KNOWING WHERE I STAND
KNOWING WHERE I STAND
In 2004, the TestDaF-Institut began work on the development of a placement test for German as a foreign language following the C-test format. The basis for the test development was the joint research work by Dr. Thomas Eckes, TestDaF-Institut, and Prof. Dr. RÃ¼diger Grotjahn, Seminar for Language Teaching Research at the Ruhr University Bochum. Research findings appeared in specialist journals and books.
onSET evolves from onDaF
As a result, the demand for a placement test for English as a foreign language increased in German universities. The wish was that an English placement test should follow the same methodological and conceptual principle and have the same advantages as the onDaF. At the end of 2006, work began on the development of the English placement test. Initially, the newly calibrated tasks served as language screening for the bilingual study aptitude test TestAS.
In the spring of 2012, the test was used for the first time in the English-language Bachelor and Master courses at the Vietnamese-German University (VGU; Ho Chi Minh City).
Language classifications have been available worldwide in German or English since January 2015. The test system is called the "Online Language Placement Test" (onSET). The previous onDaF is listed as "onSET-Deutsch", the English test is called "onSET-English".
The onSET system is being developed further in co-operation with the Association of Language Centres (Arbeitskreis der Sprachenzentren an Hochschulen e. V. â AKS), representatives of UNIcertÂ® and the language centre of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, where the Erlanger program for creating gap-filling texts (Erlanger Programm zur Erstellung von LÃ¼ckentexten â ErPEL) orginated. The goal is to offer online placement tests for a whole range of modern languages at as many university language centres as possible.
How a C-test works
C-tests utilise redundancy within natural language. This is achieved in the test tasks by the removal of word parts.
Verbal and written statements or sentences usually contain more information than the recipient needs to understand them. These redundancies are to be found at both the individual character and word level as well as at the sentence and clause level. In the case of an interruption in communication, for example, by noise during an announcement or illegible handwriting, understanding is impaired. Recipients with a high level of language proficiency understand what is being said (or written) even if parts of the message are incomplete or missing.
(1) Mny universities hve cnteens. There, students and employees hve lunch, drink coffee or simply tlk.
(2) Many _______ have _____. There, students and employees _______ lunch, _____coffee or simply ______.
In sentence (1), the letter "a" was removed from each word at the character level. Nevertheless, the statement is easy to follow. Sentence (2) is an example of a classic gap text as used in language teaching. Linguistically competent readers can fill in the gaps if they are aware of the context.
However, the removal of whole words can also cause problems if, for example, several solutions are possible:
(3) Many universities have _______. There, students and employees have lunch, drink coffee or simply talk.
Participants are not aware of the fact that the term "canteens" is used in sentence (3). Words such as cafeterias or lunchrooms could also be entered as a solution. In such cases, filling the gap with the original word is more difficult. If the examiner only allows the original solution, only the participants with the relevent prior knowledge can find the right solution. If alternatives are allowed, this begs the question which ones are accepted and which are not.
The number of possible alternatives is reduced by the removal of word parts instead of whole words. In addition, many gaps can be generated in shorter texts, thus increasing the accuracy in the measurement of language competence.
The gaps in a C-test are usually created according to the principle "rule of two". Starting with the second sentence, the second part of every second word is deleted.
This means that different types of words have to be completed in different positions and functions.
(4) Many univer_____ have cant_____. There, stud_____ and emplo_____ have lun_____, drink cof_____ or simply ta_____.
The finding of the solution is facilitated through knowing the context from the title, the beginnings of the words and the first and last sentence. The more advanced the language learner, the easier it is for him or her to use existing text parts to fill in the gaps.
In order to complete a C-test properly, participants need sophisticated language knowledge and must be able to access those different areas of knowledge. This applies to knowledge of spelling, vocabulary, morphology, syntax and the semantics of the target language as well as contextual aspects.
Administering the onSET requires no special hardware. The network and browser must fulfill the following prerequisites:
The computers at which the participants sit the onSET and the test managerâs computer must be in the same internet network. They are on the same network when the first three blocks of the IP address are identical.
An HTTP proxy must be deactiviated as a cache during the internet connection.
