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Language Assessment or Language Testing is a field of study under the umbrella of applied linguistics. Its main focus is the assessment of first, second or other language in the school, college, or university context; assessment of language use in the workplace; and assessment of language in the immigration, citizenship, and asylum contexts. [1]



The earliest works in language assessment in the US date back to the 1950s to the pioneering studies and test created by Robert Lado and David Harris. The earliest large scale assessment in the US was the Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL) that was launched in 1961 by Educational Testing Service, Princeton, New Jersey. This test was designed to assess the English language ability of students applying for admission to US and Canadian colleges and universities. This test, which is used widely around the world, is still in use although it is now only available in the internet-based format (now called ibTOEFL). Many tests from other companies, universities and agencies compete for this market: the Pearson Language Test's Pearson Test of English (PTE), the University of Michigan's Michigan English Language Assessment Battery (MELAB) and the University of Cambridge, the British Council and the Australian IDP's International English Language Testing System (IELTS). In the US, non-profit and other organizations such as the Center for Applied Linguistics, Washington, D.C. and Second Language Testing, Inc. have developed language tests that are used by many public and private agencies. Many universities too, like the University of California, Los Angeles, Teachers College, Columbia University, the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, have developed English (and other) language tests to assess the abilities of their students and teaching assistants. These language assessments are generally known as proficiency or achievement assessments.


The International Language Testing Association (ILTA) is one of the many organizations that organzies conferences, workshops, and a public forum for the discussion of important matters. ILTA's major annual conference is the Language Testing Research Colloquium. In 2008, the conference will be in Hangzhou, China, and in 2009 in Denver, Colorado. ILTA's Lifetime Achievement Award winners include: Alan Davies, Lyle Bachman, Bernard Spolsky, John Clark, Charles Stansfield, and Charles Alderson. Educational Testing Service, New Jersey, the home of the TOEFL, offers an annual outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award in Second or Foreign Language and the University of Cambridge, UK, also offers an annual outstanding Masters Degree Award in second language testing. In Europe, there are two organizations: the Association of Language Testers of Europe (ALTE) and the European Association for Language Testing and Assessment (EALTA). All of these associations have developed Codes of Ethics and Practice that all language assessment professionals are expected to adhere to.

Annual conferences

There are many annual conferences on general or specific topics. The most important conferences are ILTA's official conference: the Language Testing Research Colloquium (LTRC) which has been held every year since 1978. In the last few years, it has been held in different parts of the world: Temecula, California, USA (2004); Ottawa, Canada (2005); Melbourne, Australia (2006); Barcelona, Spain (2007); Hangzhou, China (2008), and Denver, Colorado (2009). ALTE's official conferences too are held in different cities in Europe: Barcelona, Spain (2002); Berlin, Germany (2005); Cambridge, UK (2008) with regional conferences in Perugia, Budapest, Sofia, and Lisbon. Simialrly, there are regional meetings in China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan.


There are two premier journals in the field: Language Assessment Quarterly (published by Routledge/Taylor & Francis) and Language Testing (published by Sage Publications) that publishes major findings from researchers. Other journals that publish articles from the field include Applied Linguistics, Language Learning, TESOL Quarterly, Assessing Writing, and System.


Language assessment or language testing courses are taught as required or elective courses in many graduate and doctoral programs, particularly in the subjects of applied linguistics, English for Speakers of Other Languages, English as a second or foreign language, or educational linguistics. These programs are known as MA or PhD programs in Applied Linguistics, Educational Linguistics, TESOL, TEFL, or TESL. The focus of most courses is on test development, psychometric qualities of tests, validity, reliability and fairness of tests, and classical true score theory. Additional courses focus on item response theory, factor analysis, structural equation modeling, g-theory, latent growth modeling, qualitative analysis of test performance data such as conversation and discourse analysis, and politics and language policy issues.


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