Acknowledging Recent National Language Proficiency Test Results

Costa Ricans and Language Profiency Test

Recently the English Proficiency of Costa Ricans and the labor of educators was criticized by a tumult of  biased and non well-researched opinions as newspapers filled the social networks with headlines of results of a study done by Education First  which is the the world leader in international education.  The results ranked Costa Rica in the 43th spot.

English Proficiency ranked by Countries

The study demostrates  that:

  1. English language proficiency  is linked to higher income , higher quality of life , ease to do business and innovation.
  2. Men and women score similarly poorly in the test, with no marked gender difference.
  3. Young professionals aged 25 to 34 are just as proficient in English as many of their peers in other countries.
  4. Costa Rican educators and lawmakers will need to identify the causes of the low level performance in English proficiency.

Things to consider for a good interpretation of results:

  1. Costa Rica doesn’t top the lists of countries ranked by higher income , higher quality of life or innovation so  if English is correlated to such factors , Costa Rica as a country has to do more than teaching classes to improve the English proficiency of its citizens.
  2. The good aspect of the study is that young professionals aged 25 to 34 are  as proficient as people in developed countries.
  3. Costa Rican Educators have a big role in improving the proficiency of students but this needs to go hand by hand with what the government does. A good educator can change a group for the better but not the whole student population. Individual changes are a step in the right direction but won’t put us at the top of the list.

Language Educators and their Performance in Language Proficiency Tests

The Centro Cultural Britanico was one of the two institutions that were in charge of evaluating current and future educators to certify if they qualify for a long- term positions in the Ministry of Public Education (MEP).

This is how  educators did  in the test. It would make sense to say that if a majority of educators are in the upper-intermediate level , it would be mission impossible to expect the Costa Rican population to score above a B2 level.


Consistency in Language Proficiency Test Results

Language proficiency exams tend to be consistent as I always have been placed  in the same level of the Common European Framework for Languages

I have taken two language proficiency tests  from two well-known institutions such as the Centro Cultural Britanico and the Centro Cultural Costarricense-Norteamericano and  both  placed me in the same level.

I also took three of the tests provided by Education First and the results were the same

Online Proficiency Test

Second test

Education first  result test

Third Test

EF Score

You can take the three tests by clicking these links : Test 1 and  Test 2 and Test 3

Why Not Test in All Four Domains?

Because the relationships among the four domains are so strong, the argument goes, that an assessment of any single domain can serve as a reasonably good surrogate for an assessment in any of the others. In fact, early studies of the TOEIC® Listening and Reading test (e.g., Wilson, 1989) seem  to have suggested this possibility. The strong correlation between scores on the TOEIC Listening and Reading test and performance on language proficiency interviews was viewed as evidence that  TOEIC Listening and Reading scores could serve, at least indirectly, as moderately good proxies for direct assessments of speaking proficiency.


I can’t finish this post without acknowledging that the study done by Education First tells how we do in English and not how we pretend to do in English . Criticizing studies and test results  add to the fact that we deserve to be ranked 43th.

The results demonstrates that English language proficiency tests are reliable as results don’t vary  and if they do  , the variation tends to be small.

Teachers sometimes want to take individual or country  results as a personal attack to their integrity , First we must understand that  being a good language learner doesn’t equal to being a good language teacher. Language proficiency test measure skills , not teaching abilities as some people assume.

The language proficiency of a country depends on different factors and not simply on English classes . Innovation plays role in having better language teachers and learners but some classrooms have not evolved yet. most classrooms are filled only with chairs , desks , whiteboards and markers.

 Information for further study

Toeic- Additional Validity Study

Toeic – Assessing English-Language Proficiency in All Four Language Domains: Is It Really Necessary?