Evaluating Test Consequences Based on ESL Students’ Perceptions: An Appraisal Analysis

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Elizabeth Lee


Ensuring that test-score use brings about socially positive consequences for test-takers is an important aspect of test validation. While many studies use an inductive approach to evaluate test consequences, few studies have implemented Appraisal analysis. To that end, this case study investigated the test consequences of an English reading placement test administered at a large American university. In this study, English as a second language (ESL) students (n=8) who took the placement test and an ESL reading course were interviewed; an Appraisal analysis was conducted to identify the students’ positive and/or negative perceptions toward the placement test and reading course. Using an argument-based approach to validity framework, the findings were treated as evidence to evaluate the test consequences of the placement test. The results showed that, while taking the ESL course helped students gain some valuable academic reading skills, students felt that test anxiety, fatigue, and verbally demanding questions hindered their test performances. Understanding what students experienced while taking the test can help test-developers devise solutions that will improve the test-taking situation for future test-takers. This study also illustrates how an Appraisal analysis of test-takers’ discourses can provide a systematic and fine-grained approach to evaluating positive and/or negative test consequences.

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Appraisal, placement test, validity