Assessing students who have limited English

Assessment of any student who has limited proficiency in spoken or written English is often problematic. All the tests in Exact require considerable knowledge of written English and students who lack this knowledge would be expected to be impaired across the full range of measures in the suite. Exact results of students for whom English is an additional language should therefore be considered in relation to the level of English knowledge of the student, with the conclusion being modified in the light of this. Factors that should be taken into consideration include whether or not English is one of the languages spoken in the student’s home, how long the student has been living in an English-speaking environment, and how long the student has been educated in English.

When using the results of Exact in conjunction with applications for exam access arrangements, it is important to be aware that limited proficiency in spoken or written English solely because English is not the student’s first or main language (EAL) is not a criterion for having difficulties in learning, cognition, language or communication. What must be evidenced is that: “The candidate must have an impairment in their first language which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect. A candidate does not have a learning difficulty simply because their first language is not English, Irish or Welsh.” (JCQ AARA 2018-19, Section 4.1.2). Consequently, where it is suspected that an EAL candidate has difficulties that might qualify for exam access arrangements, great care is taken to evidence this by means of appropriate test results that show impairment in cognitive skills such as working memory, processing speed, etc., and by showing that the student’s experience of English has been adequate enough for normal literacy skills to be expected.

For further information on assessment of learning difficulties in literacy (including dyslexia) in EAL students and other multilingual students, see Cline (2000), Cline and Frederickson (1999), Cline and Shamsi (2000), Durkin (2000), Gunderson, D’Silva and Chen (2011), Peer and Reid (2016), and Tsagari and Spanoudis (2013).14

14 Cline, T. (2000) Multilingualism and dyslexia: Challenges for research and practice. Dyslexia: An international journal of research and practice, 6(1), 3-12.

Cline, T. and Frederickson, N. (1999) Identification and assessment of dyslexia in bi/multilingual children. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 2(2), 81-93.

Cline, T. and Shamsi, T. (2000) Language needs or special needs? The assessment of learning difficulties in literacy among children learning English as an additional language (Research Report RR184). London: Department for Education and Employment.

Durkin, C. (2000) Dyslexia and bilingual children – Does recent research assist identification? Dyslexia: An international journal of research and practice, 6(4), 248-267.

Gunderson, L., D’Silva, R. and Chen, L. (2011) Second language reading disability: International themes. In McGill-Franzen, A. and Allington, R.L. (Eds) Handbook of Reading Disability Research. Oxford and New York: Routledge, pp.13-24.

Peer, L. and Reid, G. (Eds) (2016) Multilingualism, literacy and dyslexia: A challenge for educators. London: Routledge. Tsagari, D. and Spanoudis, G. (Eds) (2013) Assessing L2 students with learning and other disabilities. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.