Diagnostic testing of Hong Kong tertiary students’ English language proficiency : the development and validation of DELTA

Alan URMSTON, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Michelle Reyes RAQUEL, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Carrie TSANG, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Copyright © 2013 Centre for Applied English Studies, The University of Hong Kong.


The Diagnostic English Language Tracking Assessment (DELTA) is a web-based English diagnostic testing and tracking system in use at three universities in Hong Kong. Using Rasch measurement techniques, test items are calibrated on a measurement scale and thereby determine learners’ English proficiency empirically. Rasch measurement techniques also allow for the generation of itemized diagnostic reports that students receive after taking the DELTA, which enables them to better manage their language learning by setting themselves clear goals and targets. The system also allows students to track their English language development as each time they take the Assessment they receive a combination of texts and items that are targeted to their proficiency level. This paper reports on the development of the DELTA as an instrument that assesses Hong Kong tertiary students’ English proficiency and on the results of the initial administration of the DELTA in 2011–12.