Consistency of Measured Accuracy in Grammar Knowledge Tests and Writing: TOEFL PBT
© Language Testing in Asia 2012
Published: 15 May 2012
Almost no language test is void of grammar items, and the reason is probably the assumption that there exists a positive correlation between examinees' grammar knowledge and the actual demonstrable level of accuracy in communication. Meanwhile, examples abound where many examinees relatively do well on grammar knowledge tests despite failing to retain accuracy in real-time communicative activities like writing compositions. This is in line with Widdowson (1990) that during communication, attention is given to communicative economy and meaning, therefore, performance is not supported by an underlying competence. This study focuses on the validity of widely-used grammar knowledge tests as an indicator of examinees' level of accuracy in writing by a many test users. A group of Iranian intermediate English language learners' knowledge of certain shortlisted grammatical points at the end of a preparatory course for the TOEFL was checked by analyzing the results of a discrete-point grammar test, like the 'Structure and Written Expression' section of the TOEFL PBT, and once more by studying their writing samples for the 'Test of Written English' of the same test, as an example of grammar knowledge in use; eventually, the obtained results were juxtaposed for consistency comparison, the results of which suggest that an individual's demonstrable knowledge of certain language forms in a grammar test necessarily cannot be generalized to their accuracy in writing; hence, a certain score obtained even in a valid grammar knowledge test is not necessarily a valid indicator of an examinee's level of accuracy in written discourse.