ICELDA has five tests that have been developed for various purposes and levels, while three more tests are currently under development.The most well known are its
- Test of Academic Literacy Levels (TALL); and its Afrikaans counterpart
- Toets van Akademiese Geletterdheidsvlakke (TAG);
- Academic Listening Test (ALT);
- Test of Academic Literacy for Postgraduate Students (TALPS); and
- Test of Academic Literacy (TAL) of the Free State School of Nursing (FSSN) for prospective students of nursing.
TALL and TAG make up the bulk of the annual sales, with some 31000 being purchased in 2010. A few hundred copies of TALPS are sold annually, but this may change in the future. ICELDA not only makes these tests available to its partners and to others, but also has the capacity to help scholars in other parts of the world to develop tests appropriate for their environments. We have no doubt that the tests we design will fulfil a critically important function not only in South Africa, but elsewhere as well.
Placement tests and eligibility tests
The tests are primarily used to determine academic literacy levels of first-time entering students. The results are used either to place students those whose academic literacy level is too low on appropriate academic literacy support courses, or, more rarely, as part of an index to determine eligibility to higher education (access to university). In the latter case the results are used for high stakes purposes, and we recommend that the ability to handle academic discourse at university level should not make up more than 15% of such an index.
Definition of academic literacy
The tests all measure a construct that relies on a definition of academic literacy that states that students must be able to
- understand a range of academic vocabulary in context;
- interpret and use metaphor and idiom, and perceive connotation, word play and ambiguity;
- understand relations between different parts of a text, be aware of the logical development of (an academic) text, via introductions to conclusions, and know how to use language that serves to make the different parts of a text hang together;
- interpret different kinds of text type (genre), and show sensitivity for the meaning that they convey, and the audience that they are aimed at;
- interpret, use and produce information presented in graphic or visual format;
- make distinctions between essential and non-essential information, fact and opinion, propositions and arguments; distinguish between cause and effect, classify, categorise and handle data that make comparisons;
- see sequence and order, do simple numerical estimations and computations that are relevant to academic information, that allow comparisons to be made, and can be applied for the purposes of an argument;
- know what counts as evidence for an argument, extrapolate from information by making inferences, and apply the information or its implications to other cases than the one at hand;
- understand the communicative function of various ways of expression in academic language (such as defining, providing examples, arguing); and
- make meaning (e.g. of an academic text) beyond the level of the sentence.