Close this search box.

Language Testing for Education

Language testing geared for education provides indicators of the language abilities of a student or teacher. Education uses several types of language testing to examine people in different roles for language proficiency. Determining the role of the person who could benefit from a language test is key. Institutions test language educators before allowing them to teach students. Schools and colleges test domestic students on their foreign language skills. International students may be assessed on the language of the school to which they’ve applied.

After locating the person’s role in using their language, determining which language proficiency test they should take becomes easier. Is the TOEFL or the IELTS more appropriate? Do the results need to align with CEFR Standards, the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) scale, or other proficiency levels? Exploring testing options can help determine a person’s language assessment needs.

The language assessment should be independent, reliable, and valid. The test administrators and graders should be professional. They should use proven proficiency tests for that particular language.

Language Assessment for International Students


International students take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) to show their English skills. The TOEFL gauges the four language proficiency divisions: reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. Each of the four skills is separated to show proficiency in that area. The TOEFL is among the most utilized language tests worldwide.


The IELTS is another widely accepted language assessment. It’s geared more toward diverse purposes than the TOEFL, including work and migration to an English-speaking country. According to the IELTS website, this English language proficiency test is taken by 3 million students yearly. Each of the language proficiency skills is thoroughly assessed. For example, speaking skills are broken down into fluency and coherence, depth of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation.

Pearson PTE

The Pearson PTE tests English language skills for usage in the UK. Language assessments geared for a dialect or division of a particular language show a person’s competency in that dialect. It’s divided into a joint speaking and writing section, a listening section, and a reading section.

Language Tests for Domestic Learning of Foreign Languages

There are several types of language tests for different student goals. Which language assessment a student needs depends on their desired study track, age, or intended usage. Will the test taker simply enter college, or do they want to apply as a language major?

AP Tests

Advanced placement tests help students get college credit for their skills in foreign languages. The most concentrated language education efforts in the US take place in high schools. Some students take AP proficiency tests. Lasting over three hours, AP tests are among the longer language proficiency tests. They have sections gauging the four skills.

SAT Subject Tests

SAT language tests can help those applying to colleges demonstrate their language skills. SAT subject language tests last an hour. Most tests include listening components.

Other tests and CEFR levels

Standardized language testing for educational and work environments can also be executed through foreign organizations. Various countries that speak a particular language offer tests. For example, the Cervantes Institute in Spain offers the Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera (DELE) for Spanish. The results of DELE language testing correspond with the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) proficiency levels. CEFR levels are the most recognized language proficiency levels. Similar tests exist in other countries.

Recent Changes in Language Skills Assessments

Many school and university standards have changed to criterion-referenced interpretations of language tests. Instead of comparing against the norm of average students as in norm-referenced testing, criterion-referenced language testing focuses more on functional goals. By gauging based on functionality and communicative skills, criterion-referenced test score interpretation shows whether or not a person operates above a defined threshold.

For example, could a person muster the vocabulary and grammar to get through making a complicated purchase, even if they pause and make some grammatical errors? Would they get through or not based on their combination of skills? In the criterion-referenced model, predetermined criteria and an outcome of “pass” or “fail” replace narrowing to specific scores for the purpose of comparing to peers.

Language Testing for Language Instructors

The requirements for teacher certification vary by state. They will include tests on regular teaching knowledge administered in English. Some states require additional language proficiency tests for language teaching.

Tests for Educators and Language Teaching

Praxis and Pearson Tests – A state may require a teacher to take a Praxis Core test first. Other states require Pearson tests or a unique state test. These cover math, reading, and writing skills.

High language competency is necessary for teaching most grades. Aspiring teachers may also need Praxis language testing. Many states require ACTFL (American Council on Teaching Foreign Languages) or LTI (Language Testing International) language tests.

Foreign Teachers Coming to the US

Foreign instructors may receive language testing from their employing institution. If they teach in English, candidates may need to take the TOEFL, IELTS, Pearson PTE, or another test. If hoping to teach grade school (K-12), a teacher from abroad may need to follow teacher certification guidelines in that state.

