Home Page   About DIRECTIONS   Editorial Board   Contact Us   For Authors    

Current Issue





1. The birth and growth of the KPG exam suite

This volume, the contents of which were prepared a few years ago, is published in printed form this year to celebrate ten years of the KPG (an acronym of the Greek title “Kratiko Pistopiitiko Glossomathias”, which translates into English as State Certificate for Foreign Language Proficiency). In Greece, a certificate such as this is highly valued because it is viewed as a work qualification and professional credential, as attestation to target language literacy, a requirement for admittance into some university programmes, an instrument for lifelong learning and a passport for educational and professional mobility inside and outside the European Union. In other words, a certificate of foreign language proficiency counts as ‘cultural capital’ for the beholder.

The KPG exam suite, governed by the Greek Ministry of Education, was instituted by law in 1999 but it became operational in 2002. Created and developed by a determined team of experts from the two major universities in Greece, who were appointed by Ministerial decree to form the Central Examination Board,[1] in 2003 KPG launched exams in the four most widely taught languages in Greece: English, French, German and Italian. From the very start, the exam suite used the CEFR as a springboard for content specifications and the six-level scale of the Council of Europe was adopted. The levelled descriptors developed for the exam suite were aligned to the CEFR, benchmarked and calibrated. Test paper development and research related to test validity and assessment reliability are the responsibility of foreign language and literature departments of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

The language exams in pen-and-paper form, presently offered twice a year, are administered by the Greek Ministry of Education,[2]  ensuring exam confidentiality and venue security by using the support mechanism with which the Ministry is equipped in order to conduct the national university-entrance exams. The exams contain test tasks that assess candidates’ skills, strategies and competencies that facilitate communication in the workplace and in society at large. The certificate of foreign language proficiency is issued, sealed and signed by the Ministry of Education. It is, therefore, a product and a service offered by the state, which certifies the proficiency in languages which are of value to our society, at no material or symbolic profit.

Test paper content must be approved by the Examination Board before being disseminated, through a V.B.I. (vertical blanking interval) system, to state-selected examination centres throughout the country. The administration of the exams is directed and regulated by the KPG Board which is also responsible for specifications regarding exam format and structure, as well as scoring regulations. In addition to the aforementioned, the KPG Board functions in an expert consulting capacity, advising the Ministry of Education on matters regarding the development of the system, exam policies and law amendments, new and revised regulations.

The KPG exams, subsidised by the state, are an economical alternative to commercial testing. Unlike international proficiency testing with its overpriced fees, the KPG Board is concerned about how to make the exams as affordable as possible to the average Greek candidate. So, apart from the fact that testing fees are about half the price of commercial international exams, it was recently decided to develop and administer graded, intergraded paper-based exams with which a candidate pays a single exam fee, sits for one exam, but may be certified in one of two levels of proficiency. Each test paper includes tasks for two levels of language proficiency (A1+A2, B1+B2 and C1+C2) and candidates have a double shot for a certificate –for either the higher or the lower of the two scales, depending on the level of their performance.

There are a series of other KPG tactical moves aiming at implementing a people’s economy approach. One of them is the policy not to assign a numerical score to the successful candidate, whose proficiency is identified by the highest certificate s/he has obtained. Therefore, the issue of score expiration does not arise, as it does for some commercial English proficiency exams which stipulate that scores are valid for two years (so that after that the tests have to be taken and paid for all over again). A second tactical move is to set up examination centres not only in big cities, but also in towns and on the islands, so that candidates do not have to bear the additional cost of travelling to the bigger cities as they have to do for international exams. In case it becomes too expensive to send non-local examiners to conduct the speaking test, it is currently carried out through video-conferencing, as the Ministry of Education has a direct connection with each of the exam centres all over Greece.

Law and KPG regulations stipulate that only public schools be used as official exam centres that these centres be under the control of local educational authorities, and that the exam committees, the secretarial assistants and the invigilators are, all of them, educators working for the public school system which makes them more accountable for security measures.

Concern about both providing a low-cost alternative to candidates and contributing to the sustainability of the system has not led to measures, which could jeopardise the validity and reliability of the exams. Therefore, the KPG has not resorted to the cost-saving solution that most international proficiency tests opt for, i.e., having a single examiner to conduct the speaking test. To ensure fair marking, KPG law and regulations require that oral performance be assessed and marked by two examiners, who must be both present in the room where the speaking test is being carried out. As such, a large number of trained examiners are sent to exam centres all over the country to conduct the speaking test on the same weekend that the rest of the test papers are administered, though it is a rather costly solution, which most international exams do not prefer.  Even though the option of finishing off in one weekend is ultimately to the candidate’s benefit, the decision was made for the sake of confidentiality. That is to say, when a speaking test is administered over the period of say one month, there is always a danger of the test tasks ‘leaking’ and this would be a serious drawback for a national exam.

