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Between a Rock and a Hard Place: The hallmarks for designating students to the appropriate exam

The hallmarks for designating students to the appropriate exam


TEFL professionals are admittedly presented with an ample range of examination selections.  To be driven to the appropriate examination that will benefit the student both officially and essentially, teachers should anchor their expectations regarding all aspects of the examination.

Teachers are expected to judge wisely which examination pattern is appropriate for ‘their learners.


by Marina Siskos


The situation and the conditions during the examination preparatory procedure and the finalization of the decision with respect to the appropriate one has been immensely distinct.


Newly-established examination organizations and institutions have started to bud in the TEFL scenery in Greece offering alternative examination certifications, and thus broadening the choice spectrum for teachers and L2 learners.


The opportunity for alternatives directed virtually every L2 learner towards obtaining a certification and progressively led to the molding of EFL learning predominantly as an examination-oriented and product-based process.


A decisive criterion for the participation of the suitable examination for L2 learners is commonly the speculated success of the examinee, as a consequence of their responsiveness to the particularities of each examination: the layout, level of difficulty, scale of preparation, flexibility and convenience and preparation time –factors which are considered of compelling significance as they generate, in return, client satisfaction and boost of momentum, a personal sense of accomplishment and a general affirmation of success which is undeniably  welcome.


The innermost question upon the appropriateness of the examination though, should not ignore the factor of long-term impact:

The certification should carry long-term recognition and guarantee the promised privileges to the examinee permanently and unconditionally.

A number of examination institutions are established and gain ground in the TEFL examination.

The mere founding of an examination body has become rather unchallenging;

The major challenge lies within the maintenance and the creation of generations of examinees.

Especially in the cases where the stakeholders are not governed by a university or an authorized college, their future and credibility are imperiled.

Commonly, their future lies in their merge into large organizations or their eventual dissolution, following declaration of insolvency.

In the former case, the certification examinations they would run, either consolidate with the larger institution or they vanish.

In the latter case, examinees wind up holding a certification of empty practical value.



Long-term quality of examination organization and conducting 


Consistency in terms of organization is placed high in the hierarchy, as it serves as a constituent part of reliability of the test. According to Bacham and Palmer (1996) “Reliability is defined as the extent to which a questionnaire, test, observation or any measurement tool produces the same results on repeated trials. In short, it is the stability or consistency of scores over time or across raters” (Tilfarlioglu, 2019).


Reliability and validity pledge the quality of the examination


Validity is also a significant quality of testing and it is defined as “the extent to which the instrument measures what it purports to measure”. If for example, a test predicts that it will test students’ listening ability, grammar should not be scored to preserve validity” (Tilfarlioglu, 2019).


Long-term transparency of the examination conducting, evaluation and grading


Transparency entails the open and continuous communication between teachers and stakeholders and examination designers, as well as the pumping of reliable information and feedback regarding the grading of the papers.

It is imperative to safeguard reliability, transparency and acknowledgement of the examination stakeholder. The aforementioned qualities need to be secured irrespective of the L2 learner’s personal traits and potential.


An outstanding principle to be reassured regards the balance of examined skills and areas. The element of balance in the examination partly establishes the fairness of the examination.


Justice in examination layout and procedure is of course also a relative and perceived notion, depending on the interaction of the examination with each L2 learner. There exists a distinctive ensemble of qualities diffused in the examination design and mentality that secure the tangible value of justice throughout the examination; this quality perpetuates the process of grading and the final assessment of the examined papers.  


Justice touches majorly upon and the administration of the examination.

Clarity, transparency and good proportion are the constituent parts of the sense of examination fairness.

There exists cogent evidence that examinations of second language knowledge should be holistic.

All areas and skills are interdependent and dynamic, rather compartmentalized.

A salient feature a high-quality examination would be the equal distribution of examination in all areas of second language development: productive and receptive skills: Writing, Speaking, Listening and Reading.

Otherwise, the outcomes of L2 learners’ evaluation would be by default partial and impaired, as based upon incomplete examination of the L2 learners’ ability to attest their performance in each field.


The value of examinations


Aside from the practical application of the certification, examination as a procedure carries a distinct and inherence value.


A safe criterion than evinces the right choice of the examination is that students have accomplished a new level of their potential. After the completion of the exam preparatory procedure and their participation in the examination-irrespective of the outcome – the L2 learner is anticipated to have achieved a higher stage of their best version as learners.  This is indicative of the appropriate examination selection on the part of the teacher.


L2 learners are expected to become more self-reliant, mature, independent and cognizant.


Examinations focus on breadth, range, depth of language employing an appropriate variety of assessment means.


A successful examination, apart from its assessment and evaluative quality, is also of educative quality, granting examinees the opportunity to expand their knowledge during the examination.


Teachers might ensure that their L2 learners can experience the entire examination process as educative and seize this opportunity.


Assessment in any of its potential forms (formative-summative, informal, formal, continuous-final, process-product, divergent-convergent) is highly pervading to the idea of justice not only in examination but in education as a whole entity. Teachers and examination stakeholders are called to pursue the uninterrupted security of justice in the examination during its every stage. The ideal of justice expands to the whole procedure that orients towards the final examination, i.e. the assurance of equal educative opportunities not restricted to the examination per se.


Autin, Batruch, and Butera,  in discussing the sociological implications of normative assessment conclude that, regular, performance-oriented subjecting to normative assessment as an instrument of outperformance among students impairs the performance of students, whereas the undesirable consequences disappeared when assessment was “experimentally presented to the students as a way to learn and improve” (2015).


Examination should not intimidate students and it is within the responsibility of EFL teacher to assure that participation to the examination is within the reach of each student’s potential and they offer an opportunity to fulfill their optimum version.  



Tilfarlioglu, F. (2019). Testing evaluation ELT methodology. www.researchgate.net/publication/321155250_Testing_and_Evaluation_in_ELT_Methodology (last accessed: 12/08/2019).

Autin, F., Batruch, A., Butera, F. (2015). Social justice in educational institutions predicts support for (non) egalitarian assessment practice.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4454842/ (last accessed: 12/ 08/2019).