Types of Language Testing - Parrot - 8 Different Types of Language Tests

Types of Language Testing

What are the different types of language testing?

Different Tests for Different Goals

Language is a complicated thing to measure. Consequently, there are many types of language testing, each type measuring different skills for different reasons. For example, one test might ask you to read a passage out loud, while another asks you to answer questions about the passage. Let’s review a few of the different types.

Types of Language Testing

Language Proficiency Tests

Proficiency testing measures a person’s level of skill in a language, independent of how they learned it. Whether someone grew up speaking Spanish or took lessons as an adult, a proficiency test should score that person the same. Because the Parrot language test is built for the workplace, we designed it to measure proficiency. Our clients want the best skills they can find, no matter how those skills were obtained.

Aptitude Tests

An aptitude test does not measure how well someone uses a specific language, but how well they acquire language skills in general. For that reason, you might use this type of test when selecting candidates for a role that would require them to learn a new language.

Diagnostic Tests

Proficiency tests usually provide a general assessment of a person’s full language skillset. In contrast, diagnostic tests identify specific strengths and weaknesses within that skillset. Use this type of test to identify specific ways to improve.

Placement & Achievement Tests

These tests are used exclusively in language learning environments. A placement test measures skill in order to group similarly skilled learners together. An achievement test measures a learner’s progress over a period of time.

Person Making Different Types of Language Testing

Skill-Specific Types of Language Testing

Language can be spoken, heard, written, read, understood, interpreted, translated, and more. While a comprehensive test that measures all these skills may be possible, it would be very hard to administer. Plus, such a test would provide far more information than needed for most situations. For that reason, most language tests isolate one of the four major skill forms: speaking, listening, reading, and writing.

Language Skill Forms


Speaking refers to the expression of language, either vocally or through signs or gestures. It is the most commonly required skill in the workplace. Very few positions do not require speaking in some form. To test speaking, a person is asked to speak in the testing language, usually in response to prompts. Depending on how the prompts are delivered, a speaking test may also require those being tested to listen or read, but not necessarily in the language being tested.


Simply put, listening is the reception of speech. A listening test is different from a hearing test in that a hearing test measures how well your ears receive sound in general–not necessarily language. You can test listening by having someone listen to speech and demonstrate understanding. For that reason, a listening test almost always requires a minimum level of speaking or writing skill, but not necessarily in the specific language being tested.


If speaking is the expression of thought through language, writing is the expression of language through symbols. A writing test gathers and analyzes writing samples, usually in response to prompts provided by the test. As far as language skill is concerned, there’s no meaningful distinction between handwriting and typing.


Reading is the interpretation of written language. A reading test provides passages of writing and gathers the test taker’s responses, either to the passages in general or to specific questions about the passages.

Additional Resources

Parrot for Business Info Sheet

We built Parrot to help businesses hire candidates with the language skills those businesses need to grow. Read this info sheet to learn more about how easy your testing program could be.

Language Testing Validity Report

Test Quality & Validity

By combining an innovative methodology with modern tech, we’re creating a new standard for evaluating language skills. However, none of that would matter if our results weren’t also unquestionably valid. This report shows how we’ve fine-tuned our method to meet and exceed key industry standards for validity.

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