The Structural Invariance of a Model of Washback to Test Takers’ Perceptions and Preparation: The Moderating Role of Institutions

Document Type: Research Paper


1 Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz

2 Department of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Letters and Humanities, Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz, Ahvaz, Iran

3 Department of English Language and Literature, College of Letters and Humanities, Shahid Chamran University, Ahvaz, Iran


Test washback is held to be complicated and multifaceted in that a host of cultural, social, individual, test, and institutional factors are involved in shaping it. Thus far, the majority of washback studies have had as their focus the role of teachers in test washback or washback to teachers. How educational environments or institutions might function in isolation or in interaction with other factors in shaping washback to the learners and test takers has not received adequate research attention. The current study examined the mediatory role of academic institutions in washback to learners' perceptions of test content and test preparation. To this aim, 86 senior English students from two universities, one a top tier and the other a low tier one, completed two questionnaires: one on test takers' preparation practices including test analysis, test taking skills, drilling target skills, and socio-affective strategies; and the other on test takers' construal of test demands and uses as well as their expectation of success on the test.  The data analyzed through partial least squares structural equation modeling revealed that a washback model based on expectancy-value theory explains a moderate amount of variance in test preparation. Further, for test takers from the low tier university, favorable perceptions of test content were associated with more value placed on test taking. However, Multi-group analysis pointed to group-invariance of the model across the two institutions, indicating a lack of strong evidence for the mediatory role of educational environments in washback to test takers’ perceptions and preparation.


Alderson, C., & Wall, D. (1993). Does washback exist? Applied Linguistics, 14(2), 115-129.
Byrne, M. B. (2010). Structural equation modeling with AMOS: Basic concepts, applications, and programming: London: Lawrence Erlbaum Association–Publisher.
Chin, w. (2010).  How to write up and report PLS analyses. In E. Vinzi, W. Chin, J. Henseler, & H. Wang (eds). Handbook of partial least squares (pp. 655-690). Springer
Cheng, L., Sun, Y., & Ma, J. (2015). Review of washback research literature within Kane's argument-based validation framework. Language Teaching, 48(4), 436-470.
David, A. (2016). Investigating washback to the learner from the IELTS test in the Japanese tertiary context. Language Testing in Asia, 6, 2-20. doi:10.1186/s40468-016-0030-z
Entwistle, N. J. (1991). Approaches to learning and perceptions of the learning environment. Higher education, 22(3), 201-204.
Farhady, H., & Hedayati, H. (2009). Language assessment policy in Iran. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 29, 132-141.
Freiberg, H. J. (1999). School climate: Measuring, improving, and sustaining healthy learning environments: Psychology Press.
Haenlein, M., & Kaplan, A. M. (2004). A beginner's guide to partial least squares analysis. Understanding statistics, 3(4), 283-297.
Hair, J., Sarstedt, M., Hopkins, L., & Kuppelwieser, V. (2014). Partial least squares structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM) An emerging tool in business research. European Business Review, 26(2), 106-121.
Hair, J. F., Hult, G. T. M., Ringle, C., & Sarstedt, M. (2016). A primer on partial least squares structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM): Sage Publications.
Hamp‐Lyons, L. (1998). Ethical test preparation practice: The case of the TOEFL. TESOL Quarterly, 32(2), 329-337.
Kaur, A., Noman, M., & Awang-Hashim, R. (2017). The role of goal orientations in students’ perceptions of classroom assessment in higher education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 43(3), 1-12.
Larson-Hall, J., & Herrington, R. (2010). Examining the difference that robust statistics can make to studies in language acquisition. Applied Linguistics, 31(3), 368-390.
Messick, S. (1989). Validity. In R. Linn (Ed.), Educational Measurement. New York: Macmillan.
Plonsky, L., Egbert, J., & Laflair, G. T. (2014). Bootstrapping in applied linguistics: Assessing its potential using shared data. Applied Linguistics, 36(5), 591-610.
Qin, X. (2011). Is Test Taker Perception of Assessment Related to Construct Validity. International Journal of Testing, 11(4), 324-348. doi:10.1080/15305058.2011.589018
Ravand, H., & Baghaei, P. (2016). Partial least squares structural equation modeling with R. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 21(11), 1-16.
Sarstedt, M., Henseler, J., & Ringle, C. M. (2011). Multigroup analysis in partial least squares (PLS) path modeling: Alternative methods and empirical results. In Measurement and research methods in international marketing (pp. 195-218). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Shin, S.-K. (2005). Did they take the same test? Examinee language proficiency and the structure of language tests. Language Testing, 22(1), 31-57.
Shohamy, E., Donitsa-Schmidt, S., & Ferman, I. (1996). Test impact revisited: washback effect over time. Language Testing, 13. doi:10.1177/026553229601300305
Smith, C. D., Worsfold, K., Davies, L., Fisher, R., & McPhail, R. (2013). Assessment literacy and student learning: the case for explicitly developing students ‘assessment literacy’. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 38(1), 44-60.
Spratt, M. (2005). Washback and the classroom: the implications for teaching and learning of studies of washback from exams. Language Teaching Research, 9(1), 5-29.
Wall, D., & Alderson, J. C. (1993). Examining washback: The Sri Lankan impact study. Language Testing, 10(1), 41-69
Watanabe, Y. (2004a). Methodology in washback studies Washback in language testing: Research contexts and methods (pp. 19-36). In L. Cheng, Y. Watanabe, & A. Curtis (Eds.), Washback in language testing: Research contexts and methods (pp. 19-36). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.
Watanabe, Y. (2004b). Teacher factors mediating washback. In L. Cheng, Y. Watanabe, & A. Curtis (Eds.), Washback in language testing: Research contexts and methods (pp. 129-146). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.
Westfall, P. H., Young, S. S., & Wright, S. P. (1993). On adjusting P-values for multiplicity. Biometrics, 49(3), 941-945.
Wigfield, A., & Eccles, J. S. (2000). Expectancy-value theory of achievement motivation. Contemporary educational psychology, 25(1), 68-81.
Xie, Q., & Andrews, S. (2013). Do test design and uses influence test preparation? Testing a model of washback with structural equation modeling. Language Testing, 30(1), 49-70
Zhan, Y., & Andrews, S. (2014). Washback effects from a high-stakes examination on out-of-class English learning: insights from possible self-theories. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 21(1), 71-89.