Assessment with a Focus on Adult Learners

Teachers use a combination of formal and informal tools to assess learners language and curriculum knowledge

Recent statistics show that sixty-five percent of inmates in New Zealand prisons are functionally illiterate.  At the moment, I am helping some of those prisoners who want to learn, yet cannot function in a classroom environment.  Where do you start with a troubled young man who wants to learn, yet has difficulty with basic concepts of English?  First, you have to assess where he fits on the scale from beginner to advanced.  I have developed a test starting with basic vocabulary through to the intermediate level.  There is no point teaching intermediate level if the student cannot answer the beginner test.

Assessment is based on:

  • Observation
  • Assessment in regular tasks (every day, every week, or every month)
  • Formal assessment (i.e. end-of-term tests)

Assessment includes:

  • Listening
    • Vocabulary progression
    • Language and text features progression
    • Comprehension progression
    • Listening progression
    • Interactive listening and speaking progression
  • Speaking
    • Vocabulary progression
    • Language and text features progression
    • Using strategies to communicate progression
    • interactive listening and speaking progression
  • Reading
    • Decoding progression
    • Vocabulary progression
    • Language and text features progression
    • Comprehension progression
    • Reading critically progression
  • Writing
    • Purpose and audience progression
    • Spelling progression
    • Language and text features progression
    • Planning and composing progression
    • Revising and editing progression

Assessment for literacy

Beginner-level learners do not need as much assessment as (pre)intermediate-level ones. Assessment can be done periodically to gauge students’ progress.

  • LNAAT (Literacy and Numeracy for Adults Assessment Tool) is an online tool.

Primary-level assessment includes:

  • e-asTTle (Electronic Assessment Tools for Teaching and Learning) – Assesses student’s progress in the following areas: Reading, mathematics writing, and language.
  • ARBs (Assessment Resource Bank) – Assessment resources for teachers

Secondary-level assessment includes:

  • PAT’s (Progressive Achievement Tests) –  Assess students’ :
    • Mathematics
    • Listening comprehension
    • Punctuation and Grammar
    • Reading Comprehension
    • Reading Vocabulary
  • NZCEA (New Zealand National Certificate of Educational Achievement) – National Qualifications for senior secondary school students. NZCEA certificates are recognized in New Zealand, and some overseas countries,  by employers and used as the benchmark for selection by universities and polytechnics.

IELTS – International English Language Testing System

ielts logoThe International English Language Testing System, or IELTS™, is an international standardized test of English language proficiency for non-native English language speakers. It is jointly managed by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge Assessment English, and was established in 1989. IELTS is one of the major English-language tests in the world, others being the TOEFL, TOEIC, PTE:A, and OPI/OPIc.

The IELTS exam has been running for more than 40 years.  Its purpose is to assess English language proficiency for speakers of other languages.   More than 3 million people have sat the exam in 2017.

The IELTS exam tests:

  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Speaking

The book Focus on IELTS will help the student prepare for the IELTS exam.


The purpose of assessment is to improve students’ learning and teachers’ teach.  Assessment is an ongoing process that arises out of the interaction between teaching and learning.  The IELTS exam provides an international standard test for English proficiency.

How can we help with assessment?

We can help students with Formal assessment.  Please fill out the form to apply for one-on-one help with preparation for English NZCEA and other exams.

Request for Tuition

Aaron Skudder


  1. Wow.  One: I love the fact that you are helping those who need it the most. Two: I am grateful that there are teachers like you who are willing to take the time to assess and teach at the level the student requires.  Three: I am so going back to your site so that I can read more about the different articles you have already.  I took a quick look at others and was very intrigued.  Thank you for this article! Keep up the great work and your purpose in this life.  Blessings with Love and Light

  2. Hey this is really interesting!  I was actually going to move to China a few years back to teach English, but it never worked out.  I was wondering, do they hire people with English experience to teach some of this, or to write up the Assessments?  I really like teaching and this sounds pretty cool honestly!

    • There are many European English teachers in Asian countries.  You do not need to speak the local language and in most cases, the curriculum is already prepared.

  3. After you are done with listening, speaking, reading and writing assessment, do you issue a formal grade or score? How is that calculated, are all four aspects of the language skill equally important or are some more or less?

    For example, I know a lot of people who are good at speaking and bad at writing or. vice-versa. How would that affect thier score?

    • A test will provide a starting point from which you can develop a curriculum.  Once you know where a student needs help, then you can work towards giving them the tuition and tools.  Formal assessment is done after the training. 

  4. Wow!  I’m really shocked by the high percentage of New Zealand’s inmates who are functionally illiterate. Maybe because some of us take it so much for granted.  It’s definitely a worthy thing to help these people learn to become literate and be able to do more to help themselves!

    I currently work with a couple from Mexico.  My Spanish is enough to get me by at work since, as my supervisor, Miguel told his mother, “She understands some Spanish because she works with a lot of Mexicans.” She was a cute old lady too, not a wit of English and visiting from Mexico.  Anyway, the couple I work with, one speaks decent English, one just a little, but I’ve had to help them with a few things, and I’m uncertain that they are even literate in Spanish, because even when I help find  a Spanish translation, they have some issues so I end up helping a lot with written forms. (I understand work Spanish, not written Spanish!  I’m lost a lot).

    It’s really opened my eyes to the difficulties they have with this.  They aren’t stupid, definitely not.  Both very intelligent and hard-working people.

    Helping inmates learn to read and write will greatly help them really rejoin society.  That’s a worthy cause right there!  It’ll be interesting if I can apply this to my coworkers.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    • This article on assessment is not complete.  I hope to expand on the topics of assessment and include tests to determine literacy. A test will provide a starting point for developing curriculum, a formal assessment will help people find a job.

  5. Thanks for this wonderful article about assessments its going to be helpful to both the teachers and the adult learners because many adults nowadays are illiterate so by this article  they are going to be eye opened thanks a lot for this article keep sharing admin because its helpful to many 

  6. What a discovery! This place oozes from knowledge.
    Since you mentioned statistics about illiteracy, it got me curious immediately & I went forth to do a little research of my own.

    This is what I found.
    There are 781 million illiterate adults in the world. Over 75% of them are found in South Asia & sub-Saharan Africa.
    The global literacy rate for all people aged 15 and above is 86.3%.
    Women represent almost two thirds of all illiterate adults globally. The global literacy rate for all males is 90.0% and the rate for all females is 82.7%.
    In 1820, only 12% of people in the world could read & write. Today the share has reversed to 14% of the world population, in 2016, that remained illiterate.
    Over the last 65 years the global literacy rate increased 4% every 5 years. From 42% in 1960 to 86% in 2015.

    That being said, I believe helping troubled young men who wants to learn is admirable.
    I’m curious, how often does it happen that a person is good at reading & writing but bad at speaking language?

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