Testing Aptitude: Investigating Meara’s (2005) LLAMA tests





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Paul Meara developed the LLAMA tests as a free, language-neutral, user-friendly suite of aptitude tests incorporating four separate elements: vocabulary learning (LLAMA_B), phonetic (implicit) memory (LLAMA_D), sound-symbol correspondence (LLAMA_E) and grammatical inferencing (LLAMA_F) based on the standardised MLAT tests (Carroll & Sapon, 1959). Recently, they have become increasingly popular in L2 acquisition research. However, Meara has expressed concern about the wide use of these tests without validity testing. We investigated several areas relating to the LLAMA tests. 1. What is the role of gender in LLAMA test performance? 2. Are the LLAMA tests language neutral? 3. What is the role of age? 4. What is the role of formal education qualifications? 5. Does playing logic puzzles affect LLAMA scores? 6. What difference would changing the test timings make to scores?229 participants from a range of language backgrounds, aged 10-75 with various education levels, typologically distinct L1s, and varying levels of multilingualism were tested. A subset of participants was also tested with varying timings for the tests. The results showed that the LLAMA tests are gender and language neutral. The younger learners (10-11s) performed significantly worse than the adults in the sound/symbol correspondence task (LLAMA_E). Formal education qualifications show a significant advantage in 3 of the LLAMA subcomponents (B, E, F) but not the implicit measure (LLAMA_D). Playing logic puzzles did not improve LLAMA test scores. The timings appear to be optimal apart from LLAMA_F, which could be shortened.

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