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Pearson unveils new English assessment scale

Education giant Pearson has launched a new numeric measurement of English language proficiency that it claims is more accurate than the current systems which tend to categorise English language students into broad bands of “beginner”, “intermediate” or “advanced”.

Pearson are enabling students to convert any other score into its GSE measurements (extract from website)

A student who sits at 55 can watch and understand a full episode of Breaking Bad

The company will begin introducing the Global Scale of English (GSE) into its product lines worldwide over the next 18-24 months including Pearson English Business Solutions, ELT publishing and its retail chain Wall Street English. It also aims to establish the GSE as a universal benchmark for businesses, governments and academic institutions.

“Celsius and Fahrenheit don’t change no matter what the country. That’s missing in the language learning sector today”

The system allows learners to measure their English proficiency on a scale of 10-90, with each number associated with a description of what skills that number represents.

For example, the scale says a student who sits at 55 can watch and understand a full episode of Breaking Bad; if they score 29 on the scale, they are able to identify and order very common food and drink from a menu.

Bhavneet Singh, President of Pearson English, says because English is the established lingua franca for academic, business and internet communication, a global standard of English is well overdue.

“It’s difficult to compare levels when people have taken different exams,” he told The PIE News.“We’re trying to help the learner have a currency that is agnostic to the provider and consistent through their life for any activity they do.

“Celsius and Fahrenheit don’t change no matter what the country. That’s missing in the language learning sector today,” he said.

The GSE is the result of 25 cumulative years of research done internally and by Pearson Vice Senior Vice President, John de Jong, who was integral to establishing the the widely accepted Common European Framework of References for Languages (CEFR).

An example of skill descriptors associated with numeric assessments

An example of skill descriptors associated with numeric assessments

It was also tested in a pilot involving 10,000 students in 130 countries including Brazil, China and Indonesia last year.

“When people use terminology around beginner and intermediate quite freely it doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing depending on where you are,” explained Bill Anderson, Senior Vice President of Product at Pearson. “With the GSE you are able to track much more granular progress in your English journey.”

From now, all new products (such as its Progress test) will be on the GSE scale and the company plans to gradually integrate the new assessment into its existing product line including how the PTE Academic exam is measured.

To ease the transition, students will still be able to reference back to established test and frameworks. “We’re not asking people to reinvent then wheel,” Singh commented.

Pearson also wants to expand beyond the academic setting and see the scale widely used among multinational companies and universities.

“One reason people learn English is because it’s the business language of the world and the better people are in English the better job prospects they have”

Research carried out by Pearson and LinkedIn for the launch shows that nearly 70% of employers are assessing their employees; level of English and 83% of global C-suite and HR Directors agreed that a standardised measure of English proficiency would be useful in the recruitment process.

“We want to work with everyone from mobile operators to telecom providers to online learning communities like Busuu to universities to corporates,” Singh said.

“At the end of the day, one reason people learn English is because it’s the business language of the world, and the better people are in English the better job prospects they have.”

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