There are many online sites that offer a rough placement test that will place students into a CEFR level, sometimes with a ‘+’ or ‘-‘ to fine tune it. They are listed below, but first consider whether a placement test is needed at all.
1) If the students in your class are already streamed, it means that they are all at roughly the same level. In this case, one common approach is simply to start the entire class at a level that is clearly very easy for all of them. The “SSS approach” (“start with simple stories”) suggests that everyone start at the very lowest level. That way the material will be so easy that they will have no need to translate into their L1 in their head. It fosters the habit of understanding directly in the L2 and the habit will continue as they move on to more difficult materials.
2) You can train your students so that they can judge for themselves whether a book is suitable: 1) Look at the back cover for the level. 2) Look at a few pages at random using the “Five-finger rule”.
3) Bring an assortment of books into class, or copy out single pages from 2-3 graded readers per level. Have the students look through the materials and then tell you what the highest level was where they knew all but one or two words on the page.
4) Instead of a reading test, try a vocabulary size test. Go to https://vocabularysize.com created by the folks at the University of Victoria at Wellington, NZ.
5) EPER (Edinburgh Project on Extensive Reading) had created a series of cloze tests at various levels that can be used for placement. There are multiple versions, so pre-post measurement is possible. When EPER closed down, circa 2010, the ERF inherited all of EPER’s materials. They are available to teachers only. Contact Doreen Ewert for further information.
6) Try the ERF Placement Test that has students read short passages at various levels of difficulty and respond concerning their level of understanding.
7) Try one of the following:
25 Multiple-choice questions. Takes 10-20 minutes
This online test employs vocabulary-picture matching and some drag and drop cloze activities to place students into one of the six Macmillan reader levels.
Online tests directly accessible by students. There are two tests at each of the seven Bookworms levels.
An online sample test with 20 reading passages, one comprehension question per passage.
Important note: Placement tests cannot be used to assess improvement in reading ability. Most are not sufficiently ‘fine-grained’ for this purpose and multiple, equivalent versions are not available.