Pre-sessional listening assessment: Construct, content and graduateness

John Wrigglesworth


The assessment of academic language is at the heart of EAP practice. Assessment is high stakes for our learners and for any UKHE institution mindful of Tier 4 visa requirements. Creating robust academic language tests for the four skills presents challenges, including their design (constructs and specifications); production (content and authenticity); marking criteria; and evaluation. Focusing on the listening skill, this paper recommends adding a principled notion of content to the constructs and specifications used in the creation of a pre-sessional listening test. Teaching content may not be commonly regarded as part of EAP practice. However, carrier content is always present in language teaching. The paper suggests using the notion of graduateness within a pre-sessional needs analysis to help select content and offers a case study from a university in the UK to exemplify some of the challenges and choices made during test development. These include compromises within the formal process of test writing, the practical difficulty of writing a listening test for students going on to different disciplines, and the institutional issues surrounding resourcing quality processes in EAP assessment.