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Assessing pragmatic competence in oral proficiency interviews at the C1 level with the new CEFR descriptors

  • Eizaga-Rebollar, Bárbara1
  • Heras-Ramírez, Cristina1
  • 1 Department of French and English Studies, University of Cadiz, Avenida Gómez Ulla , (Serbia)
Published Article
Lodz Papers in Pragmatics
De Gruyter
Publication Date
Jul 28, 2020
DOI: 10.1515/lpp-2020-0005
De Gruyter


The study of pragmatic competence has gained increasing importance within second language assessment over the last three decades. However, its study in L2 language testing is still scarce. The aim of this paper is to research the extent to which pragmatic competence as defined by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) has been accommodated in the task descriptions and rating scales of two of the most popular Oral Proficiency Interviews (OPIs) at a C1 level: Cambridge’s Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) and Trinity’s Integrated Skills in English (ISE) III. To carry out this research, OPI tests are first defined, highlighting their differences from L2 pragmatic tests. After pragmatic competence in the CEFR is examined, focusing on the updates in the new descriptors, CAE and ISE III formats, structure and task characteristics are compared, showing that, while the formats and some characteristics are found to differ, the structures and task types are comparable. Finally, we systematically analyse CEFR pragmatic competence in the task skills and rating scale descriptors of both OPIs. The findings show that the task descriptions incorporate mostly aspects of discourse and design competence. Additionally, we find that each OPI is seen to prioritise different aspects of pragmatic competence within their rating scale, with CAE focusing mostly on discourse competence and fluency, and ISE III on functional competence. Our study shows that the tests fail to fully accommodate all aspects of pragmatic competence in the task skills and rating scales, although the aspects they do incorporate follow the CEFR descriptors on pragmatic competence. It also reveals a mismatch between the task competences being tested and the rating scale. To conclude, some research lines are proposed.

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