Moreover, at each exam period, trained observers are sent out to different selected centres, not only to monitor the speaking test procedure, but also to assess examiners’ conduct during the test, their understanding of the evaluation criteria and the marking reliability. Despite the cost, the observation system is systematically implemented throughout the country, aimed at ensuring marking reliability and inter-rater agreement.

Special concern with fair marking has led to the KPG using two of its trained script raters to mark each candidate’s script, as well as script-rater ‘coordinators’ (one for every group of 20) who function both as directors and facilitators during the script assessment and marking process. This means that each script is blindly marked by two raters, on the basis of very detailed evaluation criteria, as presented by the relevant exposé by Mitsikopoulou (this volume). If the Script Rating secretariat discovers that there is greater rater disagreement than the system allows, a special screening process is used.

The whole system was built progressively, introducing one major innovation every two years, until it finally grew into the ‘glocal’ suite that it is today focusing on the Greek learner’s use of the target language, rather than on the system of each language separately. It has developed a glocal (global + local) character, in the sense that the KPG exam suite takes into account local needs and experiences, but also global conditions of knowledge and production, as well as international concerns regarding testing and assessment.[3]

On its tenth anniversary, in November 2013, the KPG examination suite 0 is also celebrating the launch of the C2 level certificate, awarded to candidates who successfully pass the (inter)graded C level examination, in one of the five languages in which pen-and-paper exams are conducted twice a year: in the first two weeks of May and of November –all in one weekend. These five languages are English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. Turkish, the sixth language in which KPG exams are offered, are tested once a year but only up to C1 level, given that there seems to be no need for the C2 level certificate for the language of our neighbours at the moment.

2. An exam suite…of the people, by the people, for the [Greek] people

As has already become obvious form the above, KPG was established for the benefit of people living, studying and working in Greece. There is an underlying assumption that candidates all understand Greek, which is the common KPG language, i.e. the language which is used to inform the public about the system, exam content and administration, for the purpose of transparency. Greek is also our working language for example when conducting surveys and other relevant research, when theorizing on issues having to do with the exams and candidates’ performance in particular and, generally, when communicating with the public. While quite a few studies and postgraduate theses have been produced in English,[4] because this enables us to converse on academic issues with the international testing community, but as KPG is addressed to a Greek audience, all ‘business’ regarding our exams is conducted in Greek, and most of the tools and materials around the exams are developed in Greek. 

The use of Greek, as reported above, has both advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are several, the most obvious one being that the use of the official language of the state allows us to be in actual fact transparent for the sake of our clients and to whoever decides for or with them. This is something which is also pointed out by Kia Karavas in the article she prepared for this volume about fairness and ethics with regard to the KPG. Another very important advantage is that by using Greek for KPG work, an academic discourse around foreign language teaching, testing and assessment has developed in our mother tongue. Up until now, any discussion on the teaching, learning, testing and assessment of language competences in Greece was carried out in the respective foreign language. Examiner and script-rater training for, say, the speaking test in English or Italian was done exclusively in the foreign language and so were initial and in-service teacher training seminars of Greek foreign language teachers by Greek trainers! Essentially, there was no ‘language’ in Greek to conduct seminars and to talk about issues in foreign language didactics and testing.

A significant disadvantage, on the other hand, is that by using Greek we are excluded from the international language testing scene, and it is difficult to have the qualities of our exam system evaluated or valued. Most importantly, it is more difficult for the KPG to gain face validity and recognition outside of Greece. Fortunately, of course, because our certificate is issued and bears the seal of the Ministry of Education, a public service organization of a member state, it is recognized as valid within the European Union. From a language point of view, therefore, what is stated in the first page of the CEFR is only partly true. The assertion that in providing a common basis for the explicit description of objectives, content and methods, the CEFR promotes international co-operation in the field of modern languages, facilitates the mutual recognition of qualifications and accordingly aids European mobility, does not reveal the fact that ‘explicit description of objectives, content and methods’ must be done in a widely used language – preferably English! In understanding that this is the reality, whether we like it or not, efforts are made to present and publish as much information as possible in English, and in other KPG languages, though translation work is both laborious and expensive. For example, the KPG website, which is hosted at the University of Athens, is in both Greek and English: http://rcel.enl.uoa.gr/kpg/.[5]  

