As promised, here are a few notes about the Versant by Pearson English Certificate. By way of a disclaimer, some folks at Pearson gave me a voucher so I could take the test for free.
- As I said in an earlier post, my favorite part is that the practice test accurately simulates the test-day experience, including the same UI and security checks. Click through to my profile for 500 words about that.
- The UI is, generally, pretty decent. I like the absence of tense beeps and tones and I appreciate that the user has some control over the flow of the test via buttons that move things along as needed. There is a bouncing “spectrogram” (probably not the right word) that indicates audio is being detected by the test.
- The proctoring is asynchronous. I know this generates a lot of dialog whenever I bring it up, but I think the whole high-stakes English testing industry will go this route in the future. It is probably for the best.
- There are some really challenging questions here. The reading section required me to make some tricky inferences. The “integrated speaking” question that requires test-takers to listen to (and later summarize) a conversation between three speakers is really tricky to do without note-taking. I’d love to see this sort of thing on other tests.
- It uses the “sign in with Google” service. Every test maker should provide this option. The cost of implementation will be recouped by reduced customer support costs. I promise.
- Test-takers get a Credly badge they can easily share on social media. Other test makers should provide something like this, if only for the free advertising.
- Some of the test security prompts were clunky. I received a prompt indicating that I had two microphones on my system, and was told that was not allowed. It did not indicate which microphones it had detected, though. I flicked off my Bluetooth headset but there was no confirmation that I had solved the issue. I just proceeded and hoped for the best. More detailed feedback would be welcome. The need for this is especially urgent on tests without a live human proctor.
- I received a score of “below level” in writing on the practice test. I think this is likely due to the vagaries of wholly AI scoring rather than my poor writing skills.
- Like on most modern tests, the score report is something of a black box. I got an 83 in speaking and an 83 in writing. Where did those numbers come from? How were the various tasks weighted and considered? That isn’t really indicated. Same for R and L, of course. I still prefer the older approach used in IELTS and TOEFL where the test-taker can look at a given section score and broadly figure out where the number came from over the newer approach favored by DET and PTE that creates a score using a formula that isn’t public knowledge. Again, though, I suspect that in a few years time all of the major testing firms will use the newer approach.