The purpose of achievement testing is to provide information about
students' knowledge in various areas, usually after a specific part of the
curriculum has been covered. Achievement tests can range in scope from
short quizzes to chapter tests to final examinations covering the content of
a whole course. The distinguishing characteristic of achievement tests is
that they are based on specified, predefined elements to which the student
has been exposed in the course of the instructional process.
Language proficiency tests are designed to measure a person's
ability to function in the target language (TL) regardless of the type of
training he or she has had in that language. The purpose is to assess how
well the examinee uses the language in real-life situations. In constrast
to achievement testing, proficiency testing focuses on overall language
competence without regard to the place, length of time, or manner in which
that competence has been acquired. Because a proficiency test does not
cover a specified curriculum, it is not possible to anticipate what specific
questions will be asked. The DLPT is a proficiency test.
In many language programs, a type of hybrid test, called a
prochievement test, is used. This type of test includes features of both
proficiency and achievement. A prochievement test is usually used in a
course of instruction where the emphasis on developing proficiency in the
language increases as the course progresses. In general, most intensive
government language programs begin with achievement tests, use prochievement
tests in the middle, and end with proficiency tests.
Foreign language performance refers to the ability to use a foreign language to perform a specific job. This ability is usually a carefully defined set of skills required to carry out tasks for a given job. DLI's Performance FLO (Final Learning Objectives) test is an example of a performance test. Foreign language performance tests measure "performance on tasks requiring the application of learning in an actual or simulated setting"(Jones, 1985; 16).