Based on an ideology of ‘language fusion’ and ‘language blending’, rather than of ‘language separateness’, the KPG is alone, to this day, in insisting that one of the most useful social practices that a foreign language speaker is routinely involved in is cross-language mediation –the act of acting as an intermediary between languages, cultures, discourses and texts. Mediation, in the heart of which is the process of meaning making and transformation, requires new linguistic and cultural concepts but also strategies and approaches not necessarily taught but required for effective citizenry in multicultural and multilingual societies. This is why the KPG exams entail, the testing of mediation performance, alongside target language comprehension and production. In fact, written and oral mediation tasks are an essential part of the KPG exams –an interesting issue, which I discuss at length in the paper I prepared for this volume.

To conclude this section of the introduction, it must be pointed out that, despite its international orientation and its European character, the KPG exams focus on the Greek user of the target language, the thematic concerns of test texts and activities are socially sensitive, and the whole system aims to cater to local needs. It is designed to respond to the demands of education and the Greek labour market. This explains the emphasis on language use, rather than language structure, and its adoption of a genre-based approach to writing described in the exposé by Dendrinos and Mitsikopoulou (in this volume). Of course, tests are designed taking into serious account the candidates for whom they are constructed, i.e., their interests, lived experiences, linguistic and cultural knowledge.

A negative point is that KPG exams are not sufficiently advertised and promoted, which means that many people in Greece still do not know that such a system exists to service the Greek candidate, while some of its procedures such as exam registration are dated and must be upgraded through the use of management information systems. However, teachers in state schools are increasingly interested in the KPG exams and their being more systematically linked with school education than they are now. They seem to believe that the preparation for exams that will provide them with a certificate with practical value will motivate their students to work harder in the foreign language class. Also, the Ministry of Education is under some pressure recently to provide opportunity for proficiency certification within the context of the public school system, so that the average Greek family does not have to pay so much money for preparation classes offered by private-tuition language schools, most of which are associated directly with international exam systems.

For the moment it is linked with school education in the sense that (a) the FL school curricula are taken into account for its specifications, and vice-versa, (b) KPG preparation has been introduced in some school support programmes. Moreover, it is linked in the sense that it has a backwash effect on language teaching/ learning practices in schools, it shapes attitudes to language and language learning, and it motivates the development of strategies for speech comprehension and production.

On an experimental basis, exam preparation courses have been operating in a number of urban and rural schools.[6] The educational aim of these prep courses has been (a) to train target level participants so as to develop the strategies for success in the KPG exams, and (b) to provide fertile ground to participating instructors so that they design suitable syllabi and prepare guidelines for the use of past exam papers as teaching materials for prep courses in schools.

3. KPG as a multilingual enterprise

Mediation, being one of the novel components of our exams, is not the only trait of our multilingual examination system, which we aspire to be in the service of multilingualism. KPG is multilingual in the sense that it has common specifications for the modules in all its languages, which follow common test-paper guidelines, and performance is tested and assessed in a unified manner, from A1 to level C2 level, in all KPG languages. Also, it is multilingual in the sense that the multifaceted research carried out over the years uses the rich array of linguistic resources that the exam system provides to study a variety of issues in testing and assessment. As a matter of fact, research around the KPG exams provides interesting data and findings across its languages. The point of departure for our research is the use and the user of language(s) rather than the formal linguistic system. In other words, we focus on the language user rather than on the language structure of a single language, as do the international examination systems. One revealing example of our commitment to the language user instead of the properties of language is “The Greek Foreign Language Learner Profile Project.” By investigating how Greek learners use a foreign language in various communicative contexts at each level of proficiency, with this project we attempt to describe linguistically and to document learners’ use of the KPG languages –using extensive empirical evidence (i.e. language data produced by KPG candidates).[7]

4. Research instigated by the KPG exams

Research and investigation around the KPG exams is increasingly providing facts and figures which allows us to ensure and improve, when necessary, exam quality and effectiveness. We consistently obtain information from our stakeholders and particularly from our candidates. A wide range of tools have been devised with which to obtain feedback from test takers oral examiners, script raters, and oral exam observers during each exam administration period. Special questionnaires have also been developed to investigate the profile of KPG candidates, and specifically their attitudes and opinions regarding the test papers in English. As a matter of fact, one aspect of this research project is presented in this volume by Jenny Liontou, who discusses reading comprehension text and task difficulty from the test-takers’ perspective i.e., their attitudes towards and opinions about the lexical complexity of the texts, the difficulty of the tasks and their familiarity with or preference for specific text topics. 

