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Volume 17 Number 4, Winter 2020, Pages 1158-1546   

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Washback of the College English Test – Band Four on English Teaching and Learning in China

    Linlin Wang & Elvis Wagner

This study examined the possible washback effects of the latest version of the College English Test–Band Four (CET-4) test from the test-takers' perspective, focusing primarily on the listening section. Using survey methodology, 305 Chinese EFL learners from both a first- and a second-tier city in China rated the difficulty, usefulness, and level of authenticity of the CET-4 listening, the non-listening test sections, the degree to which they adapted their learning behaviors to the test, and how much their teachers adapted their instruction to address the CET-4. The results indicated learners from the second-tier Chinese city considered the CET-4 more difficult, authentic, and useful, and that it had more of an impact on teaching and learning. Despite these differences, both groups rated the listening section as more difficult, less useful, and less authentic than the other sections of the test. Finally, the listening section was perceived to have more of an impact on student's learning than the perceived impact on teaching. Based on these results, we argue that the possible washback effects of a test should be a fundamental consideration in the development and validation of a test, not just an afterthought (Bachman, 2005; Chalhoub-Deville & O'Sullivan, 2020; Messick, 1996).

Keywords: test washback, CET-4, L2 listening assessment