Language Testing FAQ
Q: Why does ALTA offer standard and customized tests?
A: Many of our clients want a general test to place the oral skills of their candidates on a language performance scale. The clients already know what level of candidate performance they are seeking. Their need is for a standard test that meets this need. Other clients may have needs that go beyond the standard test. Some examples are: (1) a client needs a specialized test to verify language skills in a narrow range of language activities, such as finance, with a specialized terminology, (2) a client needs special skills tested such as reading printed matter aloud or saying what is said in one language in a second language (interpreting), or (3) a client may want the score reported in a special way, such as a Pass or a Fail, along with customized evaluator comments, or (4) a client wants positive identity verification of the candidates and requires a video of each test. When a client has specialized testing needs, we will identify what is necessary to meet those needs and provide a proposal in terms of additional cost to provide the customized testing.
Q: My administrative assistant speaks Spanish, why can’t I just have her test my candidates?
A: When testing candidates’ language skills, you want to be certain that the test you are using reliably and effectively determines the candidates’ skills. To do this you need to use a process (protocol) that is repeatable, fair, not open to bias and rigorous especially in case of challenges to the results. Using an untrained person, who does not use a proven process to test, will give you results that you cannot trust. Asking your Spanish-speaking assistant to do the testing is akin to asking a person who has an automobile driver’s license to fly an airliner because he or she has a license.
Q: Can I take a language test even if I am not part of a company or organization?
A: No. ALTA provides testing only for organizations.
Q: What is the price of ALTA’s oral language testing?
A: Standard speaking and listening tests are $60 each. Standard reading is $30 and writing tests are $60 each.
Q: What is the price of ALTA’s customized testing?
A: Pricing for the customized tests is based on the type of customization required and the volume of tests. Once we understand your customization needs, we will quote to you a price for the customization and for the testing. Many customization requests add only slightly to the price.
Q: What is the price of ALTA’s Language Review Services that identify the language capabilities necessary to perform specific jobs within an organization?
A: The price depends on the size of the review and the number of jobs evaluated.
Q: What languages do you test?
A: The languages are listed here.
Q: Can I test a candidate in two languages, for example Spanish and English?
A: Yes. Some of our clients do test candidates in two languages when the job requires both. For example, this is often done when first language English-speakers and first language Spanish-speakers are candidates for the job.
Q: How do I schedule the language proficiency tests?
A: Once your organization is registered, you may schedule tests in one of two ways: (1) By telephone at ALTA’s toll-free number (U.S. portion only) at 888.465.4648, or (2) by email. Scheduling is done Monday through Friday from 0900 to 1800 ET (9:00 am to 6:00 pm) except holidays. You are not scheduled until you receive a confirmation. All oral tests begin on the hour or half hour. Normally, common languages can be scheduled with a one-day lead time, and a two-day notice is generally required for the less common languages.
Q: Can I change the date and time of my test after it is scheduled?
A: Yes. You may cancel or change your schedule as long as you let us know by 4:00 pm ET on the business day prior to your test. After that time we do not have time to tell the evaluator of the schedule change and must pay the evaluator. You will be charged the full price of the evaluation for all late cancellations.
Q: What happens if I am late for my test?
A: If you are more than fifteen minutes late for your test, we will not have time to complete your test, and must free our equipment for the next scheduled evaluation. If you do not contact us by fifteen minutes after the appointed time, you will be charged the full amount for the test.
Taking the Oral Test
Q: If I do not understand the question, can I ask for help?
A: Yes. You may ask the evaluator to repeat the question or to rephrase the question. Remember that asking for help too much will have a negative effect on your score.
Q: How long should my answers be?
A: The purpose of the questions is to get a representative sampling of your speaking abilities. Try to answer most questions with three or more sentences. If the evaluator needs a longer answer, he or she will ask you to say more.
Q: How long does the oral test take?
A: Normally the test takes fifteen to twenty minutes.
Q: Will the evaluator give me my score right away?
A: No. The evaluator does not score the test until after you hang up. All tests are recorded and the evaluator often needs to listen to the recording to complete the evaluation. The evaluators are not allowed to give results to the candidates. All results are reported by ALTA’s management to the organization’s administrative contact the next business day.
Q: What do the results mean?
A: If you have not requested customized scoring, your results will be on the ALTA 1 through 12 scale described in the protocols section. Most organizations either define the meaning of the results for their needs prior to beginning testing or use ALTA’s Language Review Services to help them define the meaning.
Q: How do I receive the results?
A: We will send them to the administrative contact either by email or fax. We will release scores only to the administrative contact or those authorized by the administrative contact to receive the scores.
Q: If I have a question about the results, what do I do?
A: Please contact us either by telephone 888.465.4648 or by email.
Q: Who is the evaluator?
A: The evaluator is a native speaker of the target language. For ALTA this means that the evaluator was born, raised and educated at the university level in the target language culture. All ALTA evaluators are first-language speakers of the language they are testing. This eliminates any possibility that the person being tested would perform at a higher skill level than the evaluator. Each evaluator is trained using recorded audio and video sessions of real evaluation sessions from ALTA’s archive of thousands of oral language evaluations or using ALTA’s files of writing tests. The identity of the evaluators is confidential to prevent any chance of outside influence on the evaluators.