Among our most important and systematic tasks in between periods is to analyse test takers’ scores on different test papers. Extended and systematic investigation is conducted on test paper difficulty (eg. see research reports on listening and writing task difficulty in this volume), as well as on test-paper content and construct validity. Equally important is for us to examine the input and output of the exams in the different languages, so as to make reliable comparisons. The quality of the oral test, the validity of speaking and mediation tasks, examiner attitudes toward the speaking test and examiner conduct are also systematically investigated. So, are test-taking strategies used by KPG test takers which seem to have a positive relationship with the success rate of candidates –an issue discussed by Maria Stathopoulou, whose paper in this volume discusses the KPG test-taking strategies project, finally focusing on the strategies prospective candidates use before and after they are trained for the KPG writing test. Last but not least, the quality of script evaluation and scoring, for sustainable inter-rater reliability, is a focal point of ongoing investigation. One significant aspect of the research is discussed by Vassilis Hartzoulakis in this volume.

Data collected through the use of increasingly improved research tools are systematically analysed by the Work Teams of each language and findings are then shared by the Teams. When especially interesting issues arise, they are discussed at official meetings of the Central Examination Board and outcomes of discussions often inform the Board’s decisions. Descriptive but also comparative analysis offers interesting results which are reported systematically –though in Greek. The data and findings have stimulated academic research in Greek, but also in English, as revealed by the KPG bibliography, appended to this introduction, while a few aspects of the aforementioned concerns are touched upon in the papers included in this volume.

While carrying out a related project, financed by the European Union and Greek funds, it has also been possible to collect information about the quality of work carried out at Examination Centres and the conduct of the Exam Centre’s Committees, their invigilators and the language examiners. This funding, but also the independent financial support that was provided by the state in the past, has helped us ensure the validity of the assessment procedure through the systematic training of the KPG assessors.

KPG script raters are systematically trained. Before they are allowed to be enrolled in the KPG Registry, they have to be educated with regard to the theory of language underlying the writing test, the content and structure of the writing and mediation test for each level, and the use of the assessment criteria. Then, in order to take part in the marking session of each exam period, they must attend seminars during which they discuss the expectations for written language production for the test tasks and do trial marking. During these seminars, script raters are provided with a booklet that contains the test tasks of the specific exam administration, script samples, assessment criteria, rating grids. While at the Marking Centre, they receive additional on-the-job-training by script rater coordinators who monitor the marking process and offer on-the-spot help and advice. The outcomes of the script rating monitoring process and script rater evaluation of course feed into the recurrent training.

The training of ‘certified’ KPG oral examiners, i.e., examiners included in the KPG Registry, is not as rigorous. However, it is systematic.[8] Unfortunately though, recently, there are fewer well-qualified examiners willing to take part in the exams, carried out in one weekend, because examiner fees have been substantially lowered. To ensure that they do their job properly, however, the oral test procedure is monitored and examiners’ performance is evaluated through specially designed observation schemes, as explained in great detail by Xenia Delieza in her paper that appears in this volume.

The KPG programmes for oral-examiner training and for script-rater training are described in detail in exposés by Kia Karavas, in this volume.  

5. ICT in the service to the KPG

5.1 From pen-and-paper to computer adaptive testing

In 2010 it was possible to secure significant funding once more,[9] firstly so as to develop a web based platform and an entire electronic system for computer adaptive tests, as a supplement to pen-and-paper testing, which will not be terminated even when the KPG e-test is being offered as of 2014 –at first on a pilot basis.

Like the pen-and-paper version, the electronic version of the KPG exams in all KPG languages –English included, of course– is designed to measure, on the six-level scale of the Council of Europe (levels A1-C2), candidates’ performance in (i) Reading comprehension and language awareness, (ii) Writing and written mediation, (iii) Listening comprehension, and (iv) Speaking and oral mediation. In both the pen-and-paper and the electronic version of the exams, candidates are assessed for their performance at each level of proficiency, on the basis of the KPG leveled descriptors, aligned to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and available in the KPG Handbook.[10] Passing the exam, in any of the languages offered by the KPG suite, means that holders of the state certificate have been benchmarked for their ability to use the target language. 

