CET Washback on Chinese College Students’ English Test-taking Strategy Use
|Course||Foreign Linguistics and Applied Linguistics|
|Keywords||test-taking strategies CET college students washback|
The College English Test (CET) is a large-scale high-stakes education test forcollege non-English majors in China. It conducts impact on College English teachingand learning, namely “washback”. Test-taking strategies are the test-taking processeswhich the students have consciously selected, and can be regarded as the strategies usedin test context, including both language competence-related general strategies such ascognitive and metacognitive strategies and test context specific strategies such astest-wiseness strategies. A test comes at the end of a course and is a significantcomponent of teaching and learning. Therefore, it is of massive significance to studyCET washback (including its intensity and direction) on Chinese college students’English test-taking strategy use, which can not only enrich the theories of test-takingstrategies and washback, but also provide feedback for CET validation and test reform.A questionnaire survey was employed as the main research instrument, alongsidewith an interview.284students from two universities in Chongqing have beeninvestigated. The study investigated the construct and characteristics of use oftest-taking strategies first. Based on these findings, the study further explored washbackintensity of CET, other factors affecting test-taking strategy use and washback directionof CET.The main research conclusions of the present study are as follows:The findings on test-taking strategies themselves show that Chinese collegestudents’ English test-taking strategies can be classified into four sets: cognitivestrategies, metacognitive strategies, test management strategies and test-wisenessstrategies. The former two are related with the abilities to use one’s language knowledgeand competence, while the latter two are related with the abilities to rely on test facetsor environment to answer the test items. Students on the whole tend to use testmanagement strategies and test-wiseness strategies more frequently, and cognitivestrategies and metacognitive strategies less frequently. Students’ test-taking strategy useis more test-oriented rather than focusing on language materials.The research on CET washback intensity finds out that CET may promotecognitive strategy use moderately and have little influence on metacognitive strategyuse. It may serve as trigger in that it lures but not determinines the use of testmanagement and test-wiseness strategies. All in all, it seems that CET does affect test-taking strategy use, but not so intensively as previously imagined.The exploration on other factors affecting test-taking strategy use reveals thatbesides CET, a series of variables such as gender, major, graduated high school,hometown, university and English proficiency may induce impact on test-takingstrategy use. The impacts vary from one variable to another. Students’ present educationbackground (university and major) has a stronger influence than their past educationexperience (high school and hometown), and university environment may pose strongerimpact than students’ own English proficiency. There are also significant genderdifferences.The study on CET washback direction is based on the results of StructuralEquation Modeling and Decision Tree Modeling. Structural Equation Model analysishas found out that cognitive strategies yield weak yet positive and direct influences onCET4listening, reading and writing sub-scores, while the other three sets of strategiesmay have indirect influences on these sub-scores via cognitive strategies. Decision TreeModel analysis has found out that high frequent use of cognitive strategies tends to winmore points, high frequent test-wiseness strategy use has a limited effect, andmetacognitive and test management strategy use have no significant effect at all.Considering CET may promote cognitive strategy use, which in turn helps improve testperformance, it can be concluded that the direction of CET washback on test-takingstrategy use tends to be positive.Based on the above mentioned conclusions, the present study offers severalsuggestions and feedbacks to the CET developers, university administrators, CollegeEnglish teachers and students.