Once a consensus has been built as to the purposes and types of test to employ in a program. A strategy must be worked out to maximize the quality and effectiveness of the test. In the best of all possible worlds each program would have a resident testing expert, whose entire job would be to develop tests especially created for and suited to that program. But even in the worst of all possible worlds rational decisions can be made when selecting commercially available tests from scratch or adopting them from commercial sources is the possibility of adapting existing tests so they are made to better fit with the purposes and objectives of the program.
Many language tests are, or should be, situation specific. That is to say, a test can be very effective in one situation with one particular group of students and be virtually useless in another situation or with another group of students. Teachers can not simply go out (or worse yet, illegally photocopy) a test and automatically expect it to work with their student. It may have been developed for completely different types of students (different in background, level of proficiency, gender, and so forth) and for entirely different purposes (that is, base on differing approaches, syllabuses, techniques or exercises).
Though all of these may seem like a great deal of work, remember that in most language programs, any rational approach to testing will be a vast improvement over the existing condition. The purpose in this section of the chapter will be to suggest systematically bases for getting started in adopting, developing, or adapting decent language test for a particular and very specific language program.
The tests that are used for program decision are very often bought from commercial publishing houses. Tests are also sometimes adopted from other language programs or taken straight from the current textbook. Given the wide diversity and variation in the nationalities and levels involved in the various language programs around the world, it may turn out that any tests that is adopted is being applied to a population quite different from envisioned when the test were originally written. As a result, program decisions that can dramatically affect the lives of the student
May be irresponsibly base on tests consisting of test questions that are quite unrelated to the needs of the particular group of students or to the curriculum being taught in the specific program involved.
Selecting good test that match the specific needs of a program is therefore important. Test reviews are one good place to start. Such reviews can be found in the review sections of some language teaching journals, right alongside the reviews of texts and professional books. Unfortunately, test reviews appear infrequently:
Language Testing - is a journal that focuses on language tests and also provides reviews. For those in ESL/EEL, Alderson, Krahnke and Stanfield 1987 is a useful source of test reviews for most of the major test available at the time it was published. The Mental Measurements Yearbook also includes some reviews of language test.
In the best of all possible worlds, sufficient resources and expertise will be available in a program so that proficiency, placement, achievement, and diagnostic tests can be developed and fitted to the specific goals of the program and to the specific population studying in it.
If this is the case, decision must be made about which types of tests must be developed first. That might mean first developing achievement and diagnosis tests, while temporarily adopting previously published proficiency and placement test.
A program specific placement test could be developed so that the reasons for separating students into levels in the program are related to the things that the students can learn while in those levels.
It is rarely necessary or even useful to develop program specific proficiency tests because of their interprogrammatic nature. In other words, for purposes of reference to other programs elsewhere, an adopted test that is used by a wide variety of language programs will be most appropriate. Naturally, all of these decisions are up to the teachers, administrators, and curriculum developers in the program in question.