Here at Englist, every prospective student needs to take an assessment with one of our teachers before they can join a class. This can be a time consuming process, so parents occasionally ask if we can just accept another assessment a student has taken.
However, we insist that all students take our assessment, and we don’t accept anything else. Here’s why:
Outside tests are specific to another set of expectations
Other English language assessments, including Cambridge, GEPT, TOEFL, or even the SAT, have a set of expectations that are different from what we are looking for in students.
Unfortunately, success in one educational paradigm does not translate to success in another. A student might earn an advanced level certification on a Cambridge English test, but that only means they have done well in Cambridge’s ecosystem.
Parents and other paid programs frequently over-estimate student level
Another issue we have with outside assessments and other programs is that they tend to inflate students’ English levels. This means that many parents feel like they can just tell us that their student obviously belongs in the most advanced class.
If you think your student is advanced, then an Englist assessment to confirm this is a good idea.
There is nothing to be gained by overestimating your student’s level. Being in a class that is too advanced doesn’t help students learn more. On the contrary, when parents and teachers push students too much, kids learn less and come to hate the learning process.
Tests are arbitrary, inauthentic, and bad at measuring ability
At Englist, we don’t consider testing to be very useful. While we understand the utility of formative assessment – testing students before learning to gauge their level – most tests are more harmful than helpful.
First of all, testing is arbitrary, can easily be gamed, and students can “learn” a test. For example, students can take classes for the sole purpose of learning how to pass the SAT. If the SAT can be “taught,” how can it be an accurate measure of ability besides just being able to pass the SAT?
Let’s look at the GEPT. We often get applicants who have high GEPT scores. Yet, when they complete our assessment they clearly demonstrate limited speaking and listening skills, and weak reading comprehension in English.
This is because the GEPT, and lots of other tests, measure arbitrary markers of language ability, like size of vocabulary or knowledge of grammar rules. However, knowing vocab and grammar isn’t enough; language and communication happens because people use words and grammar in real situations. It’s the difference between a basketball player who can make 20 free throws in a row at practice versus someone who can score 20 points in a live game.
At Englist, we assess students more comprehensively.
We’re not just assessing what’s on the written test
One part of Englist’s assessment is a written test, but that is just one part.
When you come to Englist, we are assessing the whole situation, just like you are assessing our program. We look at a range of factors, like learning history, social skills, ability to engage, and whether you and your student fit with our methods and culture.
Also, one of the reasons we conduct an assessment and why we strongly prefer in-person assessments is because we can make better decisions about student ability when we meet face-to-face. Not only can we see how students do on the written test, but we also hear them speak, observe how they interact with teachers, and see what having them in class will be like..
We wouldn’t learn any of this if we didn’t do our own assessment.
To learn more about what we are assessing, and how the assessment is conducted, take a look at our article “How to succeed on an Englist assessment”.
Is our assessment perfect?
We don’t want you to have the impression we think our test is the only good one out there. Furthermore, our assessment isn’t perfect! No assessment is.
However, our assessment gives us the best idea of where to place a student. On rare occasions, students surprise us and end up being stronger – or end up struggling – more than what was reflected on their assessment. If that happens, we’re happy to make adjustments, but again, only rarely do we need to move students.