessment. Our test developers are incorporating AI solutions now, using its learning capacity to create algorithms and build programs that can assess speaking and writing skills accurately and quickly. We’re expanding the horizons of English language assessment for students, teachers and all the other professionals involved in each stage of the language learning journey.

  • A group of young people looking at results and papers in a hallway, laughing and smiling
    • English certification and assessment

    Motivating your students through assessment

    By David Booth

    Motivating students can be difficult, especially where exams are concerned. The prospect of preparing learners for them seems like a mammoth task. But assessment can also be a way of encouraging motivation. The clue is in the word ‘test’. Whether externally or internally driven, students wish to test their knowledge and their learning; they want to see how they are developing and progressing.

    In this article, David Booth explores what makes students want to push themselves and how you can encourage them with assessment.

    What motivates students?

    Students are incentivized in different ways, through internal (intrinsic) and external (extrinsic) motivation. Internal motivation is when someone takes an exam for their own satisfaction or interest; without immediate external reward. External motivation is driven by other factors such as the need to graduate or get to a particular level for career advancement. External motivation may also come from others, such as parents and teachers, encouraging students to attain a particular level in a subject or a qualification.

    The important thing to recognize is that students should identify their intention for learning English. This will then enable them to determine short- and long-term goals that will drive both internal and external motivation. For example, a student might say; ‘I like learning English because I love reading books about Harry Potter and also English will be useful in my future life so I can meet and learn from people from different countries’. Recognizing and acknowledging reasons for learning with help reinforce the motivations for learning.

    How can we promote an environment that is engaging and motivating?

    Students’ self-belief is important but teachers also have a significant role to play. Teachers can help give students the confidence to build on their own skills. One way to do this is by promoting a growth mindset. This is the theory that ability and performance can be developed through fostering a positive environment, and is the opposite of a fixed mindset which is the idea that a person’s talents are already fixed from birth.

    Developing a growth mindset is important because it encourages us to see new challenges as a positive thing. It involves praising effort rather than just focusing on outcomes.

    With all the above in mind, here are five things teachers can do in class to help keep up student motivation levels:

    5 ways you can motivate your students

    1. One of the best things that teachers and educators can do to support their students is to help them identify their motivation. Ask them why they are learning English. Is it for themselves? Their parents? Or a job opportunity? This will help teachers and learners decide on the best course of action for learning and also help students find satisfaction within the task, whether in an exam or taking a conversation class.

    2. It’s important to teach courses that are focused on developing communicative ability and knowledge, not just passing a exam. As education evolves, assessment must too, so it’s crucial to foster the practical linguistic skills of your students, not just aim for a good final grade.

    3. Teachers can help students develop their dominant learning styles. Do they learn by writing new words or reading things aloud? In doing so, you and your students can tailor their exam preparation towards how they work best and ensure they feel motivated to learn by themselves.

    4. You can give students the best understanding about the type of tasks they will face. Looking at past papers or using a wealth of exam resources will give them confidence and familiarity when facing any final assessment.

    5. Teachers must talk the talk! We must say the right things to keep our students motivated. This involves talking about what they have done in a positive way. Praising students just for their intelligence is not productive, because that refers to a quality rather than their behavior. Instead, we want to encourage student development through hard work and application.

    Here are some growth mindset statements to inspire your students:

    • You worked really hard on that.
    • I’m so proud of your progress.
    • You kept going even when it was hard.
    • You have a tenacious attitude; I’m so proud that you never quit.
    • You really did … well because …

    Motivating students with the Pearson English International Certificate (PEIC)

    PEIC is designed to help motivate students, offering them the opportunity to identify their strengths, and track improvement and success over time. It is widely used by learners who are looking for a general English test that allows them to build a portfolio of their communicative language ability for travel, to improve their employment prospects or for further education. It’s also valid for life.

    Graded progression

    PEIC offers a pathway for graded progression from level to level and explicit opportunities to evaluate and accredit learning outcomes at each of the CEFR levels. There are six English proficiency levels, from very low (A1) to very high (C2). There are no hidden surprises, false starts, or sudden jumps in difficulty from one test to the other.

    This makes it easy for teachers and students to track progress. Showing students they have progressed in their studies is very motivating and encourages further study.

    Assessment of communicative ability

    The exams assess learners’ ability to communicate and use English effectively rather than their test-taking skills. The emphasis is on communicative skills; the level of ability that the student has in using the language for practical purposes. This is very motivating both in the short and long term.

