DECEMBER 5, 2019

Tests Should Showcase Speaking and Listening Skills

Academic Language Solutions of Guilford, Connecticut USA recently surveyed program sponsors, agents, educators, and employers worldwide to determine the skills preferred in English tests. Consequently, we distributed over 800 surveys during October and November.

Kevin Morgan, Chairman of Academic Language Solutions, who distribute English tests and conduct related research, said, “There are many standardized tests for companies to choose from, but the skills they measure are limited, often by the technology used to conduct the tests.  We wanted to discover what was most important in the marketplace and go about finding and distributing the most meaningful tests.”

There are four skills to assess in language acquisition. They are reading, writing, listening, and speaking. As a result, most tests offer some combination of these skills in their assessments. The Academic Language Solutions research asked respondents to identify the most critical skills preferred in English tests. Screening students, exchange visitors, and potential employees were the focus. Consequently, those surveyed were presented with a list of the four necessary skills plus two popular combinations of skills (reading/listening, and speaking/listening), and asked to choose the most important.

Tests that measure Listening and Speaking were the tests of choice for two-thirds of those responding. After that, another nine percent prefer Speaking skills; finally, six percent chose Listening skills. So, on a combined basis, 81% of respondents wanted some combination of Speaking and Listening skills (i.e., conversational skills) tested as indicators of success on exchange-type programs.

Because of technical difficulties, few tests measure Speaking skills.

Those that do usually rely on in-person conversations. Moreover, those need to be pre-scheduled at limited, and often distant, test centers, resulting in high expenses for test-takers. The one series of tests that use cloud-based technology (including human, trained graders) is iTEP, International Test of English Proficiency. Perry Akins, a co-founder of iTEP, explained that “We wanted to create a suite of online exams, could be taken on-demand, were economical, scored quickly and tested multiple skills. Most importantly, conversation skills are a must. Other testing companies just didn’t adequately cover this.” The iTEP Conversation test was developed with these needs in mind.

Morgan adds, “After spending years operating and observing exchange programs, I believe that the weak link in selecting students for programs is English screening. A standardized, objective exam is a must. Self-screening by agents and sponsors is not satisfactory and carries too many risks.’

Research shows an overwhelming demand for conversation-skills testing. So, Academic Language Solutions has teamed up with iTEP to offer a series of English tests to the education and exchange markets. Meanwhile, to learn more about these tests or the research, contact Academic Language Solutions at or 203-533-4655.


Contact information:
Randy LeGrant, President

Kevin Morgan, Chairman


%d bloggers like this: