The purpose of the Assessment Research Grants is to contribute, in parallel with internal British Council research activities, to innovation in assessment practice, as well as to the validation of Aptis and other British Council language assessment projects.

The research agenda upon which the grants are premised is based on the modified socio-cognitive validation framework (O’Sullivan & Weir, 2011; O’Sullivan, 2014, Chalhoub-Deville and O’Sullivan, 2020) in particular, on the most recent modifications. The use of alternative validation frameworks that also contribute evidence of the validity of British Council assessments will also be considered. The goal of this research agenda is to build a significant body of substantive evidence of the validity of British Council assessments and contribute to innovation in language assessment development in general. 

Projects which are more exploratory in nature and utilise instruments other than Aptis will be considered provided the proposer can demonstrate strong potential for impact in the field of language assessment.

Projects will generally be 12-18 months in duration but, in exceptional circumstances, projects lasting up to 24 months will also be considered.


Who can apply?

Educational institutions and suitably qualified individuals are invited to apply. In order to foster our relationship with partners, we will also encourage applications from test users interested in understanding how British Council tests impact on their institution. Please note that regardless of the geographical location of applicants and regardless of where the actual research will take place, all contracts for research projects issued by the British Council are subject to the laws of England and Wales; this is non-negotiable.

The Principal Investigator must be associated with an educational institution or recognised research organisation, similar in standing to the institutions recognised by UKRI.


Financial support

The research grants support researchers around the world in conducting and disseminating the highest quality research.

Financial support for individual projects will, in principle, be limited to a maximum of £25,000, although it is expected that projects requesting financial support in the region of £15,000 to £20,000 will be most positively considered. Please note that grants will be evaluated based on value-for-money in the given context.

Applications for extensive travel or large items of equipment will not be supported. N.B. Applications should NOT at this stage include requests for funding for conference presentations; if completion of the research project results in acceptance of a paper at an international conference, the British Council will consider supporting the attendance of one of the authors through a separate application.


Areas of interest for 2022

The following seven areas are of particular interest to the British Council in 2022: 


  • Innovative approaches to the use of technology in discrete skill and integrated task design
  • Defining and operationalising plurilingual competences
  • Operationalising the construct of mediation
  • Multimodal approaches to integrated skills assessmen


  • Innovative approaches to item production, pretesting, item banking, calibration and quality assurance (possibly using simulation and AI)


  • Methods of feedback at group and / or individual level*
  • Qualitative perceptions of tests by different stakeholders
  • EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) in language testing and assessment
  • Stakeholder communications
  • Test impact on a range of stakeholders
  • Test washback

* British Council has a feedback framework related to Aptis and investigations relating to the framework and its feasibility would be welcome. Access to the framework can be provided for the purposes of such a project further to signing a Non-Disclosure Agreement


  • Applying the latest iteration of the Socio-Cognitive model (Chalhoub-Deville and O’Sullivan, 2020) to different contexts of use


  • Implications of remote invigilation for online assessments (e.g. on test taker anxiety, security, accessibility, etc.)
  • Evaluations of different remote proctoring models


  • We invite proposals that seek to make use of the British Council Lancaster Aptis Corpus. (This is the Aptis spoken corpus of test-taker responses elicited through the Aptis speaking test.)


Consideration will also be given to other issues of current interest in the fields of applied linguistics and second language acquisition in relation to language assessment.


Previous grant recipients


  • Shangchao Min and Hongwen Cai (Zhejiang University and Guangdong University of Foreign Studies), Exploring the cognitive demands of Aptis listening tasks using cognitive diagnostic assessment.
  • Vahid Aryadoust, Guoxing Yu, Nathaniel Owen, Mikako Nishikawa (National Institute of Education Singapore, University of Bristol,  Open University, Kyoto University), An Eye-Tracking Investigation of the Relationships between Test Takers’ Attention, Item Difficulty, and Item Type in the Aptis Grammar and Vocabulary Test.
  • Janina Iwaniec, Ana Halbach, Lyndsay Renee Buckingham Reynolds, Miguel Fernández Álvarez (University of Bath),  The effect of bilingual schooling in Madrid on SES: The student perspective.
  • Soo Jung Youn (Northern Arizona University), The role of pragmatic variables in predicting the Aptis speaking test difficulty.


Sathena Chan, Daniel Lam and Tony Green (CRELLA, University of Bedfordshire) for their project which will Investigate the textual features and revising processes of EFL and L1 English writers in China in Aptis for Teens Writing Task 4.

Nivja de Jong and Jos Pacilly (Leiden University Centre of Linguistics, Leiden University, Holland) for their project which will look at new techniques to measure fluency in speech automatically.

Ute Knoch, Catherine Elder, Jason Fan and Tina Peixin Zhang (University of Melbourne, Australia) for their project to investigate the discourse produced at score levels B2.2 to C2 on the Aptis Advanced Writing Test.

Judit Kormos (Department of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University) for her project which will explore time-extension and the second language reading performance of children with different first language literacy profiles.


Trisevgeni Liontou (University of Athens) for her study which will apply automated analyses techniques to investigate discourse features in the Aptis for Teens Writing test: Evidence from lower secondary EFL students.

Nathaniel Owen (Open University) for Exploring rater behaviour with test-taker responses in Aptis Writing.

Okim Kang (Northern Arizona University) for her study on linguistic features and automatic scoring of Aptis speaking performances.

Carol Spöttl, Eva Konrad, Franz Holzknecht & Matthias Zehentner (Language Testing Research Group, University of Innsbruck) for their project on assessing writing at lower levels: research findings, task development locally and internationally, and the opportunities presented by the extended CEFR descriptors.

Azlin Zaiti Zainal , Ng Lee Luan & Tony Green (Faculty of Languages and Linguistics, University of Malaya)for their study which looks into the impact of the ProELT 1 training programme and Aptis on Malaysian English teachers’ classroom practice.


Key dates for Assessment Research Grants 2022

February 2022

Call for proposals

31 March 2022

Applications close

April 2022

Preliminary review of applications

May 2022

Evaluation and selection

June 2022

Notification of decisions to applicants

July-August 2022

Drawing up and signing of contracts

September 2022

Project start

If additional information about the Assessment Research Grants is required, contact the British Council prior to application at