5.2   The e-test in brief

Oral and written performance is tested separately, once the level of the candidates has been diagnosed with regard to reading and listening comprehension performance. The output of the writing and speaking test is assessed and marked by trained professionals, not by the computer. Reading comprehension, language awareness, and listening comprehension are tested with a single, intergraded, adaptive computer tool (henceforth referred to as e-test, for short). As it contains objective items only, candidates’ responses are computer marked. The e-test items are grouped in four general categories: 1) Multiple-choice, 2) Matching, 3) Completion, and 4) Fill in. For the first 3 categories, candidates either tick, or drag-and-drop the right answer. For category 4, they type the item in.

The smallest unit of this e-test is not a single item, but a task –a task which contains 5 items. The specific attribute makes the KPG e-test different from a lot of other e-tests. Moreover, the test tasks are typically based on texts extracted from a variety of sources and discourse environments. They are what we call authentic texts, i.e., texts in their original form, or authentic-like.

Like in the case of the pen-and-paper tests, comprehension questions/items are typically inferential, even at lower levels of proficiency, rather than purely ‘linguistic’. The KPG exams avoid questions such as: What does such and such a word or phrase mean in this context? It also avoid items such as: Listen and choose the right picture (whereby candidates must choose the picture in which the word that they hear is depicted). Language awareness questions/items are typically inferential too, even at lower levels of proficiency, rather than purely ‘linguistic’. The KPG exams avoid items such as: Listen and fill in the right word, whereby candidates must choose the word they hear in one linguistic context and fit it into another. The KPG task is more likely to ask the candidate to: Listen and choose the right word, which they do not actually hear but deduce on the basis of what they hear.

On a more general note, when we refer to language awareness, we have in mind the candidate’s ability to recognise and appreciate how the target language is typically used to achieve communication. This includes both linguistic and sociolinguistic features of language, while it involves language use in utterances and texts as articulations of discourse. Testing language awareness at lower levels of proficiency (A1 and A2) usually involves the candidate in distinguishing or selecting the right word in an utterance or text, in terms of meaning and form, but after deducing which word it is. At B and C levels, language awareness involves one’s increasing ability to identify, select and use language features which are both correct and appropriate given the context.

5.3   E-test format

Whereas the smallest KPG testing entity is a 5-item task, its prime component is a testlet; i.e., a unit containing three 3 test tasks (totaling 15 items). One of these tasks is a reading comprehension task, the second is a language awareness task, and the third is a listening comprehension task. Tasks are automatically selected by the test generator, following certain rules (set by the KPG e-test algorithm) as to which task type to select for each testlet.

As mentioned earlier, the e-test is an intergraded measurement tool. This means that it contains tasks of all six levels of language proficiency and the test taker can select which level tasks s/he wants to start with. The e-test is also an adaptive tool as most computerized testing is. This means that the test generator selects from a pool of calibrated tasks which must be available for the selection process. The calibration is achieved through the use of a psychometric model, which is used to analyse tasks which have been piloted (through another operative procedure carried out with the help of a piloting tool).

A complete A1, A2 or B1 level test contains 3 testlets (i.e., 45 items), whereas a B2, C1 or C2 level test contains 4 testlets (60 items) organized in triads. 

How does an adaptive tool work? It successively selects tasks for the purpose of maximizing the precision of the exam based on what is known about the testee from previous tasks.  In other words, the difficulty of the test tailors itself to the testee’s performance. So, for example, if a testee performs well on a B1 level testlet, s/he will then be presented with a B2 level testlet. If s/he performs poorly, s/he will be presented with an A2 level testlet. As mentioned earlier, the testee selects the level of testlet s/he wants to start off with, but how s/he will continue depends on how s/he does on that first testlet. This means that, as a result of adaptive administration, different candidates receive quite different tests.

5.4   Web training and the KPG e-school 

On account of the secured funding, KPG has been making systematic efforts to upgrade its services in order to be able to have web based communication with interested parties and e-training for its evaluators through a new sophisticated portal. Specifically, another web based platform which is being built is intended to offer on- and off-line training to current and future KPG examiners and script raters. This platform is attached onto the KPG portal that will also accommodate the KPG e-school.

Though the digital KPG school is not yet fully constructed, one can visit it (providing that the reader can understand Greek – http://rcel.enl.uoa.gr/kpgeschool/) to see how it is being built. One of its main purposes is to help those who want to prepare for the exams on their own and/or to prepare others to sit for the exams. It has four virtual ‘classrooms’: one is for students and (prospective) candidates, one is for language teachers who are helping or want to help their students prepare for the exams, one is for (prospective) candidates’ parents or guardians, who are important KPG exam stakeholders, and the forth classroom is for KPG oral examiners and script raters of each of the KPG languages. It provides material and e-courses for them so that they can be trained on- and off-line.

