Accuplacer Companion in a foreign language context

an argument-based validation of both test score meaning and impact

Robert C. Johnson, A. Mehdi Riazi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Use of a single, standardised instrument to make high-stakes decisions about test takers is pervasive in higher education around the world, including English as a foreign language (EFL) contexts. Contrary to longstanding best practices, however, few test users endeavour to meaningfully validate the instrument(s) they use for their specific context and purposes. This study reports efforts to validate a standardised placement test, used in a US-accredited, higher education institution in the Pacific, to exempt, exclude, or place students within its Developmental English Program. A hybrid of two validation structures – Kane’s (1992, 1994) interpretive model and Bachman’s (2005) and Bachman and Palmer’s (2010) assessment use argument – and a broad range of types and sources of evidence were used to ensure a balanced focus on both test score interpretation and test utilisation. Outcomes establish serious doubt as to the validity of the instrument for the local context. Moreover, results provide valuable insights regarding the dangers of not evaluating the validity of an assessment for the local context, the relative strengths and weaknesses of standardised tests used for placement, and the value of argument-based validation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-58
Number of pages28
JournalPapers in language testing and assessment
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • assessment
  • testing
  • language testing
  • validity
  • validation

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