Raising the Stakes of High School Exit Exams: Students’ Perspectives of their English Learning Motivation in a High-Stakes Test Change Context

Document Type : Original Research Article


1 Assistant Professor, Farhangian Teacher Education University, Tehran, Iran.

2 Academic staff; English Department; Farhangian Teacher Education University, Tehran, Iran.


Research on high-stakes tests indicates that increasing the stakes of large-scale English language tests will have consequential influence on teaching and learning performance and practices. However, evidence for influence on student ‘motivation for learning English (MLE)’ within such a context is still scarce. Taken this, the present study investigated the motivational level of high school students learning English as a foreign language (EFL) in the context of university entrance requirement tests change in Iran (introducing high school national English achievement tests-NEATs- as new requirements for entrance into nation-state universities). For such a purpose, the MLE scale, taken from Gardner’s (2004) Attitude/Motivation Test Battery, was translated into Persian, administered among 451 randomly selected students supposed to take the NEATs for their admission to universities, and subjected to confirmatory factor analyses. The results obtained through within-group ANOVA comparisons of the construct-validated subscales revealed that under increased stakes of the NEATs the participants maintained moderately high level of motivation for the two components of ‘desire to learn English’ and ‘attitudes towards learning’; however, the level for the component of ‘motivational intensity’ was neutral/moderate. Similar result (i.e., moderate level) was found in the participants’ perspective of their overall MLE. The findings, overall, indicate that the NEATs-admission programme has not demotivated the learners yet they are not as highly motivated as intended by the change planners. Such a divergence between the ideal policies (i.e., high level of MLE) and what was observed in practice (i.e., neutral/moderate MLE level) has implications for test change contexts and their driving policies.