Five Major Principles of Language Assessment

Five Major Principles of Language Assessment

Practicality. Practicality refers to the logical, down-to-earth, administrative issues involved in making, giving, and scoring an assessment instrument.  Some considering attributes of practicality: stay within budgetary limits; can be completed by the test taker withing appropriate time constraints; has clear directions for administration; appropriately utilizes available human resources; does not exceed available material resources; considers the time and effort involved for both design and scoring.

Reliability. A reliable test is consistent and dependable. If you give the same test to the same student or matched student on two different occasions, the test should yield similar. A reliable test is consistent in its conditions across two more administrations; gives clear directions for scoring/evaluation; has uniform rubrics for scoring/evaluation; lends itself to consistent application of those rubrics by the scorer; contains items/tasks that are unambiguous to the test-taker.

Validity. Validity as an integrated evaluative judgment of the degree to which empirical evidence and theoretical rationales support the adequance and appropriateness of inferences and actions based on the test score or other modes of assessment. (Samuel Messick, 1989:11). A valid test: measures exactly what it proposes to measure; does not measure irrelevant or contaminating variables; relies as much as possible on empirical evidence (performance); involves performance that samples the test’s criterion (objective); offers useful, meaningful information about a test-taker’s ability; is supported by a theoretical rationale or argument.

Authenticity. Bachman and Palmer (1996) defined authenticity as “the degree of correspondence of the characteristics of a given language test task to the features of a target language task” (p.23) and then suggested and agenda for identifying those target language task and for transforming them into valid test items. An authentic test: contain language that is a natural as possible; has items that are contextualized rather than isolated; includes meaningful, relevant, interesting topics; provides some thematic organization to items, such as through a story line or episode; offers tasks that replicate real-world task.

Washback. A test that provides beneficial washback: positively influences what and how teacher teach; positively influences what and how leaner learn; offers learners a chance to adequately prepare; gives learners feedback that enhances their language development; is more formative in nature than summative; provides conditions for peak performance by the learner.


Brown, H. Douglas and Priyanuada Abeywickrama. 2010. Language Assessment: Principle and Classroom Practices. NY: Pearson Education. (P2539)

One thought on “Five Major Principles of Language Assessment

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