A test's validity refers to how good it is. Validity can be compared with reliability, which refers to how consistent the results would be if the test were given under the same conditions to the same learners.

Face validity refers to how good people think the test is, content validity to how good it actually is in testing what it says it will test.

In the classroom
For a teacher who has to design or choose a formal achievement test for their learners, asking the question ‘Does the test actually test what it aims to test?' offers an important point of reflection. To answer this question positively demands that the test covers the skills, grammar and lexis covered in the course. To offer the learners a test that does not do this gives an inaccurate picture of students' learning, and is unfair.

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Submitted by garza on Fri, 05/02/2008 - 16:35


I do hate to display my ignorance, but is it possible we have a bit of a number preamble in the statement 'For a teacher who has to design or choose a formal achievement test for their learners...'?

Just curious. 


Submitted by garza on Sat, 05/03/2008 - 02:53


I sent in a comment earlier questioning whether there is a problem with number in the statement 'For a teacher who has to design or choose a formal achievement test for their learners...' I just discovered to my horror that my comment contained a misspelt word. This may be why the comment has not been posted.

But should not the statement read 'For teachers who have to design or choose a formal achievement test for their learners...'?

If I am wrong, can you explain why I am wrong? 

Hi Garza

Both examples you give are correct.

According to Practical English Usage by Michael Swan:

They/them/their is often used to refer to a singular indefinite person. This is common after a person, anybody/one, nobody/one, whoever, each, every, either, neither and no.

This singular use of they/them/their is convenient when the person referred to could be either male or female. He or She, him or her and his or her are clumsy, especially when repeated...

I've always preferred the usage of they/them/their when referring to an unknown person rather than repeating he or she etc as it's simpler to use.

I think in the past using they/them/their in this way to refer to a singular indefinite person may have been contentious. I have a vague memory of a news item about 10 years ago saying the use of they/them/their in this way had been officially accepted by the Oxford dictionary... maybe other readers have a better memory and will know if this is the case.


Submitted by garza on Mon, 05/05/2008 - 15:37


Sorry, but I follow Fowler, and I don't mean that radical revisionist edition edited by Burchfield. Singular is singular. I'm too old to change.

Well, I have the Fowler edited by Gowers (1965 edition, so perhaps even older than yours), and this is what it says: 

In a perfect language there would exist pronouns and possessives that were of as doubtful gender as they and yet were, like them, singular; i.e., it would have words meaning him-or- her, himself-or-herself, his-or-her. But, just as French lacks our power (without additional words) of distinguishing between his, her, and its, so we lack the French power of saying in one word his-or-her. There are three makeshifts: first, as anybody can see for himself or herself; second, as anybody can see for themselves; and third, as anybody can see for himself. No one who can help it chooses the first; it is correct, and is sometimes necessary, but it is so clumsy as to be ridiculous except when explicitness is urgent, and it usually sounds like a bit of pedantic humour. The second is the popular solution; it sets the literary man's teeth on edge, and he exerts himself to give the same meaning in some entirely different way if he is not prepared to risk the third, which is here recommended. It involves the convention (statutory in the interpretation of documents) that where the matter of sex is not conspicuous or important the masculine form shall be allowed to represent a person instead of a man, or say a man (homo) instead of a man (vir). Whether that convention, with himself or herself in the background for especial exactitudes, and paraphrase always possible in dubious cases, is an arrogant demand on the part of male England, everyone must decide for himself (or for himself or herself, or for themselves).

And that is how I have always known it. To complete the picture, perhaps I should say I am 62. 

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