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Everything you could ever want to know about the Modern Language Aptitude Test

Updated: Jun 7

This article aims to answer every question you could ever want to ask about the MLAT. Listed below are the questions, some of these are links to other articles and the rest are covered within this document.

How is the MLAT administered?

The MLAT can be given to individuals or groups. The following describes the face-to-face administration of the test though the online version is covered further down this page.

The standard Test Kit comprises a Manual, Test Booklet, Practice Exercises Sheet, Examinee Answer Sheet, Hand Scoring Stencil, and CD. The CD contains instructions and stimuli for the entire test, managing the timing of the sections. The test typically lasts 70 mins and you'll have an invigilator there to guide the process. Following the completion of the test, scores are manually calculated using the Hand Scoring Stencil.

Why was the MLAT Online developed?

In the early days, the Language Learning and Testing Foundation (LLTF) with CAPP Associates began developing a computer-based MLAT experience. However, there was a tiny glitch – this test required downloading software onto individual computers. Cool, right? Not so much for our government pals, who, thanks to their strict policies, couldn't download anything onto computers connected to their top-secret networks. Oops!

Fast forward to the era of cat videos and viral memes, LLTF, teamed up with Assessment Systems Inc. and birthed an online MLAT using the Fast Test platform in 2018.

This version allows LLTF's creative minds to craft and immediately field-test new items.

As these questions are born and validated, LLTF plans to unveil additional MLAT versions. Some versions will be saved specially for government agencies to select people for intensive language training.

Are there benefits to the MLAT Online vs the standard MLAT?

The benefits are primarily for the organisation using the test with the obvious advantage of not needing to be in the same physical location as test takers. Here are some other advantages:

  1. Swiftly communicates scores directly to examinees.

  2. Enhanced safeguarding of test materials and results.

  3. Removes worries about examinees marking answers out of order.

  4. Bids farewell to manual scoring; no more scoring slip-ups.

  5. Quick rectification of incorrect answers compared to traditional pencil-and-paper methods.

  6. Ensures a consistent test experience for all examinees.

  7. Automatic entry into an item-level database detailing examinee performance.

  8. Generates statistical reports depicting examinee score distributions and groupings, along with the crafting of local norms.

  9. Permits the tailoring of demographic questionnaires, allowing the inclusion of additional queries for examinees.

  10. Regular infusion of fresh items guarantees sustained validity.

  11. Slashes administration costs for proctoring, setup, scoring, reporting, and storage.

How long is my MLAT score valid?

MLAT scores should have a validity period of no less than 5 years. The evaluation of language aptitude through MLAT portrays it as a consistent trait, resistant to alterations or enhancements induced by courses or experiences. Consequently, under proper administration, MLAT delivers a score theoretically deemed lifelong, although certain circumstances may prompt retesting.

For instance, the identification of physical or learning disabilities hindering a person during the test could warrant a re-administration with suitable accommodations. Allowing individuals to opt for retesting is logical, provided a one-year waiting period is observed, given the singular form of the current test. In retest scenarios, choices range from averaging scores to considering both or focusing solely on the most recent score. Drawing inspiration from the GRE model, which retains scores for only 5 years, multiple scores earned during that period are reported, urging schools to scrutinize scores obtained at separate administrations. For scores exceeding the 5-year mark, the decision is left entirely to the university, with no specific policy guidance provided.

In stark contrast to this perspective on "aptitude" testing, scores on "proficiency" benchmarks such as the TOEFL carry a validity of only two years. This limitation stems from the belief that language proficiency is a trait susceptible to both improvement and decline within that timeframe or longer. Even when the TOEFL is taken multiple times within a two-year period, ETS recommends prioritizing the most recent score as the most valid.

An additional caveat concerning the interpretation of language aptitude scores surpassing a year involves referencing the appropriate set of norms in the manual. For instance, if a college freshman presents an MLAT score obtained at age 14 as a high school freshman, interpreting it based on the "College Freshman" norms is not advised. Instead, the interpretation should align with the 9th-grade norms, reflecting the individual's academic standing at the time of testing.

How long is the MLAT?

The MLAT should take 70 minutes.

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