Common Testing Questions Answered

What is language testing in teaching?

Aspiring teachers of world languages usually need to take tests to prove their language proficiency. Language teaching ability is based on great language skills. Thorough knowledge and functionality are necessary for language education roles in higher grades.

What are the types of tests in language testing?

Since many communication skills make up a foreign tongue, various language testing methods exist. Below are some common assessment methods in language learning:

  • Grammar questions – fill-in-the-blank or multiple-choice questions
  • Composition questions – paragraphs, essays, conversation transcripts
  • Listening questions – comprehension of audio or speech
  • Conversation trials – speaking with a peer or test administrator
  • Pronunciation tasks – reading a text aloud, speaking freely
  • Reading comprehension questions – proving one’s understanding of a text or graphic

What are the 4 approaches to language testing?

Language tests usually consist of reading, writing, listening, and speaking components. Reading skills may be tested in foreign languages with comprehension questions similar to native language comprehension questions. Writing skills assessments may involve composing essays, paragraphs, or conversations. Grammar and spelling are sometimes isolated.

Listening skills may be assessed through comprehension of audio or the speech of a live instructor or test administrator. A speaking skill test could be a live conversation with an instructor or peer. A student may need to speak at length alone during a language assessment.

ALTA Language Testing

Language testing should be unbiased, objective, and legally defensible. ALTA Language Services, Inc. offers professional neutral testing services for education, work, specialized work, and general usage. Neutrality is among ALTA’s highest priorities.

Independent language testing

The best language testing is given by third-party professionals. Relying on current bilingual personnel or staff can allow their biases, preferences, or fears to influence the scores. Independent test administration provides sound results. ALTA executes language testing that delivers independent and replicable results.

Valid language assessments

It’s important to ensure that language tests are valid; each skill assessment needs to access and gauge that skill properly. Validity ensures the skills the test aims to gauge are accessed and measured. For example, when gauging spontaneous speaking ability, a language assessment shouldn’t allow the candidate to memorize a speech that isn’t spontaneous. ALTA executes a nine-stage test development and quality assurance process to ensure valid language testing processes.

Experienced test evaluators

ALTA uses seasoned experts in test administration. These evaluators stay current with developments in testing methodology, language teaching tactics, and technology. Although our evaluators are experts, they understand the struggles of language learning, interpreting, and translation.

ALTA delivers thorough but fair, and reliable language testing in 100 languages. ALTA offers a wide breadth of options for language tests. For example, for the government, ALTA offers a battery of tests with results reported according to the Interagency Language Roundtable scale.

Tests of English or World Languages

Overall, standardized language assessments are a great way to prove linguistic skills for education and work. A person’s ability to speak or write English can be measured through test scores on the IELTS, TOEFL, Pearson PTE, or another test. College-bound students learning world languages may benefit from getting their SAT or AP test scores.

Educators coming from abroad to teach in English will first need to undergo regular teaching requirement testing. Domestic world language teachers need to do the same. Afterward, their language abilities may need to be assessed with proficiency tests like Praxis or testing that puts them on the ACTFL scale.

Other Resources

The Importance Of Language Testing in Healthcare

Language tests play a vital role in reducing errors in the healthcare setting. When lives are on the line, accurate interpretation and translation are necessary. Language testing ensures that people in these roles have a high understanding of both language...

Learn More

What Is Remote Proctoring?

While the traditional setup for taking a test involves being in a classroom with the instructor, there are sometimes advantages to incorporating technology into testing. The potential benefits of remote proctoring include convenience in terms of scheduling, location, and instructor...

Learn More

Bilingual Pay Differential Benefits

In today’s globalized world, the ability to speak multiple languages has become increasingly valuable. Businesses and organizations of all kinds are expanding their operations internationally, often partnering with companies abroad or marketing products and services in overseas markets. Additionally, in...

Learn More

Contact Us

Get Started Today

Interested in our language services? Complete the form or call us during business hours (9 AM to 6:00 PM ET) at 800.895.8210.

Preparing for your test?

View our test prep materials or FAQ’s for common questions about taking a test.