How Do You Like Your Stake?

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Low-Stakes Testing is a More Effective Way of Testing for Language Learning.

There are many reasons why low-stakes testing is more effective, but the main reason is due to a reduction of stress and anxiety. This decreases errors while testing which allows students to be better evaluated. Students knowledge and skills can be more accurately measured when they are not put under high pressure. This makes it is more likely for students to perform more confidently and demonstrate their best work.  

What is the difference between high-stakes and low-stakes testing?

High-stakes Test:

Is any test used to make important decisions about individuals, students or employees, most commonly for the purpose to measure accountability, advancement, promotion, or compensation.

Low-stakes Test:

Is any test used to measure achievement, provide placement, identify learning problems, or inform without consequences.

High-stakes testing compared to low-stakes testing

What distinguishes high stakes test from low-stakes tests is not the form (that is, the design) but rather the function (how the results are used) of the exams. There is no question that testing creates anxiety in most test subjects. Subjects that have a high level of test-anxiety can cause their scores to decrease due to their state-of-mind and not related directly to their proficiency.  A lot of research shows the negative impacts of high-stakes testing in terms of accountability, teaching and learning. (Minarechová, 2012) However, until we find a better alternative to high-stakes testing, we should also look at ways to reduce the negative consequences of high-stakes testing.

Enter stage-left, low-stakes tests and assessments. Studies have recently shown that using low-stakes assessments and low-stakes tests more frequently can:

  • Produce large improvements in student final exam scores (McDaniel, 2011)
  • Narrow the grade gap between poorly prepped and highly prepped first-year college students (Freeman, 2011)
  • Correlate with positive course reviews (Nyroos, 2016)

Much like public speaking, where practice reduces the anxiety, more practice testing can help reduce the anxiety when it matters. Low stakes exams also give students an idea of their proficiency and accomplishments while also giving them a mark as to what they need to do to match the expectations of the class.

What low-stakes testing option do we offer for language testing?

WebCAPE has been used by institutions and organizations worldwide to provide a low-stakes opportunity for language learners to gauge their language level. Organizations use WebCAPE to speed-up and improve the accuracy of language placement during the interview process. Take a moment today to request a trial and see the effectiveness WebCAPE test provides today.


Freeman, S., Haak, D., & Wenderoth, M. P. (2011). Increased course structure improves performance in introductory biology. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 10(2), 175-186.

Nyroos, M., Schele, I., & Wiklund-Hornqvist, C. (2016). Implementing Test Enhanced Learning: Swedish Teacher Students’ Perception of Quizzing .International Journal of Higher Education, 5(4), p1.

Minarechová, M. (2012). Negative impacts of high-stakes testing. Journal of Pedagogy / Pedagogický Casopis,3(1), 82-100. doi:10.2478/v10159-012-0004-x

Mcdaniel, M. A., Agarwal, P. K., Huelser, B. J., Mcdermott, K. B., & Roediger, H. L. (2011). Test-enhanced learning in a middle school science classroom: The effects of quiz frequency and placement. Journal of Educational Psychology,103(2), 399-414. doi:10.1037/a0021782

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