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The ZfA has joined ALTE: higher quality for the Language Certificate

Date 2016/05/09

The Central Agency for German Schools Abroad (ZfA) has been awarded the status of Institutional Affiliate at the Association of Language Testers in Europe (ALTE), the leading organisation of its kind.

"As the leading German test developer in the school sector, the ZfA would like to be involved more closely in the international discourse," explained Dr Wassilios Klein from ZfA with respect to the new collaboration. The examinations for the German Language Certificate (DSD) of the Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs comprise standardised tests, developed in line with the levels of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). However, apart from these levels of proficiency there are further clear standards relating to the development of the tests or the validation of assessments of the productive skills.

Benefits for the ZfA

"To see how other language test providers deal with the challenges of quality assurance for language test production will be of great benefit to the ZfA," said Klein. This applies in particular for the ZfA’s involvement with the special interest groups which deal with business German, with language tests for migrants or for adolescents.

ALTE has developed innovative methods for ensuring adherence to the quality standards. It has published various handbooks, which transfer scientific findings to the practice of language testing, such as the “Materials for the Guidance of Test Item Writers” available in several languages. Three-day conferences are held every six months which are attended by the leading academics in the area of language testing. In addition, advanced training courses for test developers are offered at different levels. "This makes ALTE the key body in Europe promoting scientific exchange between language test developers and expertise about quality criteria for language tests," stressed Klein.

Improving DSD tests further

The ZfA will take an active part in ALTE’s work with the aim of further improving the quality of the examinations for the German Language Certificate (DSD I, DSD I PRO, DSD II) and communicating the achieved quality standards internationally.
Since ALTE was founded in 1990, members from over 20 European countries have come together to enter into discussions and jointly define quality standards.

The DSD is a joint undertaking of the German Federal Government and the federal states (Länder). The test sets are produced by the ZfA in Bonn. This is also where the analysis of the results takes place. The Central Committee covers all the regulations for the DSD. The DSD examination is more than purely a means to establish language proficiency. In addition, it has an impact on the teaching of German in many countries and facilitates a worldwide comparison of performance because it is based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.