Protocols

Scoring Protocols For Language Testing

There are no worldwide standards on defining performance in using a language. The first step is to identify the performance levels. ALTA has developed a method for identifying levels of performance that are consistent with the complete range of language skill from no knowledge of the language whatsoever to a native level of ability. ALTA has identified both what a person at that level can do as well as the criteria for placing a testing candidate’s performance at each level. The tables below give an indication of how ALTA does this.

ALTA is able to provide testing on its scale, the U.S. Government’s Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) scale, or even custom scales. We do this by mapping the ALTA performance scale to the target scale. The ALTA performance or skill levels are described below:

Speaking and Listening Performance Levels

Level General Description
1 A level 1 speaker has no ability whatsoever in the language. He/She cannot understand anything and can convey nothing.
2 A level 2 speaker can understand isolated words and simple expressions. He/She can convey isolated words or simple expressions and memorized sentences.
3 A level 3 person can understand and express simple sentences using subjects and verbs in the present tense. The range of vocabulary is limited to elementary needs and some basic courtesies.
4 The level 4 person can understand basic sentences around the immediate setting as well as basic questions. He/She can express simple ideas using the present tense and may occasionally use other simple tenses. He/She can convey basic information, but has difficulty even in basic conversations.
5 A person at a level 5 has the ability to participate in basic conversations. The subjects are routine in nature and tend to be repetitive, for example weather. A level 5 speaker uses primarily the present tense and cannot use advanced tenses, thus is very restricted on expressing and understanding any subject other than what is most familiar to him/her. Speech is slow, and he/she requires more rephrasing and repetition to understand a native speaker.
6 A level 6 person can use and understand the present, past and future tenses with some errors. He/She does not use advanced tenses. He/She can easily participate in a conversation on basic subjects like weather, but not in a general conversation. He/She usually cannot understand normal native rates of speech.
7 A person at a level 7 cannot easily participate in general conversations. He/She can participate in conversations that are routine or on topics that are well known to the person. He/She will have trouble with a native speaker’s normal pace. He/She will use simple tenses with a few errors, but will avoid advanced tenses. A candidate at this level in a general conversation will cause misunderstandings between himself/herself and the listener based on lack of ability to convey clearly his/her message.
8 A person at a level 8 can participate in general conversations surrounding routine and topics in most social and work-related settings. He/She will have trouble with some normal speed conversations and with topics that are more advanced or specialized. He/She may lack the capability to speak at a normal speed, and will not use advanced grammatical structures or will make many mistakes. A candidate at this level will potentially cause misunderstandings between himself/herself and the listener based on some lack of ability to convey clearly his/her message.
9 A person at a level 9 can successfully handle in-depth conversations in the target language, on a broad range of subjects and at a normal rate of speech. He/She has difficulty understanding some slang or idioms or some advanced grammatical structures, but can figure out what is said by the context of the discussion. When speaking, a person at a level 9 can express himself/herself over a broad range of topics at a normal speed. He/She may have a noticeable accent and will make grammatical errors, for example with advanced tenses, but the errors will not cause misunderstanding to a native speaker.
10 A person at a level 10 can handle all of the tasks that a level 9 can, with the addition of demonstrating skills such as selling and persuasion. He/She can successfully handle in-depth client questions, and does not require as much contextual support for understanding of slang and idioms. A person at this level is able to select vocabulary that conveys a finer shade of meaning with more precision than a level 9 and can better support his/her opinions. Errors in speech are few, are limited to advanced grammatical situations and do not affect understanding.
11 A person at a level 11 is nearly fluent. He/She can handle a wide variety of communicative tasks with finesse. His/her communication is close to that of a well-educated speaker, and only encounters difficulty if speech is highly abstract. Errors in speech are very few, are limited to advanced grammatical situations and do not affect understanding.
12 The level 12 oral skills are equivalent to well-educated native fluency. The person can understand everything said in the language and can speak with precision and finesse using the full range of grammar and vocabulary. Some weakness may occur with the use of idiomatic and colloquial expressions. A non-native or regional accent may be present.
12+ Level 12+ is a well-educated, distinguished speaker with superior native fluency. A person at this level not only speaks in a native-like manner and is perceived as native, but can express himself or herself articulately on any subject.

