How To Study For A Language Test

Last Updated on August 28, 2023

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How To Study For A Language Test

How to Study For A Language Test1
How to Study For A Language Test
How to Study For A Language Test
How to Study For A Language Test

How To Study For A Language Test

Learning a new language is always beneficial and adds a great deal of confidence to your personality, personally and professionally. It is observed that knowing more than two languages dramatically widens your prospects and opens new doors of opportunities on all fronts. Thanks to technology, there has been a prominent increase in the learning of new languages by people around the globe. Once you reach a reasonable proficiency level you should consider getting tested and certified in the language. This enables you to add credibility as well as strength to your professional profile and showcase your language skills for the world to see. 

There are over 6500 languages in the world. That’s A LOT of languages! How many can one practically learn in a lifetime? Well, that’s a topic for another post. For now, let’s discuss the best ways to study for a language test and how to get a great score.

No matter which language you are learning, keep in mind that to get certified requires dedication and hard work. There are no shortcuts and consistent practice is required to gain a strong command over the language. But having said that, the following tips are to serve as a guideline to stay on track, improve practice times and help you study for a language test to get great results!

Time Allocation For Each Section 

Almost all language tests are based on four skills; reading, listening, speaking and writing. For the best results, you must allocate fair time for each skill set. Sometimes, we get lost in focusing on our strengths and really trying to ‘wing-it’ when it comes to our weaknesses. Allow appropriate time to each section (after a basic assessment) so that you level up your game in all areas.

How to Study For A Language Test

Practical Implementation Of Language Concepts

Knowledge is useless until and unless applied and implemented in daily life. Try to get in as much real-world practice as possible. Watching videos on Youtube cannot supplement active participation in real-world conversations. You can also find a Skype practice partner if the language you are learning is not commonly spoken in your region.

Constant Review Of Vocabulary

Having an impressive vocabulary for a language can and will strengthen your practice. Try to keep flashcards or mobile notes of new words you learn and consistently review them to create recall until it becomes second nature. The spaced repetition technique can also be helpful to consolidate the words in your memory bank.

Systematic And Regular Reading

Cultivating a daily reading habit will help any language learner to enhance all areas of language learning including listening, speaking as well as writing skills. Surround yourself with reading material in your target languages such as newspapers, magazines, online articles, and even children’s books.

Experiment With Language Exchange 

Meetup is a great place to find language exchange events in your city. Participating in such events can help you connect with native speakers and provides you with the opportunity to ask questions about the language, clear doubts and learn something new about the culture.

Make The Dictionary Your Best Friend

While learning any language you will come across many new words on a daily basis. It is helpful to record them with their translation and a few practice sentences. Language examiners take notice of test takers that have a wide range of vocabulary and can use them appropriately in sentences. Websites like WordReference can support you in this area.  

Mock Tests

No matter which language test you are preparing for, there are mock tests available for almost all kinds of certifications. Appearing in mock examinations and self-evaluating until you are satisfied with your results can remarkably boost confidence levels before actually getting certified. The best prep for the exam is after-all the exam itself, imagine how confident you’ll feel if you’ve already appeared in a similar test several times?

Minimize Distractions

When studying for language tests, it is essential that you minimize distractions. Since most of the preparations are done online, using the web or apps on your phone, it is easy to get lost and distracted by several online notifications. Social media, online games, and shopping sites and emails are the ones to watch out for. You can consider installing an extension on your browser such as StayFocusd to help you restrict your time on time-wasting websites.

Take Frequent Breaks

Trying to learn a lot of things in one go can be exhausting. For productive learning try to break the preparation into short sessions of 20-30 minutes for better retention of knowledge. Take regular breaks and give your brain some time to absorb all the new information before giving it another dose of it.

Destress Yourself From Exam Fear 

Exam anxiety is natural but you need to learn to deal with it. Remember that confidence comes from competence. If you’ve practiced well and developed a competency, then you need not fear. Avoid caffeinated drinks or heavy meals during exams days and try to get a good night’s sleep before the test day. Contrary to popular belief, it may be a good idea to not study immediately before the exam as it increases stress levels and might even disrupt the previous memorization.


Each language test is different and you must be fully prepared beforehand for the kind of exam that you are appearing for, including its various sections and testing styles. It is natural to feel some anxiety but test-takers can dramatically improve their scores if they follow the above guidelines on how to study for a language test. Deep breathing is also a great way to calm your nerves and relax your mind before and during the test.

