Determining the Level of a Language Test with English Profile: A Forensic Linguistics Case Study

  • Núria Gavaldà Universidad Internacional de La Rioja/Laboratorio SQ-Lingüistas Forenses
  • Sheila Queralt Laboratorio SQ-Lingüistas Forenses


This article deals with a forensic linguistics case study of the determination of the level of a B1 English multiple-choice test that was challenged in court by numerous candidates on the grounds that it was not of the appropriate level. A control corpus comprising 240 analogous multiple-choice questions from B1 exams aligned with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) was compiled in order to establish a threshold for the percentage of questions of a level higher than that being tested which can be expected in such exams. The analysis was carried out following a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods, with the help of the tool English Profile, which provides Reference Level Descriptions (RLDs) for the English language within the CEFR. The results of the analysis of the control corpus established a baseline of 5 to 7% of questions that include key items classified as higher than B1, while the percentage was 68% in the case of the disputedexam. Thus, the present study proposes a further application of the tool English Profile within the field of forensic linguistics and puts forward the concept of Level Appropriateness Threshold (LAT), analogous to other thresholds established in forensic linguistics, which can serve as a baseline for determining the appropriateness of B1 English multiple-choice exams and a model for other levels and skill areas.

Author Biographies

Núria Gavaldà , Universidad Internacional de La Rioja/Laboratorio SQ-Lingüistas Forenses
Núria Gavaldà holds a PhD in Linguistic Communication and Multilingual Mediation (specialisation in Forensic Linguistics) from Universitat Pompeu Fabra. She is currently a lecturer in English phonetics and linguistics at Universidad Internacional de la Rioja, and she carries out research on L2 speech, forensic phonetics and forensic linguistics. She has published on phonetics and forensic linguistics and has collaborated in several forensic linguistic cases.
Sheila Queralt, Laboratorio SQ-Lingüistas Forenses
Sheila Queralt holds a PhD in Translation and Language Sciences from Universitat Pompeu Fabra. She is currently the director of the Laboratorio SQ-Lingüistas Forenses. She is author of Atrapados por la lengua and the Decalogue for Requesting a Linguistics Expert Report (2020), and coauthor of the books Soy lingüista, lingüista forense (2019) and Fundamentos de la lingüística forense (2019). She collaborates with different Spanish police forces as an expert witness and she is mentor of the National Cyber League organised by the Guardia Civil.


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