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Erasmus Online Linguistic Support - Testing Language With Incorrect Language?

I received an ultimatum to do a language test for Erasmus to determine the language skill level before and after the exchange period. What ensued was quiet irritating and somewhat hilarious...

Firstly, they required me to fill in personal information. With Firefox nothing I did worked. Pressing submit just scrolled the page up a bit, no error messages, nothing. With Internet Explorer that part worked, so I could continue.

The test itself consisted of five sections: Reading comprehension, Listening comprehension, Grammar, Vocabulary and Key communicative phrases. Since Erasmus is an European entity, the language used was British English, irregardless of what English the tested person was used to.

Note: I'm very fluent in English, so my questions were from the hardest level. At least I assume the test works that way since it shows the difficulty level increasing with every correct answer until maximum.

The Key communicative phrases section included phrases like "let the cat out of the bag" and "cool as a cucumber", which are kind of usual phrases, I guess.

In the listening section the multiple choices included "the pro's outweigh the con's, I assure you!" So the people making the test can't even distinguish between plural and possessive forms of words?

Or how about a question with four choices, of which two were "An overwhelming majority"? Which one is the correct, since that was the correct beginning for "of voters in the Republic of Ireland backed the Treaty in the second referendum." And it wasn't the only question with two exactly the same answers.

Or what two words would you fill in for "She not only looked at confidential files, but also ___ ___ a colleague's computer"? Smashed up? Peed in? Locked up? Took away? There are so many possibilities.

Or how about a sentence "Jake’s memory is not was it has been"? "The train was too late again", as opposed to being appropriately late, or not-too-late?

Reporting these problems was done via email and since there were many, I already received complaints for not reporting them "in a more appropriate way" and they don't even know what part the reports are about, even though they put debug data into the email. Well, how about making a web form instead and having all the data there, including the text on the page?

Oh, and I wasn't surprised when the test claimed I have level C2 English. Probably I do, but I wouldn't allow this test to determine anything above B2, probably.

And here are some nice screenshots, since they asked for them:

Comments (3) -

  • David Hackston

    11/22/2014 1:43:11 AM | Reply

    I also had to take this test. There are a number of problems with it, principally that it doesn't cater for the languages of every Erasmus country. I couldn't take the test in the language of the country I'm studying in (Portuguese), and for some reason the settings couldn't be changed and I ended up amusingly having to take the test in English – my native language. Why can't students change their individual settings? Testing my abilities in French or German (in lieu of Portuguese) would at least have been useful and enlightening. For the record, I completed the whole thing on Firefox and didn't experience any problems.

    British English is the standard form of the language in Europe, so it is perfectly logical that the test be conducted in BE. European Spanish was doubtless used here too (though there was no way of checking this), and if the test had been available in Portuguese, I assume it would have been in European Portuguese as opposed to Brazilian; these are EU-wide standard forms.

    At first I too was taken aback by some of the grammatically incorrect examples given in the test, but on closer inspection they all seem to fulfil a pedagogical function. For instance, there was a multiple-choice question where the possible answers deliberately misused the faux amis 'sensible' and 'sensitive', a common source of confusion for French speakers. Other examples concerned the misuse of articles, possessive pronouns, conjunctions, etc., thus making some of the sentences wholly grammatically incorrect. The point of these incorrect answers is to try and lead students astray and test their attentiveness. Native speakers pick up on these intentional distractions immediately; not so the hapless average Erasmus student. I dread to think what my score would have been in Portuguese. Similarly, though there are indeed many things the woman could have done to her colleague's computer, for students with a good command of English it is clear from the context that she "hacked into" it rather than, for instance, throwing it out of the window. Remember, this question was in the section on Vocabulary. Its function is to test vocabulary within a given context, not just any two words the student can think of. And, again for the record, pro's and con's is (alas) an accepted spelling of pros and cons, because it is considered as belonging to the same category as do's and don'ts, itself highly illogical in its use of apostrophes.

    However, regardless (N.B.) of what we think of this test, it's probably worth toning down the rhetoric somewhat (cf. your indignant email to the Metropolia mailing list, the general tone of this post, etc.). Studying at institutions involves doing many things we think are pointless, so you're not being singled out for discrimination. Also, there's an element of hubris involved in claiming that your English is better than that of the people compiling the test, then proceeding to make a mistake in your first sentence. Just saying. I wish you a fruitful year in Lithuania.  

  • Sami

    6/26/2015 1:52:45 AM | Reply

    I do not claim to be perfect, even though I claim to know the language better. Maybe I should've restricted it to "better in the areas tested by this test." But it seems to be a fact: if they made mistakes in making this, I seem to know the language better.

    I also don't go around making tests that people have to take and claim to be able to assess others' language skills on a scale. They do, so they should really have tested their tests beforehand.

    I do write harshly sometimes, but considering these tests provide no value for anyone in many cases, provide wrong results etc, it is annoying. And I don't claim I'm the only one.

    By the way, after my exchange I only got a B2, because the test had several correct answers of which they only accepted one, and there were "fill this blank" tests that also had the possibility of having anything written into them. So the test shows I degraded in my English skills during the Exchange.

    And no, I did not purposefully answer anything wrong. I purposefully answered the other right answer, the one they don't think is correct. Like "put away your jacket" when they assumed "put on your jacket" was the only correct one.

  • Jane

    8/19/2017 3:52:45 AM | Reply

    Hello! I wanted to ask is there timecounting while doing a test? Or you have as time as you need to.

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