6. Comparing and contrasting KPG to other exam batteries

There are numerous ‘international’ language proficiency tests operating in Greece and their certificates are recognized as valid by the High Council for the Selection of Personnel (A.S.E.P.) –a national organization that inspects documents and runs exams for candidates seeking a position in public services. The recognition by this prestigious organization in a sense validates these certificates though the testing enterprises have never been evaluated for accreditation purposes. Their recognition depends on a Ministerial decree issued in the 1940s stating, crazy as this sounds, that language exams should be prepared by a recognized university in the country where the language examined is the official language.

Just for the English language, there are over 15 ‘international’ testing enterprises operating in Greece. Some of them are well-known and well-respected exam batteries that operate successfully all over the world, while others are neither well established outside of the Greek market, nor active in testing all four language competences (reading and writing, listening and speaking). They are nevertheless equally recognized by A.S.E.P., plus their fees are cheaper. So they survive and they too are ‘competitors’ to the KPG exams, following the rules of commercial enterprises as they do, because this is exactly what they all are. Commercial testing is in the business of selling tests (and certificates) to those willing to buy services and the product, usually intensely advertised. One should also remember that in Greece, there is a mentality that certain people still carry, which boils down to that anything foreign (alas from a country that has prestige because of its economic and political power) is superior to something produced in Greece. Of course, this clashes with a nationalist mentality just as real in certain groups of people, and both do affect choice of exams to a certain extent, though there are many other factors involved. 

Generally speaking, the international testing industry is less interested in responding to social needs for testing and certification. It is, like any other business ‘pushing’ their services or products, interested in helping to shape needs. The more prestigious the brand of the certificate –prestige being linked to the name of the institution preparing exams; for example, the name of reputable English or American university, or the title of the institution organizing the exams, as for example the Goethe Institute, the Alliance Française.

What the KPG has in its favour is its connection with two well-respected universities for the preparation of the exams and the fact that the certificate is validated by the signature and seal of the Ministry of Education. It is indeed a low-cost exam suite, given that it is not a commercial enterprise, and though the exam organization operation has room for improvement, there is an increasing support to the “Greek exams” by state school teachers and others who are, unsuccessfully, urging the Ministry to promote its own exams!

The most essential distinctive characteristic between all the other foreign language exams carried out in Greece for certification purposes and the KPG exam suite is that this is a localized system and, as such, it is very different from international exam batteries that address an undefined, general audience and cannot possibly cover the particular needs of specific peoples and language users who are as diverse as the peoples in Africa, China, Japan and Europe that has its own excessive diversity. International proficiency testing is by default a monolingual project. It does not involve adjustments to the cultural, linguistic or other needs of particular domestic markets because this would mean that the same product could not be sold in different cultures. It would need to be adjusted and to involve more than one language, which would complicate matters from a financial point of view.

KPG shares more similarities with other non-commercial, state-supported testing systems, such as the French and the Finnish language proficiency exams. The basic link between them is that all three are not profit-driven commercial exams; they are public service organizations. The French exam, however, is intended to test a single language. Operated by the Centre international d'étude pédagogiques, under the aegis of the French Ministry of Education, it has been developed to test proficiency in French as a foreign language and it is mainly for students of French outside of France. However, the French exam, which is similar to other national exams for the certification of proficiency in their languages (e.g. the Goethe, the Cervantes or the CELI exams) is very different from the Greek and Finnish national language exams because the latter two are multilingual suites. They are intended to test proficiency in several languages. Both these suites have been built taking into account domestic needs related to the languages they include. For example, as already mentioned, the KPG exams are offered in foreign languages that are important for Greece.

There are, of course, differences also between the Finnish and the Greek exam suites. Two of the most important ones are KPG’s insistence on (a) testing performance rather than competence, which derives from its view of language not as a structural but as a semiotic system, and (b) its support to multilingualism. As regards the latter point one should not forget that KPG is the first exam battery to legitimate language blending as part of the testing procedure. It is also one of the exam batteries which is preoccupied with candidates’ awareness of how language operates to create meanings, and how they use their multiliteracies and intercultural awareness when performing with the target language.

