The impact of cultural and linguistic differences on test fairness

By Sue Orchard

Subscribe Now

In an increasingly diverse and interconnected world, educational and professional assessments and exams are administered to a wide range of test-takers from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

However, this diversity presents unique challenges when it comes to ensuring the security and fairness of tests. The impact of cultural and linguistic differences when trying to ensure test fairness cannot be underestimated, as it affects not only test performance but also the behaviour of test-takers, including the potential for cheating and other irregularities.

To ensure the integrity and fairness of high-stakes testing, it is essential to acknowledge and address this diversity.

Cultural and linguistic differences can manifest in numerous ways that affect test performance. First, variations in test-taking norms and customs are often rooted in cultural backgrounds. What may be considered acceptable or appropriate behaviour during an exam can differ significantly from one culture to another.

Some cultures prioritize group collaboration and open discussion, while others emphasize individuality and strict silence during testing. Such differences can lead to misunderstandings and discomfort for test-takers, potentially impacting their performance.

So where does translation, localization and adaptation fit into this? It all comes down to the issue of fairness to speakers of other languages. What people in this industry are all seeking to do is to provide a level playing field for all their candidates, no matter where they are from or what language they speak natively.

Translating and localizing test content is essential for ensuring fairness across different linguistic and cultural groups. It prevents bias in favor of English-speaking or culturally specific groups, making the test more equitable.

A lot of the testing organizations we work with are looking to attract more people to their programs and to open their programs up to a more diverse audience. This in turn brings issues, quite a few of which are to do with security.

The question of whether to translate or not comes down to the fundamental question of “What are you testing?” Are you testing people’s knowledge of the English language or are you testing their subject knowledge, their skills, their experience etc?

Translation and localization can enhance access to the test for non-native English speakers or individuals with limited proficiency in the test language. This contributes to fairness by ensuring that language proficiency doesn’t hide a test-taker’s true abilities.

Offering an inclusive environment for test takers by translating exams into other languages and localizing and adapting them to be acceptable and understandable for other cultures will provide a much fairer and more equitable environment for all test takers, no matter where they are from.

When creating an exam, is it vital to have as diverse a group of test developers as possible. It is best practice to involve SMEs from the target market, if this is known in advance. If not, then the preparation steps prior to starting a translation project are even more important in ensuring that the assessments and exams are valid and fair in the target market.

There are many different areas to consider on the test administration side to ensure fairness and we will discuss these in future blog posts. Please contact Comms Multilingual if clarification or more information are required

#assessment #cultural #inclusive

Related Pages

Test Translation in Psychology

Find out more about Comms Multilingual's full suite of translation and localisation services for I/O and educational psychology assessments.

Translating Professional Certification Exams

Looking to grow your certification or credentialing business by expanding overseas? Discover our tailored exam translation solutions.

Localising Clinical Assessments

Comms Multilingual has years of experience translating, localising and adapting clinical assessment batteries. Read on to find out how we can help.

Surveys and Questionnaires

Questionnaire Translation Services

Whether an employee engagement tool or a customer-facing survey, we can provide high-quality translations that ensure comparability between language versions.

ISO-certified Translation Agency - Comms Multilingual - ATC Certification Badge