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language assessment test sample

Forms of Language Assessment

Measuring language proficiency is a complex process that necessitates the use of valid and reliable language testing tools. Language assessments take various forms depending on the skill or proficiency level being tested. In this post, we’ll describe and define different types of language testing so you can better understand the ways you, your students, or your employees can accurately measure their language proficiency.

What Is Language Testing?

Language testing is a broad category of testing that assesses aspects of a person’s ability to understand or communicate in a particular language. Language testing is used for a variety of purposes. In academic settings, language testing can assess a student’s current abilities or progress for the purposes of academic placement. In professional settings, language testing can determine whether a candidate has the language skills needed for a job. Whatever the context, language assessments can effectively measure a person’s language abilities.There are 5 main kinds of language assessments - aptitude, diagnostic, placement, achievement and proficiency tests

Forms of Language Testing

There are five main types of language assessments — aptitude, diagnostic, placement, achievement, and proficiency tests.

1. Aptitude Tests

Aptitude refers to a person’s capacity for learning something. Language aptitude tests assess a person’s ability to acquire new language skills. Because of the nature of these tests, they are more general than most other language tests and don’t focus on a particular language. Instead, they assess how quickly and effectively a person is able to learn new language skills.

An employer might use an aptitude test to select the best employees to take language courses so they can aid in the setup of a new international branch or provide bilingual customer service.

2. Diagnostic Tests

Diagnostic tests are aimed at diagnosing the state of a person’s abilities in a certain area — in this case, their language abilities. In contrast to achievement and proficiency tests, diagnostic tests are typically given at the start of a language learning course or program.

On a diagnostic test, most test-takers encounter questions or tasks that are outside the scope of their abilities and the material they’re familiar with. The results of the test reveal the strengths and weaknesses in one’s language abilities. Having a student’s diagnostic test results can help teachers formulate lesson plans that fill the gaps in the student’s current capabilities. Students can also use diagnostic tests to determine which areas they need to work on in order to reach a higher level of proficiency.

3. Placement Tests

Placement tests share some similarities with diagnostic tests. They are used for educational purposes and are administered before a course or program of study begins. In this case, the application is a bit different. Educators and administrators use placement tests to group language learners into classes or study groups according to their ability levels.

A university may give a placement test to determine whether a new French major needs to take introductory French courses or skip over some courses and begin with more advanced classes. Placement tests are also an important type of test in English language teaching at the university level, since international students typically come in with different English-learning backgrounds and proficiency levels.

4. Achievement Tests

An achievement test evaluates a student’s language knowledge to show how their learning has progressed. Unlike diagnostic, aptitude, and placement tests, achievement tests only cover information the student should have been exposed to in their studies thus far.

Achievement tests are typically given after a class completes a certain chapter or unit or at the conclusion of the course. A teacher may give a final exam at the end of the semester to see how well a student has retained the information they were taught over the course of the semester. Achievement tests are typically graded and are meant to reflect how well a student is performing in their language learning studies.

5. Proficiency Tests

Proficiency refers to a person’s competency in using a particular skill. Language proficiency tests assess a person’s practical language skills. Proficiency tests share some similarities with achievement tests, but rather than focusing on knowledge, proficiency tests focus on the practical application of that knowledge. Proficiency tests measure a language user’s comprehension and production against a rating scale such as the ACTFL, ILR, and CEFR scales.

Whereas most of the tests we’ve looked at are primarily associated with academic contexts, proficiency tests are useful in a variety of settings. Anyone can take a language proficiency test, regardless of how they learned the language and where they believe they are in their level of competency. Proficiency tests accurately measure the candidate’s ability to use a language in real-life contexts.listening, speaking, reading and writing

Types of Language Skills

Another way to understand language testing is in terms of language skills. Though you may ask someone whether they “know” a certain language, that general term consists of several distinct skills. The four skills involved in language proficiency are listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

These skills can be categorized by their direction and method of communication. Listening and reading are both ways of receiving language input, whereas speaking and writing are both ways of producing language output. These pairs differ from each other when it comes to the direction of communication. The items within each pair, however, differ by their method of communication. Listening and speaking both involve oral communication while reading and writing involve written communication.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the four language skills.

