As globalization increases, it’s become critical to design inclusive tests for those whose native language differs from the test language.

Designing fair and inclusive tests for non-native speakers

As globalization and migration increase, it’s become critical to make tests fair for those whose native language is different from that of the test language

Provide translation capabilities

Translation is the strongest tactic for enabling fair and inclusive testing for non-native speakers. Moreover, it supports test-takers’ understanding so they can focus on the subject matter and reduce any potential anxiety.

One approach is to provide the test in more than one language. However, that comes with more cost – both financially and time-related – to create, translate and maintain a test in more than one language.

Another  approach is to offer real-time translation within online tests, such as tools that allow test-takers to highlight any text they want to see in their chosen language and get an instantaneous translation during the assessment.

Regardless of what approach is chosen, translation technology should do the following things in order to be considered truly accessible:

  • Support test-taker’s choice of language, including instructions. This one is straightforward – provide a multitude of language choices. This includes not only for the test questions and answers but also for the instructions.
  • Support authoring of questions in any language and character set. If you build your test around the English language, there’s no room for certain characters and symbols used in other languages, such as accents in Spanish or characters in Chinese. Numbers should be localized as well.
  • Include right-to-left languages. Any translation you provide should conform to test-takers’ expectations, including for right-to-left languages, such as Arabic. Moreover, the layout, icons and graphics should mirror this orientation, so it’s a consistent experience for the test-taker.

Offer additional accommodations

When translating tests is not possible, other options should be provided to test-takers. A common tactic is to give more time to non-native speakers, so they have the bandwidth to digest their own translations with less pressure. Text-to-speech audio tools may help them understand words better when played aloud, and dictionaries can also be provided to takers to better comprehend words in the test.

Education is a human right

In conclusion, providing accommodations for non-native speakers is a critical piece of fair and inclusive testing. If left to the wayside, exclusion from fair assessments leads to fewer opportunities for individuals, as well as schools and businesses missing out on undiscovered talent.

Education is a human right. Everyone deserves a fair opportunity at educational and workplace life chances. Facilitating fair and inclusive tests in a language-rich world is one step towards bringing more inclusivity, equity and accessibility into the world of assessments.

Want to share a great resource? Let us know at


We’re Celebrating 25 Years with 25 Giveaways!

Enter Each Day to Win the Daily Gift Card Giveaway

and the Grand Prize drawing for an

Apple iPad!

Visit eSchool News each day through April 1, 2023 to enter the daily $25 Gift Card drawing.
Each daily entry counts as one entry for the grand prize drawing. See details and rules.
Giveaway is open only to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States and Canada who are employed full- or part-time in K-12 education.