The limits of authenticity in language testing

Bernard Spolsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Setting authenticity as a criterion raises important pragmatic and ethical questions in language testing. Lack of authenticity in the material or method used in a test weakens the generalizability of results. Any language test is by its very nature inauthentic, abnormal language behaviour, for the task is not to give so much as to display knowledge. With examinees who do not know or who are unwilling to play by the rules of the game the results of formal tests will not be an accurate and valid account of their knowledge. Only part of this difficulty can be overcome by authentic-seeming tasks. Observation of authentic behaviour (even allowing for the observer's paradox) is another partial solution. Long, patient and sympathetic observation by observers who care to help seems the only full solution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-40
Number of pages10
JournalLanguage Testing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1985


Dive into the research topics of 'The limits of authenticity in language testing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this