1. Listening

Listening skills in a particular language involve understanding oral communication. When people acquire their first language as babies, listening to their parents and others speaking around them is the initial step toward comprehension. Some people also acquire a second language through immersion, with their listening skills developing earliest.

2. Speaking

People often refer to speaking a language in a general way that encompasses multiple ways of using a language. For example, they may say they speak a certain language when a more accurate statement would be that they are able to communicate in it using all four of the communicative skills. Speaking is a specific skill, however, which, along with listening, is required to negotiate meaning in a conversation. Speaking requires communication in real time and may be one of the most challenging to develop yet most valuable of the four skills.

3. Reading

Comprehension of oral language and written language are two very different skills. The reading skill involves understanding the meaning of written language. A person may be able to speak a language with a high level of proficiency but be completely unable to read it, while other may find it easier to read than speak since they can consume and process the language at their own pace.

The degree of difficulty in learning to read in a second language partly depends on how similar or dissimilar the writing system is from that of a person’s first language. For example, most European languages use the Latin alphabet, the world’s most widely used alphabetic writing system, making letters appear similar on the page. Therefore, a native English speaker may be able to learn to read in Spanish relatively easily. However, a knowledge of the Latin alphabet won’t help you understand Arabic script or Chinese characters.

4. Writing

Writing comes with the same challenges involved in reading since writing systems vary across languages. Learning to write in a second language that uses a completely different system from the one you’re familiar with can be especially challenging. Writing doesn’t come as naturally as speech, even in acquiring our first language, so it can be a challenging skill for language learners. This is why students often take writing courses in their first language throughout their educational careers.Some of the most well-respected tests for assessing these skills include the following: Listening Proficiency Tests, Oral Proficiency Interview, Reading Proficiency test, Writing Proficiency Test

Language Proficiency Tests

ACTFL’s language proficiency tests are designed to assess a person’s abilities in the four skills explained above. Some of the most well-respected tests for assessing the above skills include:

  • Listening Proficiency Test: The Listening Proficiency Test (LPT) is an internet-based test that measures a person’s ability to spontaneously understand spoken language in one of 11 languages available. The test-taker listens to recordings and must answer multiple-choice questions about what they hear. The results report the test-taker’s level of proficiency in listening.
  • Oral Proficiency Interview: The Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) evaluates a person’s speaking skill in a particular language. An ACTFL-Certified Tester speaks with the test-taker over the phone and gauges their proficiency level against the criteria outlined in one of the proficiency scales. The interview is a useful assessment tool because, though it follows a structure and protocol, it reflects a real-life conversation.
  • Oral Proficiency Interview-computer: The Oral Proficiency Interview-computer (OPIc) evaluates a person’s speaking skill in a particular language. The goal of the OPIc is the same as the OPI: to obtain a ratable sample of speech which a rater can evaluate and compare to the criteria outlined in one of the proficiency scales. The internet-delivered assessment emulates the “live” OPI, but delivery of questions is through a carefully designed program and via a virtual avatar, allowing the test to be taken on demand and at a time convenient to the candidate and proctor.
  • Reading Proficiency Test: The Reading Proficiency Test (RPT) is an internet-based test during which the candidate reads passages in one of 12 languages and answers multiple-choice questions to demonstrate their reading comprehension in that language. Because of the format of the test, it is machine scored, so results are available immediately upon completion.
  • Writing Proficiency Test: The Writing Proficiency Test (WPT) is another internet-based test. Rather than answering multiple-choice questions, the test-taker responds in detail to open ended writing prompts. ACTFL-Certified raters assess the candidate’s written responses as compared to the guidelines established by one of the proficiency scales. This test is available in a variety of languages.

Through each test, the candidate’s results are reported according to one of the following scales to objectively measure proficiency:

  • The ACTFL scale
  • The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale
  • The Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) scale

The Value of Language Testing

Language testing is a valuable tool both in language-learning contexts and in professional ones. Language tests can define where a student is in their current knowledge and reveal the path forward to greater proficiency. Professionals can use language testing to determine whether their skill set meets the criteria of a job or whether they need further training. At the same time, employers can certify their employees’ and new hires’ levels of language proficiency and ensure that they are able to successfully complete the tasks required of them without creating risk for the organization.


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