VERGUTS, C.; STEEMANS, S.: “Mapping language tests to the Common European Framework: problems and possible solutions.” CercleS Conference, Groningen, 24 November 2011.

No serious language test can currently avoid mapping to the Common European Framework (CEF). Although this may seem a relatively easy task, everybody involved in test development will recognise that the process entails many pitfalls. Even famous official tests  such as TOEFL or IELTS clearly encounter  problems when equating their test scores to a CEF level. It seems that those institutions make these claims based on intuitive grounds, rather than on a strict equation between scores and CEF levels.

This presentation tries to explain how this is possible by focussing on the difficulties encountered when linking test questions to the CEF. We therefore focus on two language admission tests developed by four Flemish University Language Centres (Linguapolis, Antwerp; HUB Brussel; ILT, Leuven; University Language Centre, Gent).

We show which possibilities a test developer has to interpret the can-do statements and operationalise these statements to more practical, workable criteria. For instance, we illustrate how we defined set grammatical items for the Interuniversity test of Dutch (ITNA). We further discuss how we delineated the kinds of texts to be used to create listening and reading questions. It is also demonstrated how frequency was used as a basis for vocabulary questions in the English test. 

Even with these more rigorous criteria, it was still noted how the development process and the mapping to the CEF stayed a very difficult undertaking because of the many vague and overlapping descriptors of the CEF. We want to conclude our presentation with the idea that when mapping a test to the CEF there is not much more basis to be used than intuition.  The reviewing processes of the test items with four experts from different language centres proved one of the most valuable tools in the development of the test.