Cynthia Kilpatrick

Placement vs Proficiency: (How) is this Placement Test Right for Our Program?


Cynthia D. Kilpatrick, PhD
Interim Director, English Language Institute and Assistant Professor in Practice
Department of Linguistics and TESOL, College of Liberal Arts

This project examines whether the current placement test used at the English Language Institute (ELI) is predictive of success for students in different proficiency levels. The ELI English for Academic Purposes program prepares students with limited English proficiency for study in academic classrooms at US universities and colleges. The program consists of 7 levels, and students are able to enter fulltime academic study upon completion of the program. Students entering our program are placed into a particular level based on their initial placement test scores. However, the current placement test is relatively new to us, and our program has undergone significant changes over the past 2 years. Our goal is to place students as appropriately as possible, so that they  can complete the program in a timely manner and move successfully into academic coursework.

Placement test scores for students who entered the program in each session since January 2016 were gathered and divided into distinct subsection scores for listening, grammar, vocabulary, and reading. These scores are then compared to program data, including the following:

  • Teacher impressions of student proficiency
  • Student grades and levels
  • Session End exam in Spring 2017

By comparing and correlating these data, we hope to gain a better understanding of how to better use our placement test to assign students to the most appropriate level for the highest degree of success in their language learning process.