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3.4.1 Oxford Placement Test (OPT)

The Oxford Placement Test (OPT) is a flexible
test of English language proficiency developed by Oxford University Press and
Cambridge ESOL (2001) to provide instructors with a reliable and time-saving
method of classifying learners into different English learning levels. It is
quick and easy to administer and is ideal for placement testing and examination
screening. There are two versions available: a computer-based (CB)
version and a paper and pen (P&P) version. Each of these versions
possesses its own key features as follows:

A. main features of the CB version

l The
test is adaptive, so different candidates see different questions;

l It
takes 15-20 minutes to administer;

l All
the questions in the test are in multiple-choice format;

l
Answers are directly keyed into the computer;

l The
test is marked by the computer and the result is generated straight away;

l The
test scores can be compared with the paper and pen version.

(P. 1)

B. Main features of the P&P version

l It has
two parallel versions;

l It
takes approximately 30 minutes to administer;

l All
the questions in the test are in multiple-choice format;

l
Answers are recorded directly on the answer sheet;

l The
answer sheets can be quickly marked using the overlays provided;

l The
test consists of two parts. Part 1 is taken by all candidates. Part 2 is for
higher ability pupils only;

l The
test scores can be compared with the computer-based version

(P. 1)

      The
OPT is designed to help teachers and course managers make rapid decisions about
the students’ level of English ranging from beginner to advanced and whether or
not a learner can join a particular course. The test can be used for learners
of all levels and all ages. The computer-based version uses
multiple-choice questions to assess students in Listening, Reading, and structure,
including grammar and vocabulary. The paper and pen version can be
utilized to categorize students in the same way as the other version but in
circumstances where the CB is not feasible. All the pupils taking the paper
and pen version should complete Part One in the first place. Part Two
should only be done by those students who have scored higher than a
predetermined score in Part One. Part 1 includes 40 questions (questions 1-40)
and the second part which comprises 20 questions (questions 41-60) is only
taken by those candidates who score more than 35 in the first part. The test is
quickly marked out of 40 or 60 using a simple overlay summarized in the table
coming next (Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 2).

 

Table 3.2 Look-up table for computer-based and paper and pen scores

ALTE level

 

Paper and pen test score

 

Computer-based test score

Level

Description

Part 1
Score out of 40

Parts 1&2
Score out of 60

 

0.1

Beginner

0-9

0-10

0-29

0.2

Breakthrough

10-15

11-17

30-39

1

Elementary

16-23

18-29

40-49

2

Lower intermediate

24-30

30-39

50-59

3

Upper intermediate

31-40

40-47

60-69

4

Advanced

If
a student scores 36 or more it is recommended they complete part 2 of the
test

48-54

70-79

5

Very Advanced

 

55-60

80-100

 

 

3.4.1.1 Reliability and validity of OPT

All of the test items in the OPT have
undergone quality control procedures; however, additional steps have been taken
to conduct the reliability of the OPT and the relationship of scores between it
and those obtained from the paper and pen versions. See Beeston (2000) for a
description of these quality control procedures.

To date, the test validated has been
conducted in 20 countries by more than 6000 students. There are three
validation phases in the course of OPT development (Oxford University Press,
2001).

Phase 1

      The
first phase of trialing involved students from a variety of countries taking
the electronic Oxford Placement Test and one of the two paper and pen tests.
They also completed a questionnaire indicating the extent to which they were
comfortable using a computer. Teachers provided detailed feedback on the look
and feel of the paper and pen tests and some of the items in the electronic
version of the QPT, and on how accurate the tests were in terms of identifying
the current level of their students.

As a result of this, the paper and pen tests
were changed and the OPT database was modified to include lower level items
with an increase in the lexico-grammatical items at the lower level.

Phase 2

      With
the format of the tests confirmed, the phase of activity concentrated on
determining score equivalence between the electronic version OPT and the paper
and pen versions, and also between two successive administrations of the OPT.
The aim was to assess how consistently students were located on the same score
and what degree of error was associated with these scores.

‘Error’ refers to the fact that in any
measuring process there will be some inconsistency. If one were to weigh
themselves five times in the same day, they would notice that the recorded
weight varied slightly. In testing terms, there is a notion of True Score
Theory, which states that if a candidate took a test an infinite number of
times, the average score would be the true score and the range of scores around
that average score would indicate their error range for that test. By
investigating the reliability of the test scores a practical and reliable test
has been produced.  The SEM of the test
is around 4 and the typical reliabilities reported during the trial phases are
close to 0.9 for the 60 item test and 0.85 for the 40 item test.

Phase 3

      Cambridge
ESOL is currently conducting further research into the Oxford Placement Test.
The research aims to examine the degree of equivalence between the two modes of
administration and to provide updated information about the reliability of the
test. A large number of candidates from several centers around the world have
completed both CB and P versions and this will enable the test designers
and producers to compare and monitor performance in both tests. The OPT is
currently available at the following link:

http://www.oup.com/shockwave_flash/elt/qpt/qptdemo/.

 

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