Master of Arts
Dr. Ruslan Suvorov
While-listening performance (WLP) and post-listening performance (PLP) tests have been well established as two critical test formats for assessing listening comprehension competence under most second language (L2) assessment conditions. However, there remain a multitude of unknowns including the varying degrees of cognitive load that WLP and PLP tests impose on L2 learners’ working memory (WM), the different types of test-taking strategies elicited by WLP and PLP tests that potentially affect test validity, the reasons why L2 listeners consider one test condition to be more cognitively demanding over the other, and the extent to which the various degrees of cognitive load and strategy use in the WLP vs. PLP test conditions may interact with L2 learners’ listening performance. To address this gap, the present study aimed to explore L2 learners’ cognitive load, strategy use, and reasons for considering a specific test condition to be difficult in video-based WLP vs. PLP tests. Using a mixed-methods research design, this study triangulated three types of data: test performance data, questionnaire data, and interview data from 30 L2 speakers of English aged 19 to 30. The qualitative results indicated that test takers employed a wide range of strategies during the WLP and PLP tests, with the majority of them finding the PLP condition to be more challenging than the WLP condition. While cognitive load measure was not found to be a significant predictor of L2 listening proficiency, the quantitative results demonstrated the role of strategy-related factors in introducing some construct-irrelevant variance. This study implies the significance of integrating some effective strategies into L2 listening instruction to improve learners’ test performance and using more robust instruments such as eye trackers or functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) tools in research on cognitive processes.
Summary for Lay Audience
Listening is an important language skill that is hard to teach and assess. To assess listening, two types of tests can be used: while-listening performance (WLP) tests and post-listening performance (PLP) tests. In a WLP test, test takers listen to the audio or video input and answer the test questions at the same time. In a PLP test, test takers are given the test questions only after they have finished listening to the input. While both types of tests have been commonly used for decades, few studies have explored the differences between them, such as the amount of mental effort or the types of test-taking strategies needed, or the difficulty level of each test type. The results of previous research that examined the mental effort required in WLP and PLP tests, for instance, showed contradictory findings: Some studies indicated that WLP tests required more mental effort than PLP tests, whereas others reported that more mental effort was needed when completing PLP tests. To address the gap in previous research, this study aimed to investigate the amount of L2 learners’ mental effort and strategy use in video-based WLP vs. PLP tests. This study employed a mixed-methods research design to collect three types of data: test takers’ scores, information about L2 learners’ mental effort and strategy use during both test types, and the reasons why one test format required more mental effort than the other. Thirty participants aged 19 to 30 were invited to complete two counterbalanced versions of the video-based listening test, a background questionnaire, two versions of a test-taking strategy use questionnaire and a mental effort questionnaire for both WLP and PLP conditions, and a group interview. The results revealed that test takers used a multitude of strategies during the WLP and PLP tests, with most of them finding the PLP tests to be more mentally demanding than the WLP tests. The results also showed that strategy-related factors could significantly predict test takers’ test performance, while mental effort factors did not show such a predicting power. The results suggested that language instructors should consider teaching L2 learners some strategies to help them perform better. In addition, this study highlighted the importance of using more advanced research instruments in future research to further explore the relationship between L2 learners’ mental effort and their test performance.
Ma, Yunzhu, "A Comparative Study of Cognitive Load and Test-Taking Strategy Use in Video-Based While-Listening Vs. Post-Listening Performance Tests" (2023). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 9399.
Available for download on Monday, June 30, 2025