Skip to main content Accessibility help

From mythical ‘standard’ to standard reality: The need for alternatives to standardized English language tests

  • Jennifer Jenkins (a1) and Constant Leung (a2)


This position paper builds on three of our earlier publications on the same subject (Jenkins & Leung 2014; Leung, Lewkowicz & Jenkins 2016; Jenkins & Leung 2017), as well as a number of conference papers we have given both jointly and individually. However, what we have not done up to this point is to propose alternatives to the large-scale standardized English tests administered by the major international examination boards, of which we have been so critical, despite the fact that we have been discussing other possibilities among ourselves for several years. The opportunity to publish a position paper on English language assessment therefore provided an ideal opportunity to present our alternatives, and this we do in the final part of the paper.



Hide All
American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, National Council on Measurement in Education, & Joint Committee on Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (US) (2014). Standards for educational and psychological testing.
Bachman, L. & Palmer, A. (2010). Language assessment in practice: Developing language assessments and justifying their use in the real world. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bachman, L. F. & Palmer, A. (1996). Language testing in practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Batziakas, V. (2016). Investigating meaning-making in English as a lingua franca (ELF). Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, King's College London, London.
Blommaert, J. (2010). The sociolinguistics of globalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bourdieu, P. & Passeron, J. C. (1977). Reproduction in education, society and culture. London: Sage Publications.
Brooks, L. & Swain, M. (2014). Contextualizing performances: Comparing performances during TOEFL iBT and real-life academic speaking activities. Language Assessment Quarterly 11.3, 353373.
Canale, M. & Swain, M. (1980). Theoretical bases of communicative approaches to second language teaching and testing. Applied Linguistics 1.1, 147.
Carlsen, C. (2018). The adequacy of the B2-level as university entrance requirement. Language Assessment Quarterly 15.1, 7579.
Cogo, A. & Dewey, M. (2012). Analysing English as a lingua franca. London: Continuum.
Cho, Y. & Bridgeman, B. (2012). Relationship of TOEFL iBT® scores to academic performance: Some evidence from American universities. Language Testing 29.1, 421442.
Cotton, F. & Conrow, F. (1998). An investigation of the predictive validity of IELTS amongst a group of international students at the University of Tasmania. IELTS Research Reports (vol. 1), 72–115. Retrieved from
Cumming, A., Kantor, R., Powers, D., Santos, T. & Taylor, C. (2000). TOEFL 2000 writing framework: A working paper. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.
Ducasse, A. M. & Brown, A. (2009). The role of intereactive communication in IELTS speaking and its relationship to candidates’ preparedness for study or training contexts. IELTS Research Reports (vol. 12),
Edwards, J. (1994). Multilingualism. London: Routledge.
Ekiert, M. (2017). What interlanguage analysis reveals about L2 referent tracking. Talk given in UCL IoE Centre for Applied Linguistics Research Seminar Series, 20 November 2017.
García, O. & Li, W. (2014). Translanguaging: Language, bilingualism and education. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Gee, J. P. (2004). Situated language and learning: A critique of traditional schooling. London: Routledge.
Gray, J. (2010). The branding of English and the culture of the new capitalism: Representations of the world of work in English Language textbooks. Applied Linguistics 31.5, 714733.
Green, A. (2014). Exploring language testing and assessment. London: Routledge.
Harding, L. & McNamara, T. (2018). Language assessment. The challenge of ELF. In Jenkins, J., Baker, W. & Dewey, M. (eds.), The Routledge handbook of English as a lingua franca. Abingdon: Routledge, 570582.
Harrington, M. & Roche, T. (2014). Identifying academically at-risk students in an English-as-a-lingua-franca university setting. Journal of English for Academic Purposes 15, 3747.
