Axiomatic in computer-aided instructional strategies is the goal of individualized instruction. In foreign language instruction, however, the kinds of individuation needed are particularly complex. Most college-level students of a foreign language have had some prior training. Yet their proficiency in the so-called four skills (reading, writing, speaking, listening-comprehension) is rarely uniform. Traditionally, placement tests have been used to determine the appropriate course in a multicourse sequence. The student with some prior language training takes the test and, on the basis of a composite score, is told to register for foreign language 1, 2, 3 or 4. Some placement tests provide subscores for one or more of the four skills. Unfortunately, no existing placement tests give the precise diagnosis needed to interface with a CAL curriculum. In a CAL context, an overall score is not sufficient. To make most effective use of instructional time, scores relating to the student's ability to handle particular features of the language are crucial. One needs to know which language features the student is able to manipulate adequately and those which he cannot. With a complete profile of the student's language skills, CAL units can be used to 'fill in the gaps' and to assure a smooth transition into the course sequence. Such a diagnostic test has been implemented for French on the PLATO system at the University of Illinois, Urbana campus. A 2-h test provides a profile for each student's performance using a matrix of 300 lexical, morphological and syntactic cells. Furthermore, the test indicates the student's proficiency in reading, writing and listening skills (an audio device is used for the latter). Instructors and students report their satisfaction with the program. Students especially like the ease with which the answers are entered and reviewed before they are submitted for evaluation. Instructors appreciate the detailed profiles and the sensitive partial answer scoring algorithm. Although presently used for diagnostic testing for French, the testing strategies employed in EXAM can be adapted to other foreign languages. © 1979.
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