How to choose a business-oriented language test

So you have finally decided to assess the language level of your candidates and employees and want to find a suitable assessment that meets your needs? Or perhaps you already use an in-house solution but are wondering if there is a better one? Are you thinking of using a test to measure the ROI of your language training? There are almost as many language tests on the market as fish in the sea, so we’ve gone ahead and done a benchmark to help you decide which is the best language assessment.

Article from 4th September 2018 – updated 27th May 2019

Which tests are currently used ?

External language tests allow you to assess the language level of your candidates and employees in an objective, and often certified, way. That doesn’t mean that all assessments work the same way and evaluate the same competencies. We have studied the main characteristics of the major language tests available on the market, the ones which are most widely used by businesses.language_chartThe tests compared are easySPEAKing, TOEIC (in its traditional format, Reading and Listening), BULATS, Bright, CLEP (through Yes ‘N’ You), eLAO and Versant

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Why have we looked at certain criteria?

Extract from the Linguaid 2017 study on the assessment of English skills in French companies:

“The market in France for English language assessments used for training purposes is currently undergoing large changes. The professional training reform, launched in January 2015, which makes it compulsory to issue certification at the end of the training [...], has boosted the sales of tests accredited by the French government.” 


In our benchmark, we have specifically focused on certified or accredited tests, used by HR departments for business purposes, either for recruitment or training. These include: a next generation test, three standardized tests, a test created by a language training institute, and two tests frequently used for recruitment - leaving out TOEFL type tests.

“For training managers, assessing language skills as part of an L&D program must be: accurate and reliable (90 %), easy to schedule (81 %) and online (63 %), not to mention having a human factor to verify written and oral abilities (62%)”.

As a result, we compared how the assessments are scheduled, done by the test taker, and how they are assessed. As a test must be reliable and accurate, we have kept the requirement of identity checks, which is vital during the recruitment process. All the tests chosen are assessed against the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) or an equivalent. The length of the test as well as whether it can be done remotely or must be done onsite speaks to the test taker experience and the complexity for the recruiter or training manager to schedule. A key factor in terms of candidate and employee experience is whether or not they have to do the assessment on a specific site, like a test center, or at a specific time. Like many things, the future is digital and having a language assessment that can be done online anytime, anywhere is a boon for the employee experience. Bonus points for a mobile experience. 

In order to have a complete 360 view of a candidate and employee’s language level,the four main language competencies should be assessed. While it’s quite common to see a test assessing listening and reading skills, it is harder to find ones that assess speaking and writing proficiency. This requires the complicated human factor in the assessment. Few tests are able to offer all-in-one and only video seems to be the answer to not only assessing speaking skills but allowing for online proctoring and replacing the old-school, academic notion of a test center.

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