Hyland, K. (2004). Disciplinary discourses: Social interactions in academic writing. Michigan: Michigan University Press.
Hyland, K. (2016). Academic publishing and the myth of linguistic injustice. Journal of Second Language Writing 31, 5869.
Hyland, K. & Hamp-Lyons, L. (2002). EAP: Issues and directions. Journal of English for Academic Purposes 1.1, 112.
Ingram, D. & Bayliss, A. (2007). IELTS as a predictor of academic language performance Part 1. IELTS Research Reports (vol. 7). London: British Council.
James, M. (2006). Assessment, teaching and theories of learning. In Gardner, J. (ed.), Assessment and learning. London: Sage, 4760.
Jenkins, J. (2000). The phonology of English as an international language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Jenkins, J. (2015). Repositioning English and multilingualism in English as a lingua franca. Englishes in Practice 2/3: 4985. De Gruyter Open.
Jenkins, J. (2018). Not English but English-within-multilingualism. In Coffey, S. & Wingate, U. (eds.), New directions in foreign language education. Abingdon: Routledge, 6578.
Jenkins, J. & Leung, C. (2014). English as a lingua franca. In Kunnan, A. (ed.), The companion to language assessment. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 16071616.
Jenkins, J. & Leung, C. (2017). Assessing English as a lingua franca. In Shohamy, E., Or, I. & May, S., Language testing and assessment (vol. 7) (3rd edn.) of May, S. (ed.), Encyclopedia of language and education. Heidelberg: Springer, 103117.
Kachru, B. B. (1985). Standards, codification and sociolinguistic realism: The English language in the outer circle. In Quirk, R. & Widdowson, H. G. (eds.), English in the world: Teaching and learning the language and literatures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1130.
Kane, M. (2006). Validation. In Brenman, R. (ed.), Educational measurement (4th edn.).Westport, CT: American Council on Education and Praeger, 1764.
Kane, M. (2010). Validity and fairness. Language Testing 17.2, 177182.
Kramsch, C. (2010). The symbolic dimensions of the intercultural. Language Teaching. Retrieved from
Kramsch, C. & Whiteside, A. (2008). Language ecology in multilingual settings: Towards a theory of symbolic competence. Applied Linguistics 29.4, 645671.
Kunnan, A. J. (2018). Evaluating language assessments. New York/London: Routledge.
Lea, M. R. & Street, B. (2006). The ‘Academic Literacies’ model: Theory and applications. Theory into Practice 45.4, 368377.
Lee, Y.-J. & Greene, J. (2007). The predictive validity of an ESL placement test: A mixed methods approach. Journal of Mixed Research Methods 1.4, 366389.
Leung, C. (2011). Language teaching and language assessment. In Wodak, R., Johnstone, B. & Kerswill, P. (eds.), The Sage handbook of sociolinguistics. London: Sage, 545564.
Leung, C. (2013). The ‘Social’ in English language teaching: Abstracted norms versus situated enactments. Journal of English as a Lingua Franca 2.2, 283313.
Leung, C. & Jenkins, J. (2018). Farewell to the phantom of standardization. Paper given in the colloquium Transition, mobility, validity: English as a (multi)lingua franca perspectives on language assessment. Language Testing Research Colloquium (LTRC), Auckland, 4–6 July 2018.
Leung, C., Lewkowicz, J. & Jenkins, J. (2016). English for academic purposes: A need for remodelling. Englishes in Practice 3.3, 5573. De Gruyter Open.
Leung, C. & Scarino, A. (2016). Reconceptualizing the nature of goals and outcomes in language/s education. Modern Language Journal 100 s1, 8195.
Li, W. (2017). Translanguaging as a practical theory of language. Applied Linguistics open access 00/0:1-23. doi:10.1093/applin/amx039.
Lillis, T. & Scott, M. (2007). Defining academic literacies research: Issues of epistemology, ideology and strategy. Journal of Applied Linguistics 4.1, 532.
Lippi-Green, R. (1997). English with an accent (1st edn.). London: Routledge.
Maringe, F. & Jenkins, J. (2015). Stigma, tensions and apprehension: The academic writing experience of international students. International Journal of Educational Management 29.5, 609626.
Mauranen, A. (2003). The corpus of English as a lingua franca in academic settings. TESOL Quarterly 37.3, 513527.
