Do English Language Exams Prove Anything?

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Last week an article on the education section of the Guardian website questioned the suitability of the current English language tests for international students coming to study in the UK. Here, Erik- a Slovakian student living in London, gives his response to the article and the issue as a whole.

"It is very difficult, I would say impossible, to find an objective language test. Some phonetic and cultural aspects of a language can be learned only through extended interaction with the target community. Therefore, I think the best way would be to allow the students into the target community and evaluate their performance after several weeks. If it turns out that they cannot keep up with the workload because of the communication gap- they failed the language test. Regardless of their potential, they also have to prove a certain level of English proficiency.

However, such authentic testing is simply infeasible. The standardized tests were created, to offer equal conditions for everyone and they should make sure that the successful candidates are able to use English to a certain level. But no test can replace real life.

I myself studied English language at university and completed my masters without too many difficulties. Afterwards, I decided to do the Cambridge certificate of Proficiency in English. Although I was well-prepared, it was the most difficult English test I have ever sat. I passed, but it was far from with flying colours. And still, I sometimes have problems understanding people with different accents, especially on the phone.

To conclude, I think that if someone has the potential to study in England, but the only barrier is the language, they should devote a few months, maybe one year to bring up their English."

You can read more posts by Erik here.

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