Assessing Academic English Language Proficiency: 40+ years of U.K. Language Tests
The paper offers an explanatory account of the progress of academic language proficiency testing in the U.K. (and later Australia) from the British Council’s English Proficiency Test Battery (EPTB) through the revolutionary English Language Testing Service (ELTS) to the present compromise of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). The three stages of academic language testing in the U.K. over the last 50 years move from grammar through real life to features of language use. At the same time, comparison of predictive validities suggests that all three measures account for very similar shares of the variance (about 10%) and that therefore the choice of an academic language proficiency test is determined only in part by predictive validity: other factors, such as test delivery, test renewal in response to fashion, research and impact on stakeholders, and assessment of all four language skills, are also important. Implications are drawn for our understanding of academic language proficiency.