Mauranen, A. (2012). Exploring ELF: Academic English shaped by non-native speakers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Mauranen, A. (2018). Second language acquisition, world Englishes, and English as a lingua franca (ELF). World Englishes 37, 106119.
McNamara, T. (2001). Language assessment as social practice: Challenges for research. Language Testing 18.4, 333349.
McNamara, T. (2005). 21st century shibboleth: Language tests, identity and intergroup conflict. Language Policy 4.4, 351370.
McNamara, T. (2014). 30 years on – evolution or revolution? Language Assessment Quarterly 11, 226232.
McNamara, T. (2017). A challenge for language testing: The assessment of English as a lingua franca. Address given at Department of Education, University of Oxford, 11 December 2017.
McNamara, T., Morton, J., Storch, N. & Thompson, C. (2018). Students’ accounts of their first-year undergraduate academic writing experience: Implications for the use of the CEFR. Language Assessment Quarterly.
Messick, S. (1989). Validity. In Linn, R. L. (ed.), Educational measurement (3rd edn.). New York: ACE-NCME/MacMillan, 13103.
Murray, N. (2018). Language education and dynamic ecologies in world Englishes. In Low, E. L. & Pakir, A. (eds.). World Englishes: Rethinking paradigms. Abingdon: Routledge, 4763.
Newton, P. & Shaw, S. (2014). Validity in educational and psychological assessment. London: Sage.
Piller, I. (2016). Linguistic diversity and social justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Pitzl, M-L. (2018). Creativity in English as a lingua franca: Idiom and metaphor. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.
Rawls, J. (2001). Justice as fairness: A restatement (Kelly, E., ed.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Schulz, M. (2006). Controlled chaos: European cities do away with traffic signs. Spiegel Online International, 16 November 2006.
Seidlhofer, B. (2001). Closing a conceptual gap: The case for a description of English as a lingua franca. International Journal of Applied Linguistics 11.2, 133158.
Seidlhofer, B. (2011). Understanding English as a lingua franca. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Selinker, L. (1972). Interlanguage. International Review of Applied Linguistics 10, 209231.
Shohamy, E. (2001). Democratic assessment as an alternative. Language Testing 18.4, 373391.
Shohamy, E. (2006). Language policy: Hidden agendas and new approaches. London: Routledge.
Shohamy, E. (2011). Assessing multilingual competencies: Adopting construct valid assessment policies. Modern Language Journal 95.3, 418429.
Shohamy, E. (2017). Critical language testing. In Shohamy, E., Or, I. & May, S. (eds.), 441–454.
Shohamy, E., I. Or & May, S. (eds.) (2017). Language testing and assessment (3rd edn.). In May, S. (ed.), Encyclopedia of language and education. Heidelberg: Springer.
Swales, J. (1990). Genre analysis: English in academic and research settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Taylor, C. (1994). The politics of recognition. In Gutmann, A. (ed.), Multilculturalism: Examining the politics of recognition. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Van Parijs, P. (2011). Linguistic justice for Europe & for the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Vertovec, S. (2007). Super-diversity and its implications. Ethnic and Racial Studies 30.6, 10241054.
Weir, C. J. & O'Sullivan, B. (2017). Assessing English on the global stage: The British Council and English language testing, 1941–2016. London: Equinox.
Wilson, M. (2005). Constructing measures: An item response modelling approach. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Wingate, U. (2015). Academic literacy and student diversity: The case for inclusive practice. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
Wingate, U. (2016). Academic literacy across the curriculum: Towards a collaborative instrumental approach. Language Teaching First View.
Yen, D. & Kuzma, J. (2009). Higher IELTS score, higher academic performance? The validity of IELTS in predicting the academic performance of Chinese students. Worcester Journal of Learning and Teaching 3, 17.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

From mythical ‘standard’ to standard reality: The need for alternatives to standardized English language tests

  • Jennifer Jenkins (a1) and Constant Leung (a2)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.