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Bachman, L. F. 1995, Uses of language tests. In: Fundamental Considerations in Language Testing. Oxford University Press, pp.58-60.

In many language programs students are grouped homogeneously according to factors such as level of language ability, language aptitude, language use needs, and professional or academic specialization. In such programs, therefore, decisions regarding the placement of students into appropriate groups must be hade. Probably the most common criterion for grouping in such programs is level of language ability, so that placement tests are frequently designed to measure students language abilities. In designing a test for placement, the test developer may choose to base the test content either on a theory of language proficiency or on the learning objectives of the syllabus to be taken. In a situation where students enter the program from a wide variety backgrounds and prior language learning experience, ,a the syllabus to be followed encompasses the full range of competencies and skills of language proficiency, it may be quite difficult to specify a set of objectives clearly enough to provide a basis for test development. In this case, the test developer may choose to develop a test based on a theory of language proficiency and determine placement according to a norming procedure. If, on the other hand, the objectives of the program are clearly specified and sequenced, the test developer is more likely to develop a multi-level test based on the content objectives of the program. In this case, criteria for mastery can be set for each level of test content, making it possible to place students into levels according to the extent to which they have already acquired the competencies and skills included in the various levels of the program. Another consideration in the development and use of tests for placement is the relative stability of enrollments in the different levels of a program from one term to the next. In situations where the proficiency levels of entering students vary considerably from one term to the next, this is a potential problem for placement and program administration. For example, if the program is relatively inflexible in its scheduling, perhaps because of limited space during certain times of the day, it may be necessary for the numbers of students enrolled in different levels to remain relatively stable from term to term. In this case, the test user could use a test that would enable her to place approximately the same numbers of students in different levels every term, assuming that the teachers would adjust their teaching to accommodate possible differences in levels of proficiency from term to term. A norm-referenced test (discussed below) would probably be best suited to this need. If, however, the program can easily adjust its timetable to accommodate large changes in the numbers of students enrolled at different levels from term to term, the test user might use a test whose cut-offs for placement do not change from one term to the next, and reassign teachers to adjust for the differences in numbers. A criterion referenced test (discussed below) would probably be best suited to this situation. I would hasten to note that I am not offering either of these choices as a recommended procedure, for either placement or program management, but simply as examples to illustrate this consideration. Diagnosis Information from language tests can be used for diagnosing students areas of strength and weakness in order to determine appropriate types and levels of teaching and learning activities. Thus, virtually any language test has some potential for providing diagnostic information. A placement test can be regarded as a broad-band diagnostic test in that it distinguishes relatively weak from relatively strong students so that they can be provided learning activities at the appropriate level. Similarly, a readiness test differentiates students who are ready for instruction from those who are not. A detailed analysis of student responses to the questions on placement and readiness tests can also provide more specific information about particular areas of weakness. When we speak of a diagnostic test, however, we are generally referring to a test that has been designed and developed specifically to provide detailed information about the specific content domains that are covered in a given program or that are part of a general theory of language proficiency. Thus, diagnostic tests may be either theory or syllabus-based.