Translation and Interpreting in 150+ Languages
Test Instruments in Translation Are More Valuable Than You Think
November 28, 2017 - By: - In: Test and Assessment Translation - Comments Off on Test Instruments in Translation Are More Valuable Than You Think

The translation and adaptation of test instruments is now more than just a matter of accommodation or satisfying a legal mandate. It’s an opportunity to capitalize on your existing assets and to develop content for new markets and applications more quickly and efficiently.

English-language item banks are created at great expense by test developers, but they are more significant than you may at first suspect. They represent a unique asset that multiply in translation when repurposed beyond the limits of a single language or testing instrument.

Here’s how you can use your English-language item banks to their full advantage.


Fairness to test takers and test validity are two important considerations. This is true no matter who your instrument’s audience is, where they are located or what language they speak. Or what content or skill is being tested. In some cases, constructing a new test is ideal for testing in another language and culture, but in other cases, it is adaptation that is the winning method.

Translation and adaptation are routinely used to create multiple language versions of a particular test when assessing a common set of content or skills, and when cross-national or cross-cultural assessment is required. However, the usefulness of adaptation doesn’t end there. Existing tests can serve as the foundation for the creation of completely new instruments in different languages and cultures.

Test adaptation is cheaper and faster than producing an entirely new assessment in another language. Furthermore, it allows test developers to capitalize on their existing assets.

Adapted tests, when done correctly, are fair and valid instruments that are ready to be commercialized in new markets.

Keys for Successful Adaptation

An adapted test often consists of three components: new items, translated items and adapted items. Generally, the closer the source language and culture are to the target language and culture, the stronger construct equivalence will be and the easier a test adaptation will be. Yet, more dissimilar languages and cultures can still yield successful (and profitable) adaptations and lay important groundwork in the creation of new instruments. But how to begin? Here are the keys for a successful adaptation.

First, ensure that you have the right process and adaptation plan in place.

Here is one example of a test adaptation process we use, based on our interpretation of the International Test Commission’s “ITC Guidelines for Translating and Adapting Tests” as well as our experiences in the field:

1. Intake

  • Source proofed, checked for consistency
  • Source language style guide prepared
  • Repetition analysis
  • Glossary analysis

2. Triage

  • Triage source content for concept and context adaptability, rank items for translatability, adaptability or rejectability
  • Glossary finalized
  • Translation memory finalized
  • Target language style guides prepared

3. Translation

  • Translation
  • Quality assurance (QA) analysis
  • Edit
  • QA analysis
  • Manual proof
  • QA analysis

4. Adaptation

  • Content/context analysis by assessment language specialist(s)
  • Translation/parallel translation
  • Back translation (if needed)

5. Production/Publishing (If Needed)

  • Audiovisual (AV), web, print
  • E-learning or test app tool integration
  • Web localization
  • Desktop publishing (DTP) layout
  • Functional QA review

6. Review

  • Client review or focus group
  • Client review harmonization
  • Pilot testing or other validation
  • Translation finalized
  • QA analysis

7. Post Translation

  • Translation memory, glossary and style guide changes finalized
  • Post project review for continuous quality improvement

The second key for test adaptation success is to ensure that you have the right people on your side. Our test adaptation teams are typically composed of a project manager, subject matter experts, psychometricians, translators and translation editors. They are all highly qualified, knowledgeable and experienced as a matter of course.

Like Ronald K. Hambleton, we recommend using translators who are knowledgeable in the languages, cultures and subject matter at hand, as well as in the principles of test development.

Experts in Test Translation and Adaptation

Responsive Translation specializes in high-stakes translation and adaptation for education and health care. Clients count on us for ensuring instrument validity, as well as our expertise in adaptation workflows and our network of experienced professionals.

We are certified for ISO 9001 and as a woman-owned business enterprise.

Would you like to discuss the options to help you get more from your existing item banks? Please get in touch at 212-355-4455 ext 208 or

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