[IPAC-List] Test preparation/orientation websites

Mark Hammer Mark.Hammer at psc-cfp.gc.ca
Fri May 15 17:02:28 EDT 2009

Just when you thought it was safe. Our organization just released a report concerning the use of "practice" tests by one of the many language training schools in the capital. In the Canadian system, a great many upper level positions require dual-language proficiency (English and French). So, it should not surprise anyone that the capital, where many such positions are located, has an abundance of language training schools. When tested, candidates can be assessed as meeting one of 4 different proficiency levels for each of oral fluency, writing and written comprehension, with different positions requiring different profiles. The highest level of proficiency is termed "exempt", implying that the fluency is of such a degree that no further testing would ever be required. This is in contrast to other assessed levels, whose score is valid for 5 years, after which time it has to be re-assessed.

Having been through training twice (the second time for a higher level), we were given numerous practice tests to get us accustomed to the self-pacing and strategic thinking needed to do well, in addition to allaying our fears about how hard it might be. Seems the "practice tests" used by one such school were a little uncomfortably close to the real test, such that their graduates were receiving something like a 90% exemption rate, compared to the usual rate of 10% or so. You can read about it here: http://www.psc-cfp.gc.ca/inv-enq/rprt/npu/index-eng.htm

The good news, I suppose, is that this only pertains to written tests, which most will report as being easier than the oral fluency test. The oral test is still a high wall to climb for many and difficult to get over by means as unethical as that included in the report.

Back to the drawing board. Oy!!

Mark Hammer

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