Writing Performance Levels

Level General Description
1 The candidate has no ability to write in the target language.
2 The candidate’s writing uses only isolated words and demonstrates no knowledge of grammatical structures. Excessive spelling, punctuation, and/or vocabulary mistakes are present.
3 The candidate’s writing uses only isolated words or phrases, and his or her knowledge of grammatical structures is very limited. Excessive spelling, punctuation, and/ or vocabulary mistakes are present.
4 The candidate’s writing uses simple sentences, words, and/ or phrases. The candidate displays very basic knowledge of grammatical structures, but makes frequent mistakes. Excessive spelling, punctuation, and/ or vocabulary mistakes are present.
5 The candidate’s writing uses simple language structures with no elaboration. The candidate displays some knowledge of grammatical structures, but mistakes are present. The candidate does not demonstrate the ability to effectively express opinions and/or explain procedures. Frequent spelling, punctuation, and/ or vocabulary mistakes are present.
6 The candidate’s writing uses basic structures to convey meaning, but no advanced or formal structures are used correctly. The candidate demonstrates a basic understanding of grammatical structures, but many mistakes are present. The candidate is unable to effectively express opinions and/or explain procedures. Spelling, punctuation, and/ or vocabulary mistakes are present.
7 The candidate’s writing uses basic structures to convey meaning, but almost no advanced or formal structures are used correctly. The candidate demonstrates a basic understanding of grammatical structures, but mistakes are present. The candidate might be unable to effectively express opinions and/ or explain procedures in a coherent manner. Spelling, punctuation, and vocabulary are good in areas of frequent usage, but mistakes are present in advanced areas.
8 The candidate’s writing uses basic structures to convey meaning, but few advanced or formal structures are used correctly. The candidate demonstrates an understanding of basic grammatical structures, but mistakes are present in advanced areas. The candidate might have a limited ability to express opinions and explain procedures in a coherent manner. Spelling, punctuation, and vocabulary are very good in areas of frequent usage, but there are mistakes in advanced areas that may confuse the reader.
9 The candidate’s writing uses basic and advanced structures to convey his or her intended meaning. The candidate displays an understanding of basic and advanced grammar, but some mistakes are present. The candidate has a basic ability to express opinions and explain procedures. Spelling, punctuation, and vocabulary are very good in areas of frequent usage, but there are mistakes in advanced areas that distract but do not confuse the reader.
10 The candidate’s writing structure is clear and concise, but lacks style and fluidity. The candidate understands basic and advanced grammar, though a few mistakes are present in advanced grammatical structures. The candidate is able to express opinions and explain procedures in an informal style. Spelling, punctuation, and/or vocabulary are very good in areas of frequent and infrequent usage, but mistakes still occur in advanced areas.
11 The candidate’s writing structure is clear and concise, but may lack style and therefore seem similar to that of a less-educated writer. The candidate uses basic and advanced grammar correctly, with only very minor errors. The candidate is able to express opinions and explain procedures, but he or she may not use formal and informal styles effectively. Spelling, punctuation and/or vocabulary mistakes are very few and minor.
12 The candidate’s writing structure is equivalent to that of a well-educated writer. The candidate is able to express opinions and explain procedures in a way that demonstrates an ability to write formal and informal styles. Any mistakes in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and/or vocabulary are very minor mistakes that a native speaker would make.
12+ The candidate’s writing structure is equivalent to that of a well-educated native writer. The candidate displays a complete range of linguistic nuance with no mistakes present.

Reading Performance Levels

Level General Description
1 The candidate has no comprehension of text written in the target language, apart from recognizing the parts of the writing system, such as characters, letters, and accent marks.
2 The candidate can read and understand only some isolated words and a few memorized simple sentences.
3 The candidate can read only isolated words and phrases, such as directions, place names, maps, signs, and some items on menus.
4 The candidate has a very basic range of comprehension sufficient for understanding parts of forms and menus, but experiences significant difficulty comprehending simple sentence structures.
5 The candidate has a very basic range of comprehension sufficient for understanding straightforward short texts, such as announcements, simple forms, menus, or narrations, and other texts centering on basic or social needs. The candidate experiences difficulty comprehending simple structures and making connections in texts.
6 The candidate has a range of comprehension sufficient for handling simple texts containing familiar subject matter and sentence patterns. The candidate can read materials such as personal correspondence, biographical information, social notices, and straightforward factual material but with many misunderstandings. The candidate may experience difficulty understanding newspaper articles and cannot understand business correspondence.
7 The candidate has a range of comprehension sufficient for handling simple texts containing familiar subject matter and sentence patterns. The candidate can read personal correspondence, biographical information, social notices, and straightforward factual material but with some misunderstandings. The candidate may experience difficulty understanding newspaper articles and cannot understand business correspondence.
8 The candidate has a range of comprehension sufficient for handling texts targeted to the general reader. The candidate understands most newspaper articles, but has some difficulty understanding normal business correspondence and texts pertinent to his/her field. The candidate may experience difficulty with advanced structures but can often get the gist of the author’s meaning by relying on understandable portions of the text. Misunderstandings may occur.
9 The candidate has a range of comprehension sufficient for handling texts targeted to the general reader and a variety of documents related to his/her field. The candidate can successfully understand newspaper articles, simple business reports, and routine correspondence. The candidate may experience difficulty with highly complex structures, idioms, and slang. Misunderstandings rarely occur.
10 The candidate has a wide range of comprehension and only experiences some difficulty with idioms and slang. The candidate can successfully understand all business correspondence and professional documents related to his/her field with a high degree of precision. The reader has the added ability of being able to “read between the lines” to detect unstated meanings, tone, and make inferences about the text.
11 The candidate has a wide range of comprehension and can understand advanced text materials with a near-native degree of precision.
12 The candidate can read and understand a wide range of complex texts at a level equivalent to that of a native reader.
12+ The candidate can read and understand a wide range of text at any complexity at a level equivalent to that of a well-educated native reader.

