How are spoken skills assessed in proficiency tests of general English as a Foreign Language? A preliminary survey


  • María Luisa Roca-Varela
  • Ignacio M. Palacios
Keywords: testing, spoken language, spoken tests, general English tests, assessment criteria, spoken tasks, CEFR


This paper examines some of the best known proficiency tests in English, with particular focus on the oral component. Attention is paid to the following issues, among others: the weighting of oral elements in testing, the criteria used for the assessment of oral skills and the relation of these to the general guidelines in the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR), and the kinds of tasks and marking systems used for assessment. Our aim is to evaluate these tests as a means of determining the extent to which they can be considered valid tools for the assessment of oral performance, considering their significance, relevance and implications in the broader context of the modern world. We contend that, as is the case with teaching processes in general, which need to be continuously evaluated and reformulated, this is true of English testing, especially oral skills, given the special nature of the spoken language.


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Author Biographies

María Luisa Roca-Varela

María Luisa Roca-Varela holds a BA in English Language and Literature from the University of Santiago de Compostela. In September 2008, she obtained an FPU research grant from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation. A year later, she completed her MA thesis in English Linguistics, and in November 2012 she defended her doctoral dissertation on EFL vocabulary learning. She has participated in national and international research projects, such as SULEC (the Santiago University Learner of English Corpus), CMC_E (Communicating in Multilingual Matters meets the Enterprises), and is now currently working as a research assistant to SPERTUS (Spoken English Research Team) at the University of Santiago.

Ignacio M. Palacios

Ignacio M. Palacios obtained his PhD in English in 1992 from the University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain). Since 1995 he has been working as associate professor in the English Department of the same university. At present he is the director of SPERTUS (Spoken English Research Team) and the principal investigator of a research project concerned with the description of spoken English according to text type and with the study of English speech from the perspective of teaching and learning. He was also head of the university’s Modern Language Centre from 2007 to 2010.
How to Cite
Roca-Varela, M. L., & Palacios, I. M. (2013). How are spoken skills assessed in proficiency tests of general English as a Foreign Language? A preliminary survey. International Journal of English Studies, 13(2), 53–68.