Dynamic Assessment of IELTS Speaking

A Learning-Oriented Approach to Test Preparation


  • Valeriya Minakova The Pennsylvania State University




Dynamic Assessment (DA), Test Preparation, The International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Systemic-Theoretical Instruction (STI)


This paper presents the results of a qualitative case study that explored the potential of Dynamic Assessment (DA) to promote language development for students preparing for the International English Testing System (IELTS) speaking exam. Two high-intermediate learners of English from an Intensive English Program (IEP) in the U.S. participated in a three-week mediation program aimed at improving their use of tense-aspect markers in speaking. The transfer tasks conducted at the end of the program indicated that both participants gained better control over the use of past tense as well as perfect and progressive aspects. Their improved ability was demonstrated by the appropriate and independent use of the target forms and frequent attempts to self-correct. The study provides an example of how DA can be integrated into the test preparation context to promote learners’ language skills within their Zone of Proximal Development.

Author Biography

Valeriya Minakova, The Pennsylvania State University

Valeriya Minakova is a PhD student in the Department of Applied Linguistics at The Pennsylvania State University. She holds a BA in English Philology, Moscow State University, 2012; and an MA in TESOL, American University, Washington, DC, 2016. Valeriya has extensive experience of teaching IELTS/TOEFL test preparation courses in Russia and the U.S.


Aljaafreh, A., and Lantolf, J. P. (1994). Negative feedback as regulation and second language learning in the zone of proximal development. The Modern Language Journal 78: 465–483. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4781.1994.tb02064.x

Antón, M. (2003). Dynamic assessment of advanced foreign language learners. Paper presented at the American Association of Applied Linguistics. Washington, DC, March.

Antón, M. (2009). Dynamic assessment of advanced second language learners. Foreign Language Annals 42: 576–598. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1944-9720.2009.01030.x

Campione, J. C., and Brown, A. L. (1987). Linking dynamic testing with school achievement. In C. S. Lidz (Ed.), Dynamic Testing, 82–115. New York: Guilford Press.

Crocker, L. (2006). Preparing examinees for test taking: Guidelines for test developers and test users. In S. M. Downing and T. M. Haladyna (Eds), Handbook of Test Development, 115–128. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Derrick, D. (2013). Teaching beyond the test: A method for designing test preparation classes. English Teaching Forum 5 1(4): 20–27.

Farnsworth, T. (2013). Effects of targeted test preparation on scores of two tests of oral English as a second language. TESOL Quarterly 47 (1): 148–155. https://doi.org/10.1002/tesq.75

Fulcher, G. (2010). Practical Language Testing. London: Hodder Education.

Gebril, A. (2018). Test preparation in the accountability era: Toward a learning-oriented approach. TESOL Journal 9 (1): 4–16. https://doi.org/10.1002/tesj.302

Higgins, B., Miller, M. and Wegmann, S. (2006), Teaching to the test… Not! Balancing best practice and testing requirements in writing. The Reading Teacher 60: 310–319. https://doi.org/10.1598/RT.60.4.1

IELTS numbers rise to three million a year (2017). Retrieved from https://www.ielts.org/en-us/news/2017/ielts-numbers-rise-to-three-million-a-year

Infante, P. (2016). Mediated Development: Promoting L2 Conceptual Development Through Interpsychological Activity. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.

Lantolf, J. P., and Poehner, M. E. (2004). Dynamic assessment of L2 development: Bringing the past into the future. Journal of Applied Linguistics 1: 49–72. https://doi.org/10.1558/japl.

Lantolf, J. P., and Poehner, M. E. (2011). Dynamic assessment in the foreign language classroom: A teacher’s guide. University Park, PA: CALPER Publications.

Lantolf, J. P., and Poehner, M. E. (2011a). Dynamic assessment in the classroom: Vygotskian praxis for second language development. Language Teaching Research 15: 11–33. https://doi.org/10.1177/1362168810383328

Lantolf, J. P., and Poehner, M. E. (2014). Sociocultural Theory and the Pedagogical Imperative in L2 Education. Vygotskian Praxis and the Theory/Practice Divide. New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203813850

Lantolf, J. P., and Thorne, S. L. (2006). Sociocultural Theory and the Genesis of Second Language Development. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Larsen-Freeman, D., Kuehn, T. and Haccius, M. (2002). Helping students make appropriate English verb tense-aspect choices. TESOL Journal 11 (4): 3–9.

Levi, T. (2015). Towards a framework for assessing foreign language oral proficiency in a large-scale test setting: Learning from DA mediation examinee verbalizations. Language and Sociocultural Theory 2 (1): 1–24. https://doi.org/10.1558/lst.v2i1.23968

Levi, T. (2016). Developing L2 oral language proficiency using concept-based Dynamic Assessment within a large-scale testing context. Language and Sociocultural Theory 3 (2): 77–100. https://doi.org/10.1558/lst.v3i2.32866

Luria, A. R. (1961). Study of the abnormal child. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 31: 1–16.

Messick, S. (1996). Validity and washback in language testing. Language Testing 13 (3): 241–256. https://doi.org/10.1177/026553229601300302

Nassaji, H., and Swain, M. (2000). A Vygotskyan perspective towards corrective feedback in L2: The Effect of random vs. negotiated help on the acquisition of English articles. Language Awareness 9: 34–51. https://doi.org/10.1080/09658410008667135

Negueruela, E. (2003). Systemic-Theoretical Instruction and L2 Development: A Sociocultural Approach to Teaching-Learning and Researching L2 Learning. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.

Poehner, M. E. (2005). Dynamic assessment of oral proficiency among advanced L2 learners of French. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.

Poehner, M. E. (2007). Beyond the test: L2 dynamic assessment and the transcendence of mediated learning. The Modern Language Journal 91 (3): 323–340. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4781.2007.00583.x

Radloff, C. F. (1991). Sentence Repetition Testing for Studies of Community Bilingualism. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics and the University of Texas at Arlington.

Sternberg, R. J., and Grigorenko, E. L. (2002). Dynamic Testing. The Nature and Measurement of Learning Potential. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.



How to Cite

Minakova, V. (2020). Dynamic Assessment of IELTS Speaking: A Learning-Oriented Approach to Test Preparation. Language and Sociocultural Theory, 6(2), 184–212. https://doi.org/10.1558/lst.36658