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Linking exams to the CEF levels: T he Manual and the Catalan experience Neus Figueras

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Presentation on theme: "Linking exams to the CEF levels: T he Manual and the Catalan experience Neus Figueras"— Presentation transcript:

1 Linking exams to the CEF levels: T he Manual and the Catalan experience Neus Figueras

2 Presentation Outline Background information about the Catalan EOI Usefulness and relevance of the CEF and the Manual The project to link our exams to the CEF Using The Manual: problems encountered and solutions adopted A Manual for the future

3 Background

4 The EOI system in Catalonia State funded language schools (+16) Two levels defined Certificat de Cicle Elemental (aimed at B1) Certificat dAptitud (aimed at B2) 13 different languages (7 + 6) 15,000 thousand certificate exams every year Standardised language proficiency certificates in place since 1995, with exams developed centrally related to published curricula written according to set specifications submitted to pre-testing standardised administration and marking analysed statistically

5 Issues to be solved in 2002 Revise EOI certificate exams after 10 years. Develop an item banked system. Link levels to Common European Framework levels. Is examination difficulty equivalent across time? Is the lower certificate consistently easier than the higher certificate? Are the different certificates in the different languages comparable?

6 Exam revisionLinking EOI & CEF levels Teaching/learning context To sum up

7 Why linking?

8 Why the CEF?

9 A link or a knot?

10 Linking or equating? Adoption or adaptation? A link or a knot?

11 Relevance of the Manual (2003) Clarified issues: tests and the CEF levels Provided set of systematic procedures Stated what was right Followed CEF approach and philosophy Self-justified claims of linkage to the CEF

12 The Manual offers guidance to users to... describe the examination coverage, administration and analysis procedures, relate results reported from the examination to the Common Reference Levels presented in Chapter 3 of the CEF, provide supporting evidence that reports the procedures followed to do so.

13 The Manual: steps Four inter-related sets of procedures which contribute to the validation process: Familiarisation Specification Standardisation Empirical Validation


15 And……

16 Prerequisites for linkage 1.If an examination result is not reliable, then the examination cannot be compared to the CEF. 2.If each time a new form of an examination is produced it varies according to content and difficulty, it is very difficult to compare the examination to the CEF since the examination does not present a stable standard. 3.If examination results vary by teacher and professor, by school or university, they cannot be matched to the CEF. (Alderson 2002)


18 Exam revisionLinking EOI & CEF levels Teaching/learning context Our case….

19 Our case: project Outline July 2003 – 2004 Define objectives Project design Empirical scale development Scale validation Item banking (English) starts July 2004 –2005 Publication of scales Item banking (English) continues Linkage to CEF: Procedures in the Manual (specification) July 2005 – 2006 Linkage to the CEF:Procedures in the Manual (standardisation) Linkage to the CEF: (empirical validation) Comparability across languages

20 Scale Development....à la mode du CEF Step 1: selecting level descriptors (per skill) CEF Curriculum objectives for EOI Finnish scales (YKI) Step 2: translation of the descriptors into Catalan Step 3: mapping descriptors onto levels (CEF and EOI) Experts assign levels to descriptors Analysis of sorting exercises Collating resulting surviving descriptors Step 4: developing new scales Drafting Validation Scale revision Validation Final version

21 Linking CEF and EOI scales (

22 CEF - C1 Has a good command of a broad lexical repertoire allowing gaps to be readily overcome with circumlocutions; little obvious searching for expressions or avoidance strategies. Good command of idiomatic expressions and colloquialisms. EOI – C1 Can understand and use a broad lexical repertoire, including synonyms and antonyms of less common words, idiomatic expressions, to express himself/herself correctly and appropriately on a wide range of general, academic, professional and leisure topics. Can understand word play based on multiple meanings and use prefixes and suffixes to form less common words. Less frequent words may cause some effort in comprehension. Comparing EOI and CEF levels (Voc)

23 Linking CEF and EOI scales

24 Lessons learnt…implications The CEF is not always right The CEF as a catalyst Reading is not understanding Continued training is necessary Appearances need to be checked empirically Exact correspondence may not be possible, but is it desirable? Linkage does not mean equivalence

25 Item bank building (first batch, June 2004) Step 1 Booklet development (Listening, Reading, Grammar & Vocabulary). (Total items included: 396) Step 2 Data collection ( students per item) Analyses: CTT and IRT (Total surviving items :301) Step 3 Standard setting procedures: - test centered - examinee centered - annual average pass rate Setting (provisional) cut off scores at Elemental (B1) and Aptitud (B2)

26 And now…back to the Manual

27 Problems encountered: Specification The gaps and inconsistencies in the CEF are evidenced List of communication themes clearly not definitive ( p.52) Definition of communicative task/communicative activity (4.3, ) Definition of tasks (7.1, 7.2, 7.3) Grids useful as awareness raising but also frustrating On what basis are the grids completed? (Testversion/Specs?) Who does what? Who checks it?

28 Solutions adopted: Specification Three languages Team work in 5 steps (for each grid): Judges go and have a first attempt to fill up Joint work in understanding/agreeing on interpretation for each cell in each grid Judges go away and do the job Judges meet again and discuss possible problems External judge checks three languages for homogeneity. How ? Extensive knowledge of CEF and Manual Insiders information from the Dutch –CEF Construct project No commercial (or other) interest in confirming our linkage No hurry to be on the CEF claimers map

29 Problems encountered: Standardisation Reference materials not ready until late Different skills, different languages, different nature. reference with a small r (quantity and quality) Assessing task vs. item levels. No linguistic competence reference materials.

30 Solutions adopted: Standardisation Taking advantage of judges/system used to standardisation procedures in speaking and writing. Using part of familiarisation process together with exam-centered standard setting procedures.

31 Empirical validation: Problems encountered, solutions still under way. Internal validation : back to External validation Anchoring and linkage: with small r materials Overcoming difficulties with design in languages with small number of candidates.

32 A straightforward alternative…

33 The proposal from Dutch CEF project Train in CEF + labelling instruments. Describe the test (texts and items) using the dimensions in the Final Grid. Make a guess at the level of an item (guided by the classification system), leading to the estimated CEF level. Pretest the items thus labelled. Calibrate the items. Do standard-setting to set the boundaries of the levels on the scale coming from the calibration. Assign a psychometric level to the items. Assign a definitive level to the items.

34 but beware…. An item can only be assigned to a definitive level if the psychometric level falls within the band of the estimated level (in other words if the estimation based on the content is comparable with the psychometric value) ?

35 And mind the gaps! Coverage in terms of CEF relevant subscales Comparison across countries, institutions, education levels…and viceversa Comparison across skills and languages

36 The Manual for the future Whats it going to be like? Structure and Range What currency? Whos going to use it? How (far)? Will there be primus inter pares?


38 O mon âme, naspire pas à la vie immortelle, mais épuise le champ du possible. Pindare, 3e Pythique

39 Available tools so far……. -Dutch CEF construct Project -Council of Europe Pilot samples English speaking performances French speaking performances English, German, Spanish, Italian listening and reading task s (Available from ) -ALTE Writing Grid -ALTE Speaking Grid - CEFTRAIN

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