Does one size fit all? Some considerations for test translation


Tobie van Dyk


Herculene Kotzé


Piet Murre


In this paper a number of variables influencing study success are acknowledged, among others underpreparedness for university education, difficulties with the transition from school to higher education, financial challenges, emotional well-being, motivation, study skills, self-efficacy, and educational background. The paper explores the use of tests as indicators of what students struggle with in terms of their language and literacy abilities, since the results of such tests are often used to inform support practices and curriculum design. Indeed, as is asserted in the literature, one of the purposes of language testing is to provide information to make decisions about possible subsequent courses of action. This is reiterated in discussions of test use, i.e. that data generated by tests should benefit stakeholders. The pertinent question is whether it is responsible merely to use and reuse tests in different, albeit comparable, contexts? Although such a pragmatic approach seems to be justifiable, can it still be considered fair and valid, objectively measuring what it aims to test? Does one size fit all? This paper considers the translation of an Afrikaans academic literacy test, designed for South African universities, into Dutch for use in the Netherlands. Theoretical frameworks for academic literacy and test translation will be presented, as well as empirical data derived from statistical analyses (alpha values, t-tests, p-values, DIF) and qualitative feedback based on interpretations made after consultation with subject experts. The paper will conclude with recommendations on ensuring fair and unbiased practices, particularly in the field of test translation.


Van Dyk, T.J., Murre, P., & Kotzé, H. 2021. Does one size fit all? Some considerations for test translation. In Weideman, Albert, Read, John & Du Plessis, Theo (Eds.) Assessing academic literacy in a multilingual society: Transition and transformation, pp. 52-74. Bristol: Multilingual Matters. DOI: 10.21832/WEIDEM6201


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