Systematic description of test tasks in all KPG languages shows that KPG exams are characterized by a greater variety of discourses, genres and registers than in the tests of other exams, higher demand as to appropriate language use, i.e. use according to context, and the multimodality of source texts. There are many more differences – as well as multitude of similarities but a methodical account of differences and similarities with each of the other exam suites operational in Greece is beyond the scope of the present text.[11]


Apostolou, E. (2010). Comparing Perceived and Actual Task and Text Difficulty in the Assessment of Listening Comprehension. Papers from LAEL PG, 5, 26-47.

Balourdi, A. (2012). World representations in language exam batteries: critical discourse analysis of texts used to test reading comprehension (Doctoral dissertation) . Faculty of English Language and Literature (http://rcel.enl.uoa.gr/kpg/gr_research_phd_balourdi.htm)

Delieza, X. (2011). Co-construction’ in the B2 and C1 KPG oral exams: a comparison of examiners as a factor involved in candidates’ performance. Research Papers in Language Teaching and Learning. Faculty of Humanities. Hellenic Open University, Greece. 

Dendrinos, B. (2006). Mediation in communication, language teaching and testing. Journal of Applied Linguistics, 22, 9–35.

Dendrinos, Bessie (2009). Rationale and Ideology of the KPG Exams. ELT News. Available at: http://rcel.enl.uoa.gr/kpg/gr_kpgcorner_sep2009.htm.

Dendrinos, B. (2009). Prep Couses for the Exams in School? ELT News. Available at: http://rcel.enl.uoa.gr/kpg/gr_kpgcorner_nov2009.htm.

Dendrinos, B. (2013). Social Meanings in Global-glocal Language Proficiency Exams. In C. Tsagari, S. Papadima-Sophocleous & S. Ioannou-Georgiou (Eds.) Language Testing and Assessment around the Globe: Achievements and Experiences (pp. 47-67). Language Testing and Evaluation Series, Peter Lang.

Dendrinos, B. (in press). The KPG Handbook. Athens: RCeL Publications.

Dendrinos, B., & Mitsikopoulou, B. (in press). The KPG Writing Test in English: a Handbook. University of Athens. RCeL Publications.

Dendrinos, B., & Stathopoulou, M. (2010). Mediation activities: cross-Language communication performance. ELT News, 249(12):  http://rcel.enl.uoa.gr/kpg/gr_kpgcorner_may2010.htm.

Gotsoulia, V., & Dendrinos, B. (2011). Towards a Corpus-based Approach to Modelling Language Production of Foreign Language Learners in Communicative Contexts. In Proceedings of the 8th Recent Advances in Natural Language Processing conference. Hissar, Bulgaria.

Karavas, E. (Ed). (2009). The KPG Speaking Test in English: A Handbook. Athens: RCeL Publications.

Karavas, E., & Delieza, X. (2009). On-site observation of KPG oral examiners: Implications for oral examiner training and evaluation Apples. Journal of Applied Language Studies, 3(1), 51-77.

Karatza, S. (2009).  Assessing C1 KPG candidates’ pragmatic competence in written tasks: towards the design of task-specific rating scales (MA dissertation). Faculty of English Language and Literature. University of Athens. (http://rcel.enl.uoa.gr/kpg/ma-karatza.htm).

Liontou, T. (2011). Re-examining text difficulty through automated textual analysis tools and readers’ beliefs: the case of the Greek State Certificate of English Language Proficiency exam. Research Papers in Language Teaching and Learning. Faculty of Humanities, Hellenic Open University, Greece.

Liontou, T. (2013). The effect of text and reader variables on reading comprehension: the case of the Greek State Certificate of English Language Proficiency Exams (KPG) - A New Text Difficulty Index for Automatic Text Classification (Doctoral dissertation). Faculty of English Language and Literature. University of Athens.

Nikaki, D. (2009). Integrating preparation for the A level KPG exams in the ‘All Day’ school programme: A proposal for an exam preparation syllabus (ÌÁ dissertation). Faculty of Faculty of English Language and Literature. University of Athens. Available at: http://rcel.enl.uoa.gr/kpg/ma-nikaki.htm.

Nteliou, E., & Dendrinos, B. (2010). Oral mediation in the KPG exams. ELT News. Available at: http://rcel.enl.uoa.gr/kpg/kpgcorner_june2010.htm .

Oikonomidou, V. (2010). Designing Fair Writing Testing Tasks. In J. Mader and Z. Urkun Putting the CEFR to Good Use: Selected articles by the presenters of the IATEFL Testing, Evaluation and Assessment. Special Interest Group (TEA SIG) and EALTA Conference in Barcelona, Spain.

