Russian Language Journal


Bernard Spolsky


language proficiency, knowledge, development, examinations


In the 2000 years during which human abilities have been assessed formally, tests and examinations have grown more powerful. A century ago, critics launched a strong attack on examinations, citing their “inevitable uncertainty,” but a growing testing industry and governmental cries for “accountability” have managed a stubborn defense. More recently, appreciation of the complexity of notions such as “language proficiency” and acceptance of the resulting impossibility of finding a single measure of those notions have led testing experts to a realization that assessing language knowledge is multipart and intricate—and more likely to be served by profiles than by simple scores.