Use Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome. Compatibility issues may occur when using other browsers.
The browsers must be set up in such a way that:
The onSET provider
The onSET is offered by the Society for Academic Study Preparation and Test Development (Gesellschaft fÃ¼r Akademische Studienvorbereitung und Testentwicklung â g.a.s.t.). The non-profit association g.a.s.t. and the Association of Language Centres (Arbeitskreis der Sprachenzentren â AKS) co-operate in the development and application of the onSET.
g.a.s.t. is the operating company of the TestDaF-Institut and the Deutsch-Uni Online.
The purpose of the association is to support the university studies of qualified international study applicants and scientists, especially through the development and use of tests for suitability and performance assessment in the field of higher education, in particular the Test of German as a Foreign Language (Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache â TestDaF) and professional suitability and selection tests.
In addition to the onSET, the following tests are also available:
In conjunction with the Ludwig Maximilian University Munich, g.a.s.t. offers the web-based learning platform Deutsch-Uni Online (DUO) at: www.deutsch-uni.com
The AKS pursues the goal of a sound, university specific and quality-oriented language training at universities. It is expanding the network of language centres and promoting their co-operation. In addition, the AKS publishes contributions to research and promotes developments in the practical language context.
Key measures for the quality assurance and improvement of university-specific foreign language teaching are the creation of the foreign language certificate UNIcertÂ® and the training certificate FOBIcertÂ®.
The AKS has institutional, individual and affiliated members. Institutional members are the 147 universities and associations in Germany and abroad:
Members and Memberships
Members of the Society for Academic Study Preparation and Test Development (g.a.s.t.) are:
Memberships of g.a.s.t. and the TestDaF-Institut
The onSET-Deutsch has been an indispensable tool for many years for the German course classification team at the Munich Volkshochschule. Heike Richter, who is responsible for this field is convinced that "In particular, the accuracy of the onSET-Deutsch is a real milestone in our quality development.â There had always been some uncertainty and debate concerning the centreâs own placement procedures, but according to Heike Richter, "That is not the case with the onSET."
In Munich, the onSET-Deutsch is an important part of the interview process, which takes place before each application for a language course. The placement result forms the basis for the specific course recommendation. "The learners are happy to follow this advice", says Heike Richter. A huge advantage is that placement via the onSET can be carried out more easily compared to paper tests, and the results are available online in seconds.
The reliability of the onSET has also spread to other parts of Munichâs city government: the city sends job applicants with a native language other than German to the Volkshochschule for the placement test. "For jobs in the education sector, for example, German at B2 level is a minimum requirement", says Heike Richter. "For these reasons, we like to refer to our onSET rating."
Universities recognised early that this was an easier and more accurate way to assess language levels. Using onSET-Deutsch, the University of OsnabrÃ¼ck places over 100 international programme, exchange and full-time students every year for in-sessional German courses. Familiarise yourself with the test format. Complete the sample test in German or English.
Organisational steps such as registering and test booking have largely been removed for the newcomers to allow them an easier start. "The onSET-Deutsch greatly helps us to keep the course allocation as simple as possible for all participants", says Dr. Christiane Beinke, the departmental head of German as a foreign language at the university's language centre. "We donât need to design or plan anything. We just have to do it."
Christiane Beinke particulary values the internet-based onSET testing procedure: "It ensures flawless evaluation. The results lead to homogenous language course groups." She regards the onSET-Deutsch as unique â "a truly valuable test".
International students wishing to study in Freiburg can be assessed for their German intensive courses while they are still in their home country. This is invaluable for the applicants from around 50 countries, most of whom come to Freiburg for a program or scholarship stay.
"The test participants take the onSET-Deutsch well rested and without jet lag", says Astrid Nothen, who together with her colleague Dorothea RÃ¶sch heads the Department of International Language Courses at the University of Freiburg. "And we know the results long before the start of the course. In this way, we are able to determine groups in advance according to their level of performance and to assign teachers in a targeted manner. "
The university would also like to use the online-placement test for their intensive English courses. "Then", says Astrid Nothen, "we will also have the new onSET-English."