Stathopoulou, M. (2009). Written mediation in the KPG exams: Source text regulation resulting in hybrid formations (MA dissertation). Faculty of English Language & Literature. University of Athens. Available at: http://rcel.enl.uoa.gr/kpg/texts/MA thesis_Stathopoulou_mediation.pdf

Stathopoulou, M. (2013). Investigating Mediation as Translanguaging Practice in a Testing Context: Towards the Development of Levelled Mediation Descriptors. In the Proceedings of the International Conference Language Testing in Europe: Time for a New Framework? University of Antwerp, Belgium, May 2013.

Stathopoulou, M. (in press, 2013). The linguistic characteristics of KPG written mediation tasks across levels. In Selected Papers from the 20th International Symposium on Theoretical and Applied Linguistics. Poland: Versita Ltd.

Stathopoulou, M., & Nikaki, D. (2009). Test-Taking strategies in the KPG reading test: instrument construction & investigation results. Journal of Applied Linguistics, 25, 129-148.

Tsapaki, E. (2013). Investigating difficult reading comprehension test items: The case of KPG exams. (MA Dissertation). Faculty of English Language & Literature. University of Athens. Available at: http://rcel.enl.uoa.gr/kpg/ma-tsapaki.htm

Tziveloglou, E. (2008). O Ýëåã÷ïò ôçò äåîéüôçôáò äéáìåóïëÜâçóçò êáôÜ ôçí ðéóôïðïßçóç ãëùóóïìÜèåéáò (MA dissertation). Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

Voidakos, I. (2007). What mediators do: Analysing KPG candidates’ actual performance in written mediation tasks (MA dissertation). Faculty of English Language and Literature, University of Athens.


[1] The two members of the Examination Board who have been on board from the very start and are still leading the whole enterprise are Professor Antonis Tsopanoglou, from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and I, representing the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens.

[2] See the appendix for a visual representation of how the system is organised: Figure 1 shows the institutions which are involved in the KPG, Figure 2 presents the exam administration scheme, and Figure 3 shows how Script-rating is organised.

[3] Globalisation involves locally operated schemes, set up to serve domestic social conditions and needs, which are informed by international research and assessment practices. The most obvious benefit of glocal exam suites is that they are low cost alternatives to profit-driven industrialised testing. The less obvious advantage, but perhaps more important, is their socially interested control over forms of knowledge and literacy. Therefore, I should like to suggest that they would constitute a counter-hegemonic option with respect to the acquisition of knowledge –perhaps conducive to socio-political aspirations for democratic citizenry.

[4] For a KPG publications in English, see bibliography, this paper.

[5] The KPG websites of the Ministry of Education and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki are exclusively in Greek. See http://www.kpg.minedu.gov.gr/  & http://kpg.auth.gr/ .

[6] For more information, visit http://rcel.enl.uoa.gr/kpg/kpgcorner_nov2009.htm/ to see Dendrinos, B. (2009) Prep courses for the exams in schools?

[8] Oral examiner training material, and speaking test simulation videos are available to anyone interested at http://rcel.enl.uoa.gr/kpg/exam_train.htm

[9] The first time that the KPG enterprise succeeded in securing funding for its development was in 2007. Specifically, the funding allowed the Work Teams of the five out of the six KPG languages to develop leveled descriptors, which were then aligned and calibrated with those of the CEFR. Moreover, the different actions of the funded project resulted in the development of services, tools, and publications. For more information, visit http://rcel.enl.uoa.gr/kpg/sapig.htm/. Funding secured again in 2010 has helped us carry out quite a significant endeavour, in support of the KPG enterprise once again. For more information, visit http://rcel.enl.uoa.gr/kpg/diapeg.htm/.

[10] The descriptors are presently being refined with language data in the KPG corpus. A brief project description is available at: http://www.rcel.enl.uoa.gr/research/language-education-research/the-greek-foreign-language-learner-profile-project.html.

[11] A superficial attempt to compare exam suites operational in Greece, offering tests and certificates in English language proficiency has been made by the English KPG Work Team and it is available at: http://www.rcel.enl.uoa.gr/services/comparing-elt-testing-suites.html


Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3





Forthcoming Issue
Current Issue
Back Issues

Call for Papers


©2009-2011  ÔìÞìá ÁããëéêÞò Ãëþóóáò êáé Öéëïëïãßáò - ÅÊÐÁ  /  Faculty of English Language and Literature - UOA

Developed By A.Sarafantoni
Designed By