Past events

Language Tests for Immigration: Conflicting Ideologies and Challenges

Friday, 12 November 2010, 14:00 – 17:00

Room A26 Business School South, Jubilee Campus, The University of Nottingham

A half-day conference was held at the University of Nottingham on Nov 12th (preceding the BALEAP PIM meeting) from 2-5 p.m. under the theme ‘Language Tests for Immigration: Conflicting Ideologies and Challenges’.

The conference was in three parts: 1) presentations about immigration policy and language tests, 2) presentations from the test providers’ perspective and 3) summary of the issues and open roundtable discussion.

Programme and PPT slides


Vivien Berry

BAAL TEA SIG convenor

 Language Assessment Policies in UK and Europe
14:05-14:35UKBA guidance on providing evidence of English language proficiency - PDF 1.2 MB Diane Schmitt Nottingham Trent University
14:35-15:05Social integration exams in the Netherlands - PDF 1.9 MB

Marli Tijssen

CINOP, Netherlands

 The Test Providers’ Perspectives
15:05-15:20Assessing language for migration … in the UK and beyond - PDF 190.7 KB

Lee Knapp

Cambridge ESOL

15:20-15:35Using Password to assess students’ English language skills - PDF 48.5 KB

Alan Baldock

Password Partnerships

15:35-15-50Aspects of test validity: challenges of maintaining secure test delivery - PDF 562.5 KB

David Booth

Pearson Language Tests

15:50-16:05Coffee break
16:05-17:00Summary of issues and Roundtable discussion


Barry O’Sullivan

University of Roehampton


We would like to thank the Centre for English Language Education (CELE), the University of Nottingham, in particular Professor Liz Hamp-Lyons and Dr Julio Gimenez, for their generosity and help in organizing this event. We are grateful for start-up funding from BAAL and acknowledge the respective institutions of our speakers for supporting their participation today.

Biographical information for the speakers and abstracts of the talks

Diane Schmitt is currently the Testing Officer for BALEAP and chair of the Testing Working Party.  She teaches EAP on the pre-sessional and SLA and Testing on the MA in ELT at Nottingham Trent University.  She has developed pre-sessional assessments for NTU and has also worked on several projects benchmarking tests to the CEFR.

Abstract: In this presentation, I will provide a brief overview of the current guidance from the UK Border Agency for Tiers 1, 2 and 4. I will give special attention to the sections which describe English language proficiency requirements and the related guidance on the type of evidence that will accepted as proof of English language proficiency. The linking of UKBA English language proficiency requirements to the Common European Framework of Reference has had serious implications for language schools, language test providers and applicants themselves and I will outline a sample of the repercussions of the changing landscape of this legislation to date. It is hoped that this introduction will provide the background for the roundtable discussion that will take place later in the day.

Marli Tijssen works at the Centre for Innovation of Education and Training (CINOP) in the Netherlands. She is co-author of several books on language acquisition and has published numerous articles on language policy and language acquisition in professional journals in the Netherlands. Marli developed the Dutch Government’s Immigration tests.

Abstract: In 2006 the Netherlands introduced a new law on the integration of immigrants. Since then, spoken language and culture exams in the immigrant’s home country before arrival in the Netherlands have been compulsory. From 2006 till 2010 more than 150.000 high stakes tests have been taken at Dutch embassies all over the world. The tests are delivered by telephone and the test-taking system comprises automated scoring and the use of speech technology. The levels of language proficiency to be scored are based on the Common European Framework of Reference (CEF). In 2011 an additional test on reading will probably be added. The presentation will focus on the use of these language tests for immigration purposes, on the validity and reliability of the tests and on the political and educational impacts.

Lee Knapp is Development Manager, UK Cambridge ESOL.  He has held senior marketing and sales positions in Further Education, the private language school sector, and the financial services sector.  Lee is the co-author of the training guide "Write for Business" and is a Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.    

Abstract: Migration, residency, citizenship - language assessment plays an increasingly critical role in this journey, sometimes fostering, sometimes hindering, the life chances of aspiring, newly arrived and even established migrants to the UK whose home language is not English. A system which uses inappropriate, unreliable or insecure language tests, and which is unsupportive, over-restrictive or lax, will be unfair to the individual, will fail to tap in to a valuable human resource for the nation and, at the extreme, may even lead to risks for national security. Cambridge ESOL is committed to supporting the development of a language and migration policy and system that works, for all. In this brief talk, I will give an outline of Cambridge ESOL’s work in this key area.

Alan Baldock is Director of Password Partnerships. His background is in the IT business where he was involved in delivering a wide range of products, services and solutions to different organisations. He managed Hitachi Europe’s software business and, through working with European universities, developed an interest in international education.

Abstract: Following the changes introduced by the UKBA this summer, many universities have, not surprisingly, become confused as to which tests can be used to assess the English language level of incoming international students. The need for a credible alternative to universities’ “in house” tests has been increasingly recognised and Password offers universities and other higher education institutions an independent, accurate and academically robust assessment of students’ English language level. In this presentation I will discuss the options for universities wishing to test their incoming students. Password is under the control of the institution and can be run off shore as well as in country. This allows institutions to satisfy themselves, as well as the immigration authorities, that students are suitably qualified for their courses.

David Booth is Director of Test Development at Pearson Language Tests. He previously worked for 10 years in professional and managerial positions at Cambridge ESOL. He also has extensive academic management, teaching and teacher training experience, gained with the British Council in South Korea, Hong Kong and Malaysia.

Abstract: The Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic is designed to measure the English language ability of test takers needed to actively participate in tertiary level education when English is the language of instruction. In my short presentation I will focus on secure test delivery. The validity of test results is jeopardized if the security measures applied cannot guarantee that the responses on which the scores are based are provided by the test takers themselves in the conditions required by the test specifications. I will define and quantify the risks associated with maintaining test security and demonstrate how Pearson responds to such challenges. I will also look at two further aspects which contribute to the validity of PTE Academic; integrated skills based tasks and the alignment of PTE Academic to the CEF.

Barry O’Sullivan is Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Roehampton. He is particularly interested in issues related to performance testing, test validation and test-data management and analysis. He has lectured for many years on various aspects of language testing, and is currently Director of the Centre for Language Assessment Research (CLARe). He is also very interested in academic enterprise and is the Assistant Dean for Academic Enterprise in the School of Arts. Barry’s publications have appeared in a number of international journals and he has presented his work at international conferences around the world. His first book Issues in Business English Testing, was published by Cambridge University Press in the Studies in Language Testing series in 2006. His second, Modelling Performance in Oral Language Testing was published by Peter Lang in 2008 and he is currently working on two edited volumes which will appear in the coming year. Barry is very active in language testing around the world and currently works with government ministries, universities and test developers in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the Central America. He is also on the editorial board of a number of journals in the areas of language testing and applied linguistics. In addition to his work in the area of language testing, Barry taught in Ireland, England, Peru and Japan before taking up his current post.

TEA SIG Strand at the 42nd Annual BAAL Conference

September 2010

The 42nd annual BAAL conference at University of Aberdeen had its first TEA SIG strand. Four papers were presented in the strand, and around 30 participants attended each paper session.

Bedfordshire University

Events» 2010