How closely should an English Test result reflect a test taker’s ability if they go into the test mostly blind?

If we know that the test taker is at a C1 level, is it proper to expect them to get an equivalent test score (95 on the TOEFL iBT, 7-8 on the IELTS, 76-84 on the PTE Academic, etc) if they take the test with only a cursory amount of preparation? Or is that expectation inappropriate?

I think this is probably too much to ask for, but how close should the theoretical test taker’s result be to their actual fluency in the language?

A wise test watcher recently noted that students pick their tests based on “perceived easiness.” I think that part of “perceived easiness” is the perception that the test result will reflect their actual English ability even if they don’t spend hundreds (thousands?) of dollars on test prep products.

Perhaps this accounts for the skyrocketing popularity of certain tests in recent years. Perhaps test takers feel those tests provide a better opportunity to certify their English language skills without investing too much in supplementary products.


You know, if I were a wealthy man I would pay for my mother to take every English test with a CEFR concordance available. I’d see which results more closely match the fact that she’s a C2 user of the English language. I guess it doesn’t have to be my mom taking the tests, but she does seem to have a lot of time on her hands nowadays.

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