THE USE OF LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY TEST SCORES IN GRADUATE ADMISSIONS
The purpose of this research is to reveal and compare the language proficiency profiles of Purdue’s Chinese and Indian graduate applicants in various disciplines to take a step towards the development of Language Proficiency Literacy (LPL) of graduate admissions decision makers. The study argues that before being able to offer LPL development opportunities to admissions decision-makers, language testers need to gain admissions literacy in their specific academic context. One way this can be achieved is by analyzing graduate admissions data to see patterns of test score use in each discipline and to reveal language proficiency profiles of graduate applicants. Providing admissions decision makers with information about the linguistic characteristics of their applicants can be a very helpful step towards enhancing LPL in the context of graduate admissions.
One of the analyses conducted towards the goal LPL development in the context of graduate admissions was a Cluster Analysis procedure followed by a Chi-square analysis to compare the language proficiency profiles of graduate applicants from various L1 backgrounds based on scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The study found three language proficiency profiles in graduate applicants’ TOEFL data: 1) the ‘unbalanced’ profile, which consists of applicants who have higher scores in the subskills of reading and listening, and comparatively lower scores on speaking and writing, 2) the ‘balanced medium’ profile, which represents students who have moderate scores across all four subskills, and 3) the ‘balanced high’ profile, which consists of applicants who have high scores across all four subskills. The study found evidence for the interaction between graduate applicant test-takers’ L1 background and belonging to a balanced or an unbalanced language proficiency profile, which highlights the importance of considering subskill scores in addition the total score when using language proficiency test scores to select graduate students from specific L1 backgrounds.