Communicative language testing in ESP context

AuthorAlma Cenkaj Vladi
PositionAlbanian Academy of Armed Forces
IIPCCL Publishing, Tirana-Albania
Academic Journal of Business, Administration, Law and Social Sciences Vol. 1 No. 3
November 2015
ISSN 2410-3918
Acces online at
Communicative language testing in ESP context
Alma Cenkaj Vladi
Albanian Academy of Armed Forces
Language tests have always been important to people. Language is the most important means
of communication, and only through it we can convey and receive messages, as well as test
our cognitive abilities in different fields of knowledge. But while testing other cognitive areas
of human knowledge is considered relatively easy, testing language itself has resulted rather
difficult. Language testing theory has undergone several phases of development, from being
completely uninterested in reliability and validity, to becoming obsessed with statistical
formulae, which would have catered for the much wanted reliability. Swaying from one
extreme to the other, communicative language testing seems to have found a balance between
reliability through statistical analyses on the one hand, and validity through closely observing
elements of language competence and performance, as well as ethical issues which bring tests
closer to the social dimension. This article will give a general overview of how communicative
language testing came in place, the theory and pertaining elements of such tests, as well asissues
that have yet to be answered.
Keywords: communicative competence, communicative testing, real-life situations, specific
purpose test, target language use.
Efforts of language theorists to define the communicative ability have been rewarding
in terms of concepts, principles, terminology and understanding. As a result, their
focus and scope of language testing is clearer, thus bringing forth a holistic testing
structure in which its three components: design, research, and interpretation of
performance are considered as very important and are very closely observed.
Fulcher (2000) believes that Hymes theory on communicative competence further
expanded on understanding concepts of language and the ability to use it in different
social contexts. Hymes realised that to know a language meant more than knowledge
of grammatical rules. Some of these rules include specific cultural knowledge linking
the use of language with communicative features of context; for example, the
appropriate style in conversational communication with friends in oral or written
texts is not the same as that in formal training, or when addressing to strangers.
Although Hymes theory gave a full picture of the context of testing and was accepted
immediately by the theorists of testing circuits, it took more than a decade since its
fruits be seen in concrete form of communication tests (Fulcher, 2000).
Although theorists of communicative testing attributed themselves the advent of
“breaking new ground,” Fulcher asks: “was this all so new?” (2000, p. 485) According
to him, many of the calls to change the way acquisition of language was perceived
and how tests were drafted, were echoed decades before communicative approach

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