Translation Performance Levels

Level General Description
1 The candidate has no ability to translate.
2 The candidate has almost no ability to translate. The source text and the translation do not compare at all.
3 The candidate has almost no ability to translate. He / she may be able to translate a few isolated words and phrases, but the source and target texts have almost nothing in common.
4 The candidate has almost no ability to translate. Short phrases or sentences may be translated, but the majority of the translation is not reflective of the source text. Excessive errors in grammar, structure, vocabulary, and punctuation affect the reader’s understanding of the translated material.
5 The candidate can translate very elementary texts that do not contain advanced structures or any technical information. The translation is literal and lacks fluidity. Numerous errors in grammar, structure, vocabulary, and punctuation affect the reader’s understanding of the translated material.
6 The candidate can translate elementary texts that contain few advanced structures and no information outside the candidate’s field of interest. The translation is literal and lacks organization. Many errors in grammar, structure, vocabulary, and punctuation affect the reader’s understanding of the translated material.
7 The candidate can translate basic texts and provide a satisfactory literal translation. Vocabulary, grammar, structure, and punctuation are good in areas of frequent usage. Many mistakes are present in areas of advanced structure and / or vocabulary, and these mistakes affect the reader’s understanding of the translation material.
8 The candidate can provide a literal, word-for-word translation that captures the main ideas and details of the source text. Vocabulary, grammar, structure, and punctuation are good in areas of frequent usage; some advanced vocabulary may be used correctly. Frequent mistakes are present with advanced structures and vocabulary.
9 The candidate is able to translate in a way that conveys the intended meaning of the source text. The translation contains errors that prevent it from sounding as though it was written in the target language. Some mistakes are made with vocabulary, grammar, spelling, and / or punctuation; these mistakes may distract the reader but do not affect one’s comprehension of the translated material.
10 The candidate is able to produce a clear translation that captures the main ideas and details of the original text. The candidate may make a few errors with advanced grammar or structures, but these do not affect the reader’s overall understanding of the translated material.
11 The candidate is able to produce a clear translation that reads as though it were written in the target language. A few minor errors may be present in the translation, but these do not affect the reader’s understanding of the translated text. The candidate may have some difficulty translating in a very formal style, or in a style requiring the knowledge of very informal slang and expressions.
12 The candidate is able to produce a clear and virtually error-free translation that reads as though it were written in the target language. The translation is fluid and preserves the nuances of the source text.
12+ The candidate is able to produce a very high-quality and error-free translation that reads as though it were written in the target language. The translation is fluid, and preserves all nuances of the source text.

Interpretation Performance Levels

Level General Description
1-3 The candidate has no ability to interpret from one language to another.
4 The candidate can interpret some isolated words and simple expressions. Speech is slow and accuracy is inconsistent.
5 The candidate can interpret some phrases and simple sentences using subjects and verbs in the present tense. Vocabulary in the second language is limited. Speech is slow and accuracy is inconsistent.
6 The candidate is unable to interpret general discourse. While the candidate may be familiar with the subject matter for interpretation, pauses and hesitations affect the fluidity and understanding of the interpretation.
7 The candidate can sometimes interpret short exchanges centering on routine and repetitive subject matter (for example, dates and time), but cannot interpret general discourse. The candidate controls most simple tenses, but cannot use advanced tenses. The candidate experiences difficulty reproducing the content accurately.
8 The candidate can interpret social and general conversation with a moderate degree of accuracy. He or she controls all simple tenses, but avoids advanced tenses, causing some misunderstanding and affecting the accuracy of the interpretation. The candidate experiences some difficulty with normal rates of speech and may summarize content, thus compromising the integrity of the interpretation.
9 The candidate can interpret general and subject-specific conversations in most social and work-related settings. He or she will experience some difficulty with topics that are advanced or too specialized, but is capable of conveying some nuanced language, as well as idioms and slang. Speech may be slower than that of a native speaker. The candidate will not always use advanced grammatical structures effectively and may cause misunderstandings based on the lack of ability to clearly convey the message.
10 The candidate can successfully interpret conversations on a broad range of subject matter, including some specialized subject matter, at a normal rate of speech and with a high degree of accuracy. He or she may experience difficulty with slang or advanced grammatical structures, but can convey the meaning of the discourse accurately. Errors in grammar may occur, but do not affect the meaning of the message.
11 The candidate can interpret general and complex speech including idioms and slang with a high degree of accuracy. The candidate can interpret for a wide range of subject matter, including unfamiliar subject matter if some context is provided. Speech is fluid. Errors are rare and do not affect the meaning of the discourse.
12 The candidate can interpret all forms and styles of speech with a near-native degree of fluency in both languages. Speech is fluid. Errors are extremely rare and do not affect the meaning of the discourse.
12+ The candidate can interpret all forms of speech with a native degree of fluency in both languages. He or she speaks with no errors, or quickly self-corrects any errors made. Interpretation is conducted at the highest professional standards possible.

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