Applications for 2023 are now closed. The timeline below applies if you submitted a proposal before the 31 March 2023 deadline and received a confirmation email from us. The 2024 call for proposals is expected to open again next year. If you would like to contact the team, please email

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 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 proposal demonstrates 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 projects 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. 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 2023

The following eight areas are of particular interest to the British Council in 2023. Please also find our full call for download at the bottom of this page.


  • 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 assessment


  • 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.)
  • If you are planning to submit a proposal making use of the corpus, please first register your interest with us at for more details.


  • Potential applications for the KVL (Schmitt, Dunn, O’Sullivan, Anthony, & Kremmel, 2022) in a range of contexts, e.g., test development, language teaching, materials creation, syllabus design.

See here for more information on the KVL.


  • Research exploring how the pragmatic competence scales in the CEFR companion volume can be operationalised in test tasks, focusing on task design and scoring.

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.

Key dates for the Assessment Research Grants 2023

February-March 2023

Call for proposals

31 March 2023

Applications close

April 2023

Preliminary review of applications

May 2023

Evaluation and selection

30 June 2023

Notification of decisions to applicants

July-August 2023

Drawing up and signing of contracts

1 September 2023

Project start*

*We are assuming and working towards a project start date of 1 September, however this will be subject to the completion of administrative processes, including the signing of a Research Services contract.

Previous recipients of an Assessment Research Grant


  • Tineke Brunfaut and Judit Kormos (University of Lancaster) - Multimodal integrated skills assessment: Investigating the construct of viewing-to-write tasks
  • Okim Kang (Northern Arizona University) - Equality, diversity, and inclusion: different varieties of accents in Aptis English listening tests  


  • Andrew Bax, Manoranjan Sathyamurthy, Sathena Chan, Chihiro Inoue, John Oyekan (Weblingua LTD, University of Bedfordshire, University of Sheffield) - Towards building an automated scoring model for assessing appropriate use of metadiscourse markers in Aptis Writing across CEFR levels: A multidisciplinary study
  • Salomé Villa Larenas and Daniel Muñoz (Universidad Alberto Hurtado, Universidad de Chile) - Exploring the impact of Aptis on Chilean EFL teacher education: views from programme decision makers
  • Sathena Chan and Nahal Khabbazbashi (University of Bedfordshire) - Towards new task types in the digital age: perspectives from different educational contexts
  • Prithvi N. Shrestha, Maria Leedham and Tanzeela Anbreen (The Open Univeristy) - Examining transitivity, mood, theme, lexical diversity, metadiscourse markers and keywords in Aptis test-takers’ spoken performance across CEFR levels


  • 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.



  • 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.