British Council takes its English language testing beyond borders

British Council

In early 2017, the British Council partnered with Janison to create a new platform to deliver their internationally recognised English language proficiency test, Aptis.

The British Council offers Aptis globally in more than 100 countries across government, educational and business sectors, to some of the most remote and technically challenging locations in the world.

Aptis tests, delivered in British Council test venues, are targeted at test-takers who need to demonstrate their proficiency in the English language with the aim of moving countries, gaining an employment promotion or entry to study – critical, life-changing outcomes and opportunities for the candidate.

Thanks to award-winning technology created by Janison, these opportunities have been considerably widened, particularly to populations in highly remote or developing countries for whom poor or no internet connectivity has been a barrier to accessing online assessments.

Jonathan Ford, global head of assessment at British Council, said: “English language testing stands above other subjects, because it is an enabling set of skills and competencies.

“It’s not just about our work and professional existence – it’s also about communicating and bridging between different communities and cultures.”

The Brief

In 2020, COVID-19 lockdowns and social distancing restrictions effectively halted Aptis delivery in its tracks, as candidates were blocked from physically going into test centres. With its revenue streams dried up, British Council approached Janison to innovate a solution to this key business continuity issue and allow it to continue to be able to deliver quality-assured tests directly to the safety candidates’ homes.

Being able to access Aptis was particularly important for employers at this time, as workforces were shifted to remote work and employees needed to prove their language proficiency. It meant that any solution needed to be rolled out very swiftly.

The Challenge

The initial critical challenges for British Council to delivering consistent testing around the world is varying access to secure computer facilities and poor online connectivity. When it first approached Janison, its legacy test-delivery solution was based on Adobe Flash technology which had limited support across operating platforms and was neither scalable, flexible nor reliable.

During 2020, this challenge shifted to the logistics of delivering Aptis directly to students via remote proctoring technology. Online proctoring adds another layer to the process of delivering a digital test – requiring the candidate to install a test application onto their device. This involves ensuring that candidates receive clear instructions and relying on local centres – in British Council’s case, 10 countries including Mexico, Saudi Arabia and the UK – to administer the tests.

The Solution

Leveraging Janison’s global leading assessment platform, Janison Insights, Janison designed and developed innovative new technology, called Janison Replay, an assessment player with a wide variety of options for effective and reliable test delivery. It has a unique capability to seamlessly transition between online and offline modes.

It allows tests to be taken on a variety of different devices and in the event of a connectivity drop-out, it ensures that the test session data continues to track locally, providing a rich, consistent, seemingly uninterrupted offline test-taking experience but still within a familiar modern browser-based environment. It means that poor internet – or indeed, no internet – is no longer a barrier.

Even when offline, the application remains interactive, displaying test content, supporting navigation and storing test results. The test-taker is not even aware of a dropout – and continues an uninterrupted test-taking experience.

Upon completion of the test, Janison Replay will attempt to automatically synchronise the test results, but in the event of further disruption, the test invigilator can reconcile the data on the device and upload the candidates’ responses back to the Janison Insights platform via a secure export process.

In scenarios where the internet is not available at all, any device can be prepared beforehand to run completely offline but act like it’s delivering a live online test. This is one of Janison Replay’s greatest strengths – exactly the same testing experience is delivered either online or offline on any device and in any location that British Council finds its customers.

During COVID-19, when lockdowns shut down candidates’ physical access to test centres, Janison implemented Janison Remote, its online remote proctoring solution, which enabled British Council to deliver Aptis directly to candidates in their homes. For bandwidth resilience, the browser-based version of Janison Replay ran in the background to ensure the tests proceeded uninterrupted.

Rollout and beyond

Janison Replay allowed the full suite of Aptis assessments to be conducted on the one platform for a candidate. Grammar, vocabulary, reading, writing, listening and speaking tests can all be taken online without the need for skilled examiners in the room.

This allows examiners to be able to measure the proficiency of any candidate seamlessly on the other side of the world, without the need to travel.

In 2020, during the pandemic, this capability was extended with Janison Remote, allowing candidates to validate their English language proficiency without leaving their homes. Whilst time was of the essence, Janison’s operations team wanted to maintain the utmost quality and reliability in the rollout. This meant a series of pilots needed to run with British Council’s teams to first to prove out the process and technology. The pilots ran in Mexico, the Philippines and China.

If you strap together British Council’s ability in language and its coverage of the globe with technology – then you can get something very special. The technology makes it available. You get not just the power to test, but the power to develop people personally.

Jonathan Ford
Global Head of Assessment, British Council

The Result

In 2017, within just six months British Council successfully delivered Aptis on the new Janison Replay assessment player to more than 115,000 candidates in 78 countries, from India, to Colombia, the Philippines and the UAE. The solution won acclaim for Janison, including a place on the Australian Financial Review’s Top 100 Most Innovative Companies 2018, as well as the public sector category of the 2018 iAwards.

Jonathan Ford said: “If you strap together British Council’s ability in language and its coverage of the globe with technology – then you get something very special. The technology makes it available. You get not just the power to test, but the power to develop people personally.

“People don’t take Aptis just once, they take it several times. It’s all about their growth and improvement and personal development: enabling state school kids in provinces in China to learn and test their English; or in Andhra Pradesh, where we’re working with students looking to enhance their employability.”

In 2020, the remote solution was heavily adopted in Mexico, as well as across India and in the UK, for workers in the National Health Service (NHS). In total, 10 countries successfully rolled out the Janison Remote Aptis solution.


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Statistics and Key Milestones

3.3M+

Aptis tests

delivered online and remotely since 2017

100+

countries

delivering Aptis online and remotely

660,000

candidates

have taken part in Aptis since Janison took on the project

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