Conceptions of validity

Authored by: Carol A. Chapelle

The Routledge Handbook of Language Testing

Print publication date:  March  2012
Online publication date:  October  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415570633
eBook ISBN: 9780203181287
Adobe ISBN: 9781136590863


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For many test users, validity is seen as an essential quality of a language test because to them “a valid test” means “a good test.” Accordingly, test users frequently explain their search for a new test or their choice of a test by citing their desire for a test that “has been validated.” In using the passive voice, “has been validated,” users reveal their assumption that validity is a quality of a test that is bestowed by testing experts to make a test measure what it is supposed to. This conception of validity, which requires test users to take little or no responsibility for validity, is at odds with the majority opinion of specialists in educational measurement. In fact,

to claim that validity refers simply to demonstrating that a “test measures what it purports to measure” or that it is an inherent property of a test is to ignore at least seventy years of research on validity theory and test validation as well as the consensus Technical Recommendations and Standards that have existed since 1954.

(Sireci, 2009: 28) Many language test users might be surprised that professionals work with a different conception of validity than they do. In view of the fact that validity is considered by all to be of paramount importance in language testing, it is worth exploring what validity means.

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