This topic has been divided into two sections: how a PELA is marked or scored, and the uses to which the results of the PELA can be put.

Scoring: If PELA results are to be used to categorise students into those who require additional language development assistance and those who do not, then it is necessary to establish a point or points in the marking scale at which students will be separated (the ‘cut score’). Deciding on the point at which this should be set requires considerable knowledge of language testing, assessment and teaching, and should not be undertaken without careful consideration of all the issues involved.

The majority of institution-wide PELAs in use in Australia present the results to students in the form of a score. In some cases, students receive generic 'descriptors' or comments which are aligned with a given score range, but in other cases individual written feedback is provided to explain the mark awarded. In fewer cases, students do not receive a mark, but are advised in writing that they are eligible for specific language development services, or are informed that they would benefit from participating in language development activities. In a very few instances, students are invited to attend an interview with academic language and learning staff. The choice of how to assess students’ work will ultimately depend on the purpose of the PELA.

What happens after assessment? With some types of PELA, once students obtain their results, any further action has to be initiated by the students themselves. However, there are other models in place for students who are identified as requiring additional language development assistance, as described below.

  • Students undertake compulsory and specified language development programs.
  • Students are recommended to participate in language development programs.
  • The results go to an academic coordinator, who decides what action should be taken.
  • Students are contacted by academic language and learning staff to discuss the next steps.
  • When large numbers of students in a program are identified as requiring targeted support, the curriculum is adapted to accommodate their needs.

A useful reading on this issue is Knoch, U. (2012). At the intersection of language assessment and academic advising: Communicating results of a large-scale diagnostic academic writing assessment to students and other stakeholders. Papers in Language Testing and Assessment, Vol. 1, 2012. Available from