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Language Test Development

What are the Adaptive Listening Test (ALT) and the Adaptive Reading Test (ART)?

The ALT and ART are computer adaptive, criterion-referenced tests of listening and reading proficiency, respectively.

Institutions of higher education can use the ALT and ART to place students in an appropriate course, to measure proficiency or learning gains (pre and post-tests), to guide instruction, or as part of program evaluation.

Results are aligned with the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines for Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, and Superior (for specified tests) language abilities. 

The ALT and ART are currently available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish. Development of German,  Japanese, and Portuguese tests are currently in progress.

How are the ALT and ART developed?

Language Subject Matter Experts (SME) and assessment professionals work together to develop reliable and valid tests by aligning the text, passages, and items with the criteria described in ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines (see below). 

Item development begins with the selection of authentic texts and passages from real-world sources across a range of different fields.

Next, a single item is developed for each text or passage. The stem and options, like the text or passage, are aligned with ACTFL proficiency guidelines. These items are administered to a norming group, and poorly functioning items are either revised and retested or removed from the item development pool.

Finally, the examinee’s total scores are subdivided into approximate proficiency levels by using one or more of several statistical bench marking processes.

What is the ACTFL Rating Scale?

The ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines describe language ability across varying levels of proficiency. These guidelines are not specific to a certain curriculum, method of instruction, or set of standards, but rather describe language proficiency regardless of how learning occurred. 

The hierarchy of proficiency levels ranges from lowest functional ability to highest, as follows: Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, Superior, and Distinguished. Each level or function is defined by accuracy, content/context, and text type.

The Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced levels are divided into sub-levels (Low, Mid, and High) based on an examinee’s ability to sustain performance on tasks at a given level.

Graphic Courtesy of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages

Learn more

To learn more about the specifics of the ALT and ART, testing proficiency, or other tests in development contact The Center for Language Studies.

Molly McCall
Language Assessment Coordinator

Matthew Porter Wilcox
Language Assessment Project Manager