    A positive testing experience for the student

    PEIC delivers a relaxed and enjoyable English testing experience that is a natural continuation of what happens in the classroom. It’s perfect for those educators who are interested in using assessment as a way of building students’ confidence and motivation, as well as raising school standards.

    Easily integrated into a general English curriculum

    Fitting PEIC around a general English program could not be easier. This is because the types of tasks that students will find in the English exams are similar to those found in most modern communicative course books. Therefore, there is no need to do a specific PEIC course before taking the test.

    A wealth of learning resources

    There are lots of resources out there offering something for everyone, including test guides for each level, test tutorials, practice tests, test tips and many more, so students will feel supported throughout the preparation process.

  • A group of teenagers lying down in a circle in grass, smiling and gesturing a thumbs up
    • Study prep
    • English certification and assessment
    • English for work and migration

    Tips for success with the Pearson English International Certificate

    By Pearson Languages

    Studying for the Pearson English International Certificate (PEIC) is a challenge for any student, but there are many different areas where you can help yourself or your students achieve top grades.

    By becoming familiarized with the test format, equipping test-taking strategies and having awareness of commonly occurring vocabulary and topics, learners can be on the path to success in the PEIC.

    Know the test

    Understanding the test format and what to expect in each exam section will give students the confidence they need on test day.

    Do drills on how many sections there are, how long they have for each section, and the order of the sections too. This will help learners anticipate what’s coming next and feel prepared throughout the exam. For example, the recording is played twice in listening section 2 – dictation. If students are aware of this, they can use the first recording to note key ideas and the second to complete the dictation fully.

    Give yourself/your students plenty of practice under test conditions. Do timed mock exams, without phones or dictionaries, to help get a feel of the real test.

    As the speaking section is done simultaneously for all candidates, get yourself/your students used to communicating in loud environments. Doing mock exams for the writing sections will also help students become aware of their word count and how long it takes to achieve this. It’s important to note that each writing task has a word limit and there are penalties for being significantly above or below.

    Learn test strategies

    Knowing the test format is important, but so is being equipped with test-taking strategies. For all sections, train yourself/students to use the questions and rubric to their advantage. Underlining the keywords from the question will help learners prepare for the task ahead and predict potential answers.

    In the listening sections, students are given ten seconds before the recording is played. Learners should identify and underline keywords and use this time to predict the topic and vocabulary of the recording. Remind yourself/students that even if you think you have the answer, you need to listen carefully to the entire recording, as it’s also likely that some of the keywords will be used as distractors.

    It’s also helpful to highlight keywords in the prompts and questions in the reading sections. For example, when dealing with multiple choice questions like in section 5, test takers should first highlight keywords from the question, then scan the text for these keywords. This is the part of the text where the answer is located, and where they should direct their attention. It’s important to read this section of the text carefully and also be aware that the answer may be paraphrased or a synonym.

    Planning is crucial in the writing sections, and highlighting keywords from the question is an important planning step. Read the task carefully and identify the words that indicate the type of writing that is required and the audience. This will help guide the writing style and register. For example, in section 8, noticing the difference between writing a letter to a friend and a letter to a magazine editor will change the tone of the task.

    Build a strong lexical base

    Prepare further by building a strong grammar and vocabulary base with topical and functional language.

    Introduce yourself/students to a wide range of themes on social and current issues, as well as personal and familiar topics. It's useful for learners to note useful vocabulary and phrases and test themselves on these regularly, making a note of the spelling, as this is essential in all sections of the exam.

    Test takers will encounter gap-fill style tasks in both the listening and reading sections. Students can predict what kind of word is missing by reading around the gap. Train yourself/your students to consider what part of speech the answer will be, and if the other words in the sentence give clues to the topic or theme. Give them plenty of practice with word formation so they can easily identify the missing information.

    Higher points are awarded for complex structures and expressions during the speaking and writing sections. Teachers should provide learners with functional language such as discourse markers and linkers, so they can connect and extend their ideas. It’s also important to have a range of vocabulary they draw on to express their opinions, offer suggestions and to give reasons, as this will help give their answers complexity and depth.

    Studying these things should provide a solid knowledge base of the exam format and structure, coaching learners to use different test-taking strategies and directing their study of vocabulary and grammar, so they can work more efficiently and confidently toward their goal of passing the PEIC.