To explore the potential of a semi-direct speaking test to assess a wider range of communicative language ability, the researchers developed four semi-direct speaking tasks – two designed to elicit features of interactional competence (IC) and two designed to elicit features of pragmatic competence (PC). The four tasks, as well as one benchmarking task, were piloted with 48 test-takers in China and Austria whose proficiency ranged from CEFR B1 to C. A post-test feedback survey was administered to all test-takers, after which selected test-takers were interviewed.

A total of 184 task performances were analysed to identify interactional moves utilised by test-takers across three proficiency groups (i.e., B1, B2 and C). Data indicated that test-takers at higher levels employed a wider variety of interactional moves. They made use of concurring concessions and counter views when seeking to persuade a (hypothetical) conversational partner to change opinions in the IC tasks, and they projected upcoming requests and made face-related statements in the PC tasks, seemingly to pre-empt a conversational partner’s negative response to the request.

The test-takers perceived the tasks to be highly authentic and found the video input useful in understanding the target audience of simulated interactions.

Keywords: interactional competence, pragmatic competence, task design, semi-direct speaking test, test-taker perceptions, speaking test construct